Answering the Big Questions

When people hear that I am going to be living in Africa for two years, often the question follows, "But aren't you scared of...?" The ellipsis usually being something along the lines of getting a disease, getting eaten by a wild beast, getting killed by tribal warriors, getting kidnapped getting... I'll let you put in your own thought from here.

(A quick reminder that I do not have my country assignment from the Peace Corps yet; thus, the likelihood of any of the aforementioned scenarios is dependent on where I am placed on the continent. However, you can rest assured that the Peace Corps makes the safety and health of their volunteers a high priority.)

The answer to all ellipsis questions is "no." I'm not scared of "..." At least I haven't been asked a "..." that actually frightens me yet. More often than not it is when I'm in the midst of some mundane task like brushing my teeth, and I think "Will I be able to easily purchase toothpaste?" or "Do they even have Crest in Africa?" Or maybe when doing the laundry I wonder "How hard is it to actually wash your clothes by hand?" Or "Will I have to learn to take cold showers?"

These are the questions and minute fears that hit me when I think about Africa and what it will mean to live there. I don't think about contracting HIV/AIDS. I don't think about getting caught in a fight between warring militias. I don't think about being kidnapped by a warlord. I find these are useless thoughts. These are thoughts that would drive me into fear, and it is faith that is leading me forward. Fear is the opposite of faith. If faith leads me forward, their is no place for fear.

My desire in going is to be a learner. I want to learn about extreme poverty. I want to learn about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I want to learn about conflict and war. I want to learn and come to a clearer understanding of these things and others that affect this part of our world so that I can be a better mouthpiece for those who live everyday of their lives--not merely two years--in these circumstances. I want to be able to walk away from this experience with a deeper understanding and be a stronger advocate for social justice.

Perhaps one thing I do fear is the arrogance and pomp it would take to say yes to an ellipsis question. Whatever the circumstances that I do find myself in, they will be temporary--two years. It will not be temporary for the people I live with, work with, serve with. It is their everyday life--everyday, every year, and for most, all their lives.

Jesus asked, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). This is the question I truly fear. What can I add to even one moment of my life if I live that life entirely in pursuit of my own good? Nothing--"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for [Christ] and for the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:35). This is why I go to Africa. Not because I have something great to offer, but because saving my own life wreaks of a life lost.

So fix my eyes on Jesus. Let Him be the forethought, the afterthought, and the present thought of my every moment. And let the perfect love found in Him and in Our Father in heaven drive out all fear.