Friday, April 27, 2007
THIS is Africa
We all know something about Africa, wither it is true or false, good or bad.
We've all seen images of Africa on TV or in magazines all of our lives. I've heard stories about Africa for years.
Wonderful, personal, missionary stories of the "Dark Continent." I've read books on the lives of men and women who loved Africa. It seems to me to be a land of phenomenal beauty and mystery. It's a mystery to many of us.
I've heard men and women who went there speak, recounting their experiences for us all to hear. I admired these men and women as their stories unfolded and I listened with great tenacity as they would tell of their lives working, and serving various people groups in Africa. I watched them as they would begin to cry, and groan for Africa as they told of her.
Some even begging God to allow them to go back there again even though they were old, and frail and their bodies could no longer carry them to the lands they loved and labored in for so many years. It was sad and often times, I would cry with them too. Their emotions are still so raw and vivid in my memory. I can't forget them or the land they spoke about because it branded me.
Although I could never actually know first hand what they had burning in their hearts, having never been there myself in person to see what they had seen and lived. I could still sense what they were trying to tell us about it and it was deep, it was something you can't grasp really in your hands yet you could feel it in your Spirit and it was painful. Painful because you felt powerless to do what needs to be done and you KNOW that it's urgently important that someone get there and help to touch and help these various people.
It's hard to understand Africa for many of us because we have never really tasted of her like some have.
Africa. Even the name seems so exotic, and soooooo far away doesn't it? Way, far away over the ocean. Exotic.......yes......animals....all sorts......lions and tigers, and bears. Oh my!
All sorts of wild things roam in Africa.
Wildest of all?
Mankind, I would have to think.
We have all heard all types of crazed tales about Africa ......we have exciting and romantic images in our heads
( many not so true probably)of men roaming around on Safaris in Land Rovers the cool ones that have the racks on the top. I've always wanted one of those things just because of the cool imagery they portrayed in movies. I mean you could go anywhere in one of those. ALL over Africa for sure. HA!
If I ever show up driving one, you'll know why.
These men were encountering elephants, big river crocodiles, going through the vast Sahara desert, climbing the rugged mountains, or viewing the fabulous waterfalls.
Then there was always those naked, tribal people we all saw photos of? Scary "savages," dancing around fires, with bones in their noses waiting to cook you in their big pots.
Oh and don't forget about the Nile river, and the pyramids and the Sphinx.....
Right, magnificent Egypt, with all it's rich history. I have a friend who has been there and he says it is so beautiful and the imagery present there takes your breath away. It's old. It's so old we can't fathom it.
Africa has it all doesn't it? Can you imagine all these unusual places all on one big land mass? Africa has it all doesn't it?
Who hasn't ever read a "National Geographic?" I LOVED reading those things as a child. My Step Dad always subscribed to them so I was always educated on most things of the world due to National Geographic. Just the sound of that magazine stirs up photos of Africa in all of our minds. They ALWAYS had great stories and photos from African countries and rightly so. There is so much to encounter there.
Who can forget great old movie classics like "Casablanca, The African Queen, Lawrence of Arabia, Out of Africa?" Yes, we all know something of Africa. Even if it came from Hollywood, which isn't always the greatest way to learn.
Yet do we really KNOW Africa? We have these thoughts in our minds of Africa, but do we know or understand about the "new" Africa. The one that is in big trouble unless we ALL get involved.
Africa is huge. It's a very BIG continent. The second biggest in our world with a land mass of 11,699,000 square miles. Now that is some land! It's no wonder that it is so diverse, the land the people, the cultures, everything.
Right now, it is very "politically correct" to be involved or doing something regarding Africa. There are many "Campaigns" to raise awareness, many movies that are raising awareness to Africa's plight right now......"Blood Diamond, Babel, The Last King of Scotland," and others, many people raising awareness about Africa, one of whom who is at the fore front of this would have to be "Bono" of the Irish rock band "U2" and then there are the concerts like "Live Aid" and other such events.
These are all good things for the most part.
However, people have been trying to work and help Africa for YEARS! It's not something new. I've read and known of missionaries that laid their entire LIVES down for Africa some dying in Africa. Some burying their children in Africa. It's nothing new yet the thing that is new is the "PR" that is happening on Africa's behalf right now, coupled with the FACT that now Africa is in dire straits due to the overwhelming HIV/AIDS epidemic that missionaries and aid workers of the past did not have to deal with.
