Guest post by Hannah Main
I think we all have that friend, who goes to a developing country for a couple weeks enthusiastic that she is making a difference. We see the photos of a smiling white person surrounded by cute black kids, and we think, “She must be such a good person to be helping out those poor Africans.” However, after my experiences in Cameroon with OneBook, I look at a photo like that and think, “She is so blessed to be learning from those in Africa.”
I actually got to go to Cameroon to the Impact Conference because of a social media contest with OneBook, sponsored by the Bridgeway Foundation. When I mention in conversations that I won a trip to Africa, my friends sometimes look at me incredulously: “Africa?” And I read the subtext: “Africa? Why would you want to go there when you could win a trip to Cuba, Hawaii or Europe?” It’s not exactly a place we Westerners are keen to go to, unless we are on some sort of “voluntourism” trip. Why would anyone want to go to Africa, except on some do-gooder mission?
Based on my brief experiences meeting amazing people in Cameroon, I can say that there is a lot we Westerners can learn from Africa. But before we can learn, we need to shift our thinking to believe that there is something to learn!
I grew up seeing those commercials on television with pictures and videos of malnourished African children, the ones that try to pull at our heartstrings to get us to donate to famine relief. But having grown up with these ads, my vision of Africa was warped:
I thought that it was a continent that was impoverished in every way; a continent that relied primarily on Western relief efforts to even survive. But if we think of Africa in such a one-dimensional way, we miss all there is to learn and discover. We miss the fullness of Africa.
- We miss the fullness of Beatrice, who is working with people in her home country of Burkina Faso to bring literacy to them.
- We miss the fullness of the Aghem people in Northern Cameroon, who are working together to translate the Bible into their own language, crossing denominational lines in the process as they work in unity.
- We miss the fullness of Zebedee’s mother, who invited a group of 10+ people into her home for a meal, treating us with faithful hospitality.
- We miss the fullness of Peter and the others at BTL in Kenya, who plan a fundraiser, “Run for the Bibleless” each year, an event that takes over the streets of Nairobi as thousands of Kenyans run so that people in their country will have access to the Scriptures.
- We miss the fullness of seeing the palpable joy on people’s faces as they sing, dance and drum in church. Their bright, colourful dresses seem like a direct reflection of the inward gladness that Jesus so obviously brings.
When we think of Africa only as a place that is empty, we miss how full it really is. It has now been a year since I returned home from Cameroon. I still think of it often and ask myself the question:
What can I learn from Africa? And what is the role of North American Christians in God’s global mission?
I hope that you thoughtfully and prayerfully consider these questions with me.
Check out the projects that OneBook supports in Africa by following this link.
Hannah Main is from Truro, Nova Scotia and won a trip to Africa through OneBook in March 2014 thanks to the support of the Bridgeway Foundation.