Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sometimes Africa Scares Me


Africa and me, we have trust issues.  I love this continent, but sometimes it scares me.

When I was 13, rebels took over the government of Liberia and started a civil war.  My family was on home assignment at the time, but all the other missionaries were evacuated.  Our house was looted, the mission station was bombed, and I never got to say good-bye.

We relocated to Ethiopia, and I went to boarding school in Kenya.  I was fourteen.  The students were told to keep a bag packed of essentials; something that we could carry for at least a mile in case of an evacuation.  I don't even remember why we were told this; I think it had something to do with the Gulf War.

While I was in Kenya, a revolution started in Ethiopia.  My mom and my brother were evacuated.  My dad stayed behind, and spent his nights sleeping with some other men in a windowless hallway.  One day in our apartment, he watched a stray bullet come through the roof.

Now we've been 11 years in Tanzania.  It's one of the only countries in Africa which has been peaceful since it's independence--over 50 years now.  For about 20 years, it had a socialist government, but in the mid-80's, it became a democracy.  However, since then, it's been primarily a one-party government.  During past elections, there's only ever been one viable candidate for president.  Makes the voting process pretty simple.

Until this year.  For the first time in Tanzania's history, two candidates are running for president.  (Interestingly, one of them happens to be the grandfather of one of Grace's best friends.)  This is the third election cycle we've witnessed, and it's strange to see two faces plastered on billboards instead of one.

Because of this, people are nervous.  Will this election mirror other African countries?  Will there be rioting and violence?  Just a few years ago, 1000 people were killed in election violence in Kenya, our neighbor to the north.

A few weeks ago, our house worker asked me, "Will you stay in Tanzania in October?"

"Of course," I answered.  But her question made me anxious.

All universities are closed until November.  We cancelled our training classes for this month.  We've been carefully reading news updates and memos from outside agencies.  One of them suggested, "Pack a bag of essentials."  It feels all too familiar.

The elections are two weeks from today.  But what can we do?  We stock our pantries; we fill up our gas tanks.  And we pray:  for peace, and for a government with integrity.  We pray for safety but remember that's not always the most important thing.  Instead, that the gospel might go forth, no matter what.

The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.  

Thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.


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