FYI...."For your information"......TIA........
"This is Africa......."
Check it out:
HIV/AIDS is at pandemic rates in Africa.
Add in extreme poverty, famine, drought, malaria which is nearly as pandemic and as deadly as HIV/AIDS,wars between countries,and civil wars within countries, and you have a deathly cocktail for destruction of people groups and an entire continent if something isn't done.
In sub-Saharan Africa,( which is any country BELOW the Sahara) there are around 14 women living with HIV for every 10 men.
Last year alone, 25 million people in Africa were HIV positive.
17 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have died of AIDS.
12 million children who have lost their parents to AIDS face a precarious future. That is a terrible FACT. These orphan children don't have much hope for life without some sort of help. Many are raising themselves and their siblings that have been left alone in the world because their parents have died of AIDS and there are so many children in this situation that there are not enough people or orphanages to take them in or to care for them.
Malaria: A Mosquito-Born Disease of the Blood
We don't hear much about Malaria here in America but I've known people that have had it or do currently have it because it doesn't really ever go away. It's a parasite and hard to kill.
Malaria is a mosquito born disease that causes over 2.7 million deaths per year according to estimates by the World Health Organization.
90% of all malaria cases are in sub-Saharan Africa.
3,000 children under the age of five die each day from malaria in Africa.
This is unreal.
A simple thing such as "mosquito netting" can save hundreds of lives. They cost about $10.00 but people who have no food, no health as it is and no quality of life can't afford $10.00. That's more than many make in months working jobs. Check out "Nothing but Nets" a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that helps donate dollar per dollar given towards the supplying of Mosquito netting to African nations.
It's a pretty cool, cheap, and practical way to avoid and help stop the spread Malaria. http://nothingbutnets.net/
Now let's talk "Refugees" for a moment.
As of January 1,2006 there are 20,751,900 refugees in the world.
Africa has 5,169,300 of them according to one report I found. That's a lot of "displaced" people. Over 5 million people without homes......many shoved into refugee camps with primal conditions and facilities.
I've been to refugee camps in Nicaragua and I am sure from country to country they may vary but let me tell you, they are not pretty, nor sanitary. When we were at the ones we were working in, there was a huge "Cholera" outbreak and warning signs everywhere. When you have open sewage flowing through the place, and crowded conditions, you can expect these types of diseases to be prevalent. By the way, if you contract Cholera and don't receive any help or treatment you can die in about
Cholera is just ONE of the diseases that creeps its way into refugee camps along with a host of other nasty things some of which I mentioned earlier, HIV/AIDS, and malaria, hunger, then you can add in next physical wounds, and post traumatic stress and not lest of these..rape, murder, incest, etc. etc.
Maybe you don't understand what a "Refugee" is......or how does a person become a refugee. In a nutshell, a refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country because it is not safe for them to stay. The reasons why the person has to leave can vary. It could be because of a natural disaster like a flood or a hurricane or because of war.
During the first hours and days of hurricane Katrina, people were referring to the people that had to leave New Orleans as "refugees".....well that totally offended those people. I heard it all the time the New Orleans people NOT wanting to be called "refugees" when really in a sense, they sort of were. Many were in shelters, many without direction, many left their homes to never return. Whatever people's circumstances were at that time the point I'm trying to make is this.....THIS is AMERICA and we really don't have "American refugees" now do we?
So, the term for "the people that had to evacuate New Orleans" then became....."evacuees." Which is what they did......."evacuate their city due to a hurricane." Although we would never call a person in the Sudan that has had to leave Darfur because of what's happening there an "evacuee" now would we? So there is a bit of a difference between an "evacuee and a refugee." I guess one is richer? Whoops. Did I say that? It's not cool to be called a refugee I guess.
Not when your American. I guess our pride levels are different.
Okay so there is your lesson on Africa today. Hopefully we have we learned and it will it "stick" in our minds. But is this enough, just to be "up" on a subject?
I think we have to "DO" to retain. You know, like when your learning something say a foreign language, and to learn it, you not only "speak it," you also "write it," to help you "get it," and retain it.
