My nephew Benjamin is about to open a health dispensary in Ouolo, in The Ivory Coast. It’s an exciting project, in an rural area of significant need, which has been planned for many months….
I have never been to Africa, let alone The Ivory Coast….
From my earliest years I can remember missionaries who brought ‘slide-shows’, telling stories of life in distant lands. These were worlds that I wasn’t part of.
The irreverent joke was that missionaries were like prunes; they went into a dark place and did a good work.
50 years ago my brother Chris (Benjamin’s Dad) went to live and work in France. Their life and culture were similar to ours; they just spoke a different language.
For most of my life I lived in a small restricted world. Teaching, going to church; middle-class England was secure, comfortable and understood.
20 years ago we went to Fortaleza, Brazil. Our daughter, Jo, was marrying Allan, a Brazilian. We saw poverty – children living on the streets, violence, corruption. This was not a story – it was there in the people front of us. Physical, social, moral and cultural senses were shocked further as we returned on a number of occasions…
In 2003 we went to Kosovo. There were many reminders of war: bullet holes in many buildings, extensive bomb damage, and continuing funerals as bodies from the war were still being released. Besart told us how he had carried his Grandmother many miles to safety in Albania…
My faith was also challenged. My comfortable God of well-fed, wealthy England lived in the Brazilian favellas and the Kosovan war, sharing suffering, poverty, sickness and injustice with his people. Previous theory became my experience and reality.
In a small way I understand better Benjamin’s motivation, enthusiasm and gratitude; sharing his faith I see a God whose care and concerns goes far beyond my immediate world.