There is nothing quite like an African welcome.
Whether it’s waking up in the morning to the loud noises of all the hustle and bustle that is an African city. Boda Bodas speeding down the road. Vans honking their horns at them to get out of their way. Music blasting from the shops along the street.
Or entering an African village full of children running up to greet you, while smaller babies hide behind their mothers’ legs. Children shaking your hand with the utmost respect as they kneel slightly or take a sort of courtesy. Others laughing in the corner with their friends at their funny looking visitors.
Or even visiting a displacement camp full of war-affected orphans waiting in a line to perform for you. Who have set out a row of seats of honor to show their visitors respect–a hugely important value in this culture. When you are greeted immediately by singing and dancing to African drums by the children. Whose voices sound like angels. Whose dancing is contagious. Whose rhthym is so natural and strong. Children who sing welcome songs, recite memory versus, and dance to the drums. Their spirit is vibrant and alive.
No. There is nothing quite like an African welcome. To make you feel warm and at home. To bring a huge smile to your face. To remind you of the resilience, beauty, and kindness that is the spirit of Africa and its people. It is a continent of joy. Yes, many Africans have suffered. Yes, there is plenty of pain and heartache. Poverty and war. Disease and hunger. Yes, there is devastation nearly everywhere you look.
But that is not the spirit of Africa. No. Africa survives all of that and more. And it does not only survive. It is resilient beyond our ability to comprehend. It is joyful. It is vibrantly alive. And more overflowing with God’s presence, love and grace than anywhere else in the world I have seen.
Why is Africa so resilient despite their suffering? I’m sure there are plenty of explanations. But what I see is hope–hope in a better future. Faith–faith in God. That he will not forsake them. That he will always provide for them. That He is with them always. Love–love for those who have harmed them. Love for life. Love for God. More love for Him than I have ever seen. Their hearts are full of love. Dreams–dreams of a peaceful and thriving Africa. Praise–praise for God in the midst of suffering. Praise for His faithfulness and His love. Life–they are alive. In a way that we Americans do not know how to be. In a way that is present and lives in the now rather than worrying about the future. Alive with such passion for life and for living it for one purpose: for God.
When I am here, I hear Africa’s heartbeat. Its sound mimics that of the African drums. It is bold in how it lives for Jesus. It is steady in how it pushes forward with resilience after pain. It is strong in that it never gives up. And it is powerful in its faith and hope in the Lord and its courage to trust everything in His hands.
Africa’s heartbeat is the beat that God meant each of our hearts to have. It teaches me so much every time I am fortunate enough to hear it. It reminds me of the people we were all created to be. Of the community that we should be.
When many think of Africa, they think of devastation, corruption, and un-fixable problems like poverty, war, and disease. When I think of Africa, I think of my teacher. I think of a spirit entirely indestructible. A people so resilient and strong that nothing could possibly beat down their hope or joy. A people who know the Lord so deeply that they don’t just say life will get better someday. They believe with every ounce of their hearts that God is there. He is working. And He will lead them through this with His love, grace, and mercy.
When I hear the true heartbeat of Africa, I pray that the rest of the world would hear it, too.That we would all mold our hearts to better fit that beautiful rhythm of the African drums. That we would somehow all come together and adopt Africa’s spirit as our own. How much more powerful and alive would we be? How much more on fire for God would we be?
What would our world look like if all of humanity’s hearts danced to the beat of the African drums? My guess is a lot more like heaven. And a lot more like the heart of all hearts. The heart of our Father.
The heartbeat of Africa gives me hope. And even though white girls can’t dance–proven today by myself and my teammates who tried to join in dancing with the children in the displacement camp–this is a beat that we are all capable of dancing to. We simply have to open our hearts, trust completely in God, and slowly move one foot in front of the other until we pick up the rhythm.
Tonight I pray that all the world let Africa be its teacher. That we would all stand up, listen carefully, and start dancing to the beat of the African drums. Besides…white girls will never be able to dance if we don’t try 🙂