I think it's not just enough to "know" about things such as what's going on in Africa and other places, and yet sit on our bums and "do" nothing to help solve it.
Plus I would hope that we wouldn't want to do these things just to be "politically correct." We should have a MORAL obligation to care about the WORLD and I mean the entire world, but if the politically correct thing is your motivation, just do it. Please do something.
Let me be honest and frank with you.
Africa isn't my "thing."
I love the world and I love culture and countries. I keep abreast of what is going on, I read, I learn, I listen. I love the world, but Africa isn't my "Continent" of choice.
Europe is......and some VERY specific countries and for those of you who know me, you know which ones.
I read about them, I study them, I learn their politics, I pay attention to what is going on in their culture, their current events, I watch their news, I read their books, I learn their history, I pray for these countries and their leaders. I take interest in them and I INVEST in them by giving to either missionaries there in those countries or to missions causes in these countries.
I sow into the people and their land. I believe in this. I have been taught to do this and I have thus taught it to my children and to others.
Yet, dare I neglect Somalia, or Kenya, or Tanzania or Madagascar? God forbid. Nope, I learn, I read, I pray, I stay aware of their current conditions, their politics, their issues, I INVEST in these places, their missionaries, their people, their land their causes.
Why? Why do I do this? Because it's been "commissioned" to me to do so and to you as well.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."(NIV
Besides, I like it. I want to do it. I LOVE people.......people of all cultures and nations. That's just me. That's how I'm made up. I always find the "foreigner" in the crowd and end up talking to them. HA!
I have "favorites." Please forgive me if this offends you.
I lean towards certain places and cultures more readily than others. That's just the burden I have inside me. It's part of what makes me who I am.
The GOOD thing is God has no favorites in this world. Certainly I admit that I favor certain people groups more than others but I won't neglect the fact that I am obligated to love them ALL people the way God loves them.
ALL nations, races, colors and creeds. This is hard for me at times, but I've done it and will continue to do it. Maybe that is a hard thing for you too, yet we have to get past who we are and see people how GOD sees people. We can do this!
Think about Africa, is there something you can do? We can all do something.
The possibilities are endless because there is so much need.
IF you would like to get involved, there are many legitimate campaigns out there today..."The ONE" organization is a movement that is forefront in the States right now........you can check out their website.
Personally, I would ask all of you to check with your churches first. You should always be able to trust that your monies given to your churches are going to reputable institutions, or to people that will send it that way. If you can't trust your church to funnel your money correctly or ethically......then you MUST find yourself a new church. Find out if you have missionaries or missions agencies in Africa that you can give to or support on a monthly basis. If you do not know of any, contact me I can help you. I know people that are currently serving in Africa on assignment that NEED support right now. There is never enough money to do all that needs to be done because there is SO much to do.
Also......."Children's Cup" is a VALID African relief agency that is based right here outside of Baton Rouge. The founders Dave and Jean Ohlerking, are from Iowa too so that validates them for some of us! HA! We have known the founders for years and their kids, so you can send money to them as well and it will be put to GOOD use. Check out the web link to their official web site on the left sidebar of this page.
Regardless of who you are.....or how much you have, you are rich. I am rich.
Maybe not rich by "American" standards, but believe me.....we all are very wealthy if we live here in America. There is no denying this. It's a fact so don't attempt to argue that point. Yes, there are needy people in America but most of us are not them.
Consider, what you can do for Africa. There are still so many issues that need to be addressed that I haven't even touched on.
Child slavery, child prostitution, boy soldiers, civil wars and conflicts, things we can't even imagine that happen on a daily basis in not only Africa, but in many places around the world.
In my own missions travels I've been to 4 countries that had either had or were experiencing some sort of "civil war" and the carnage left over from that alone is something I could not begin to explain to you. The damage that is done to people by their own "countrymen." It is the greatest betrayal. It's literally "brother against brother." There is so much HATE involved in these types of actions.
We must help do our part.
"If we can't go we can send" whither it is money or other people to go in our place, just whatever works out. That has always been my philosophy. There are people there ready to work, people willing to help, they just need the funds to carry out their mission. That's where we come in. WE can help the cause of Africa and help people to fulfill their destiny. It's a win, win, situation all the way around.
Find a source and dig in. There's lots to do and not tons of time to do it in. People are perishing even at this moment.