As I sit here at my desk, contemplating a possible visit and eventual move to Africa, specifically to South Africa’s Orange Free State or Lesotho, my imagination and memory, takes me down a trail of fantasy and fairy tales. Down to a land that is still so mysterious to those of us from the west.
In my childhood, I read the old books and poems of Edgar Rice Burroughs,” his Tarzan series”, and Rudyard Kipling. I have heard the stories of an Englishman, the famous missionary, Dr. Livingston and the reporter dispatched to find him. However, I do not believe Dr. Livingston thought he was lost! I have read stories of contemporary Men of Faith and Character that still pray and serve the people of Africa, both black and white! The two names most common to the west are Reinhard Bonnke and Angus Buchan. And I have read and heard of the struggles against apartheid by national heroes, chief of which were Nelson Mandela, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop Trevor Huddelston. Controversial figures in the west and in your country, because of their politics, but men just as Gandhi and Martin Luther King who fought their own struggles against racism and injustice!
However as an American, I can only sit and speculate on the struggles of the people, rejoice in their victory over racial segregation and pray for those people, again, BLACK AND WHITE, who struggle, “some areas more than others” against poverty, disease, sickness and the shame of ostracization, due to their racial and/or social status! As a child, I too faced the struggles of poverty and the stigma of being of mixed race “part native American” and socially inferior in the eyes of some! And as a Christian I see beyond the politics, racial and ethnic and gender lines and I see a world that is desperate for God! A world that strives for power, control and wealth! As a Christian, a follower of The Christ, I know that only in Him, only in The Christ are all men and women truly equal and free!
As I use my imagination, I can see clearly the beauty and grandeur of Africa. I can visualize the vast dry deserts of the north, where civilizations have crossed and collided for thousands of years. The lands of the Pharoses and the pyramids of ancient Egypt to the great empire of Mansa Mula I of Mali, who ruled all of North Africa in the fourteenth century! I see the powerful, snow capped Mt. Kilimanjaro and the vast savannahs with its teaming herds of wild animals, majestic ocean vistas of the cape to the Golden Gate National Park in Free State! And from friends, I have heard the languages and dialects’ of Zulu, Sutu, Yoruba and Shona, the tongues of Bantu, Ronga, Seroa and the Blended tongue of the Afrikaans. Beautiful languages of diverse peoples across a vast land!
All beautiful and diverse lands, all apart of Gods great creation and design! And just as he created all people of all races, tribes, tongues and nations, we are all diverse and yet we are all the same! We have the same basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter and procreation. And the more intangible needs of love, acceptance and self worth. Yes, we are so very different yet we speak two common languages; The language of humanity and “if you are a believer in the Christ” we share the language of God’s love!
As I sit here at my desk, I can only imagine what Africa has in store for me, what I can learn from the first people, what great adventure is ahead of me as I travel far from my American Mountain Southland to another Southern Highland on a different continent! But If I have learned anything in my sixty plus years of life, reality is far different from the fairy tales and fantasies of youth!
As I sit here at my desk contemplating on my trip to your land, I do believe that Africa will far exceed all of my expectations, all of my fantasies and my imaginations could never prepare me for the wonder, beauty and love of AFRICA!
Jeff is an American Pastor , Missionary ,Novelist and Columnist .