The other day I was reading the local newspaper and seeing the headlines around Africa of corruption, murder, revolutions, uprisings, famine, terrorists, suicide etc, etc. I caught myself thinking . . . "This place is SO broken". Images of the genocides, the child soldiers, disease, suffering and the ruthless hate and destruction that makes up a lot of recent history on this continent flashed before my eyes.
But then I had a moment of pause where I realized that in very general terms, yes, Africa is a very broken place. You don't have to visit here for very long to see that BUT I thought for a moment about my home in North American and I had flashes of all the brokeness there: materialism, pornography, Athesism, broken families, dying marriages, children abandoned to the streets or television-nannies, lost people clinging to pop culture for an identity and in turn loosing their own and it was very clear we are, in fact, just as broken - just in different ways.
Maybe at first thought you are saying "Really, Megan? Children stolen and made into killing machines comparable to the desire for $600 pairs of shoes?" and I hear you. I just think it is really easy to compare ourselves and our problems and our brokenness to others and make ours not seem so bad. It is easy to say "I realize we have problems but those folks over there in Timbuktu are REALLY messed up". Fair? No. True? Not really.
Life in North America is for the most part pretty. There are some gritty parts, I realize, but in general a lot of the brokenness of our world there is hidden behind a veneer of really pretty stuff. Here in Africa, not so much pretty stuff hiding the brokenness. It is all out there for the world to see.
The problem is where this feeling of "those Africans are really messed up and need my help" leads. It seems as though it brings really good intentioned people across oceans to bring their "resources" to help "fix" the problems here. Obviously I think there is high value in how one can help - I'll get to that - otherwise I wouldn't be here. However, it seems as though many people arrive to help not realizing that they too are or were very broken as well.
The idea that we have it all worked out and everything is great in America is deceiving for everyone. Mostly because it is not true but money does talk and for a long time we Americans have had a lot of it. We come with lots of money (aka "resources") and we try to shape things up a bit given our great knowledge of all things good. I'll stop there and refer you to an amazing book on this very subject "When Helping Hurts". We studied it last year and it really brought me through the trenches when it comes to how to think about helping the poor. I highly recommend it.
The power is in the idea that we are all broken - just in different ways. I can come along someone who is hurting, poor, needy (in any culture) and approach them with attitude of brokenness -
I, too, am broken in many ways and God has restored me and given me hope in these areas of my life but I continue to struggle in these other areas. I'm am seeking Him and asking for His provision and restoration in those areas.
Now I am a coming alongside them as a co-equal. We are in this struggle of life together. My testimony of faith and restoration can give strength and encourage someone who is suffering and in need of hope. No longer am I a superhero with lots of money who is coming to save the day - instead I am a friend and someone who cares and is willing to get in the filth of life to help my friend. This option is a lot messier and tougher than just throwing "resources" at the problem and running away.
So as I glanced at those headlines and had all of these thoughts and feelings I just kept thinking over and over again - we are all broken . . . just in different ways. That brings me so much comfort for some reason. Some days it feels like we are the only ones around who are broken but in truth our friends and everyone around us is just broken differently.
Thankfully, we have a Savior who knows all of our brokenness because He has walked with us and knows our pains and struggles. He is the one who offers restoration and healing for all of our brokenness. As this Holy Week continues my heart is grateful for the One who came not only to restore us but to love us. Our hope is in Him.