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.