Volume 53 Number 3 , May 1, 2004

Out of Africa - Part 15

Laretta Benjamin

It sometimes seems a real (and almost impossible) struggle to think beyond our western way of life. We swim in western culture, western attitudes, western perspectives, western desires and western passions…we drown in it and all of its excesses. I fear that at times we take the God of the ages and shape Him into our western image, interpreting his ways and his words through western eyes and ears, passions and desires. How desperately we need that “renewing of our minds” set before us in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Only then will we ever see this world and all of its challenges the way God sees it. Only then will we have His heart and mind in understanding His ways and His work in this broken world. Only then will we be able to see ourselves clearly, the ways in which we continue to contribute to the chaos and destruction in this world and most importantly, the wholeness God intended.

What an absolutely incredible place Africa must be ….the people, the resources, the opportunities, the landscape, the wildlife…. Yet from the outside looking in, the groaning of the creation there seems so very overwhelming. But then, where isn’t it? Despite churches on every corner, the groaning here in America is overwhelming for those who are listening. It just reveals itself in different ways.

With its nations racked for years with civil war, centuries of exploitation of people and resources, 24.5 million lives infected with the AIDS virus, 12.1 million orphans, ethnic hatred, rivalries and killing, homeless refugees, areas of hunger and starvation……where do we even begin in our thinking about such a place as Africa? My reading, research and writing here over the past few months has caused me to examine and wrestle with some of my own convictions about God and His world - all the brokenness around us - and most of all, His ways and His work. It’s always easy to make evaluations and judgments from a place of relative ease and comfort with no real understanding or vision at all -- much like an “arm-chair quarterback” -- always on the outside looking in and never really entering in to the “heat of the battle” - arrogant and ignorant of the real life issues and real life things. Our Saturday night prayer times have been a feeble attempt by many of us to get out of our “arm chairs” and enter in to the heat of the battle -- to begin sharing in what is happening around our world and all that God is doing as well as seek out how we can be his life in bringing healing and restoration in the midst of so much brokenness. We still struggle with even that beginning step and seem to have trouble finding our way.

The first thing I discover always “in my face” and so hard to think my way through is the incredible amount of human suffering taking place in Africa. Human suffering is certainly nothing new. The history of mankind is a history of suffering - not of God’s making but of our own…consequences of our rebellion, greed, hate, selfishness, and power-mongering I would not even begin to write a treatise on human suffering -- far better minds than mine have attempted to grapple with it. But it is impossible to begin to wrap your mind and heart around Africa without facing head-on the incredible amount of death, destruction and suffering. And, it is so very easy to make sweeping general statements about suffering when you’re not the one suffering or the one watching those you love suffer with no end or hope in sight. I am certain that, as in all places, the brokenness and the suffering will roll on and on until hearts are changed, minds are transformed and God’s kingdom comes in Africa. That must be our vision, our hope and our desire for this “continent in crisis”, as well as for all places. It must be the center of all intention - everything else will only be a temporary respite until the next round of hate, greed, selfishness and power-mongering. This is God’s world. May it be filled with His righteousness, justice and peace.

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