In Love with Africa. Or Not.

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In Love with Africa. Or Not.

I am not in love with Africa.

Sometimes I hear people say they are in love with Africa, or that they love Africa.

I’m not and I don’t.


If, for a moment, I can lump 47 countries, hundreds of people groups, and more than 2,000 languages into one big clump, I will say that a lot of the time I don’t even like Africa.

Those people who love Africa are, often, those who saw a sunset over the Serengeti, communicated “How are you?” in an accented foreign language, and gave a few coins to begging children and thought these experiences had given them a spiritual awakening.

I have seen thousands of sunsets in Africa (only approximately 8 of those over the Serengeti), communicated a heck of a lot more than “how are you” in a heck of a hard language, and given countless coins to begging children. I’m still waiting for my spiritual awakening.

I take that back.

I’m not waiting. I think I’m in the midst, or throes, of one.

But it isn’t because I saw beauty, crossed language barriers, or called poverty by the names of her children. It is because Africa has brought me to the end of myself and that is where I am meeting Jesus in new ways.

It is because a few years ago a homeless man climbed into my car and gave me directions.

I was downtown Djibouti, lost. Henry was in the backseat. We were looking for the Kenyan Airways office and had passed the statue of Henri Monfreid three times.

“Mom,” Henry said, “you passed the statue of Henri Monfreid three times.”

“I know,” I said. “I can’t find the office.”

There were no street signs or addresses, the telephone number didn’t work and there were no blinking billboards to direct me.

I heard a taptaptap on the window. A man stood there, rapping my window with his cane. He only had a few teeth and his clothes were ragged.

“Madame,” he said, “you passed the statue of Henry Monfreid three times. Where are you going?”

“I’m trying to find the Kenya Airways office,” I said.

“I am the way,” the man shouted and started to open the door. Henry moved over, unsurprised.

“What?” I asked.

“I am the way,” he said and proceeded to direct me to the office.

In three minutes, we pulled up in front of the office. He climbed out and disappeared before I could pay or thank him.

Later, I read John 14:6 where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and I thought about that man. I thought about the way he climbed into my car and took me to where I was going. He didn’t stand outside and point me in the right direction. He got in with me, he went with me, he took me there.

That’s how Jesus is the way. I’ve read that verse a thousand times and now, thanks to a homeless man, I understood it better. Jesus is the way. He will get into my life, he will go with me, he will take me to my destination.

No, I am not in love with Africa. I am in love with the Jesus I am encountering in Africa.

By |February 1st, 2012|Categories: africa|21 Comments


  1. Lauren February 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    LOVE this post, Rachel! Especially your last 2 sentences summing it up. Thanks for your continued writing!

  2. Heather Mahon Estey February 1, 2012 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    wow. Sometimes it is really uncomfortable and he walks right into our life in packages we would not be really sure of, but boy, is that the truth, Rachel. I love that Henry wasn’t even surprised, and THAT is a big part of the picture on what his relationship with following the Lord will be like. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sarah February 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    You hit it right on! Love this post!

  4. Angela February 25, 2012 at 2:25 am - Reply

    Just made me cry. Beautiful!

  5. TexasEx April 19, 2012 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Thirty-seven times to Africa, only five countries so far. I don’t like the trip; too many hours in airplanes; every time I’m on the way home, I swear it’s the last time. A couple weeks back in the office, though, and I’m ready to go back. Same reason. I have dozens of friends, families, scattered around Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sao Tome & Principe, who have adopted me and made a place for me in their lives. What an extraordinary blessing and opportunity to see humanity from our Father’s perspective.

    I’ve passed the statue a few times too, and will again next week. Thanks for sharing your stories.

    • Djibouti Jones April 19, 2012 at 11:49 am - Reply

      Greet Djibouti from me when you are there next week. Thanks for the note, it is always nice to hear from others who understand.

  6. Anita April 26, 2012 at 4:42 am - Reply

    Oh that we could be the way to the Father and to Jesus. I am enjoying getting to know you through your blog. (I’m Miriam Carlson’s sister.)
    God be with you.

    • Djibouti Jones April 26, 2012 at 12:11 pm - Reply

      Hi Anita, welcome to Djibouti Jones! It has been fun to get to know Mim a bit more this year. Glad you enjoy the blog!

  7. Chris April 28, 2012 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    OMGosh I love this! A friend passed your blog link along to me.

    Last line, so true! I could say, “No, I am not in love with Argentina. I am in love with the Jesus I am encountering in Argentina.” TOTALLY. SPOT. ON.

    Look forward to poking around here some more. 🙂

    • Djibouti Jones April 29, 2012 at 12:08 am - Reply

      Chris, welcome to Djibouti Jones! Thanks for your comments and I hope you enjoy poking around a bit.

  8. Elinor July 27, 2012 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Rachel, I printed this when I saw it a couple of months ago. I am on the Vestry (Episcopal-speak for official board) of my church, and thought maybe no one had been assigned to do the opening devotion at the next meeting. I was right, so I read this to them. They were very moved, and our pastor asked if we could be the way to Jesus for the congregation. This piece shows what a good writer you are in addition to a wonderful message.

    • Djibouti Jones July 27, 2012 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      Elinor, thanks so much for letting me know, that’s encouraging!

  9. Tanja January 4, 2013 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    I wonder if maybe the man who climbed into your car actually WAS the Way. The Truth. And The Life. It would be just like Him to do something like that and not expect any payment in return… What a cool experience!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones
      Rachel Pieh Jones January 4, 2013 at 5:31 pm - Reply

      Never thought of it like that. Awesome.

  10. […] I was intrigued today to read a long term worker in Djibouti saying, “I am not in love with Africa.” Her reflection is about the Jesus she is encountering in Africa. I guess I hope that we will find […]

  11. Rachel April 9, 2013 at 5:46 am - Reply

    You might consider using for your Bible link rather than the one you’re using as, similar to the Quran website, it offers the Bible in many different languages and has many more tools than Bible Gateway.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones
      Rachel Pieh Jones April 9, 2013 at 6:51 am - Reply

      Thanks Rachel, I’ll look into that. Good idea.

  12. Going Crazy | Djibouti Jones September 17, 2013 at 9:57 am - Reply

    […] out of control person I am. Other days I feel like laughing in the faces of people who ‘love Africa’ because they clearly have never lived in my Africa. The Africa where I get called a whore every […]

  13. A History of Choices | Djibouti Jones November 12, 2013 at 4:44 am - Reply

    […] it was that, and something else, and not some kind of simplistic realization that I love Africa. Which I don’t. It was the realization, obvious and yet I was oblivious to it, that almost all of our family […]

  14. Becky January 14, 2014 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    Well, I know this is an older post, but I just wanted to tell you that I read it and was moved to tears at the ending. He is the way! I love that. I enjoyed your writing and am going to dig into your blog when I get a chance.

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