The right questions?
A good friend – one of Arianna’s interns in Kijabe several years ago who has since gone on to big and amazing adventures – wrote the following about the new Marvel comic movie, Black Panther.
So many feels. . .Too many thoughts. . .I didn’t think watching Africa depicted in an empowering way would affect me, but it did! It was a new experience to watch an Africa that doesn’t have to be saved. One where the people are making their own independent decisions, for their own good. One where leaders stepped up to the plate and led sacrificially. For someone who is PanAfrican I had rebuffed the movie as a pop-culture box to tick. Instead it made me acutely aware of the constant battle both personally and externally to remind myself that Africa is something to be proud of. Because the world is constantly telling me that we need help and that we don’t have much to offer in thought capital. (Being in a Northern academic institution currently, I get at least one reminder daily). After this experience I’ll be reflecting for a while on how we as African can actively change our own narrative, to the world and to ourselves.
Amazing, strong, proud, heavy thoughts.
One of our supporters who spent years working in Liberia recently wrote me the following,
Now I wonder how many people have inquired or asked the people who live there ‘what do you want?’ that is want out of life, want for the future, want for your family, for your community, your country, the continent.
As of late, the world news is seemly mute on unrest in Africa, but there are still too many refugee camps, displaced families, flights to Europe, and untimely deaths.
From an outside perspective its as if exploitation has had a greater impact in Africa than elsewhere, and the masses have given up hope (which I trust is not the truth). And the facts stagger: GDP <$2,000, population >1.2 billion, family income <$800, gender inequality, 40% unemployment (outside of agriculture), and lack of education. I can’t even fathom a guess regarding medical services.
So where do we start – or do we back-off and allow the individual, family, tribal destiny to develop with less outside influences deciding what is best for a continent of people likely misunderstood by the rest of the world?
But Jesus said go to all the world. . .
My mom had a phrase that she use to repeat frequently in her southern drawl, “Well, I don’t have all the answers.”
So true. . .and probably much more important than having the right answers is to have the right questions.
So, here are some of my questions:
How do we invest in someone or a group who will succeed with or without our help? To encourage them precisely because they are strong and independent, rather than stealing their strength and independence?
What is the current narrative, and what should it be?
What is my role if I am not to be a helper, but rather a friend and partner? What should I champion if I am advocating for my teammates using their own narrative rather than one I write for them?
What is true friendship?
What are my blindspots and misconceptions in seeking to move the needle on poverty alleviation, medical education, access to world-class healthcare?
What does it look like for the world to need Africa. . .not in some vague macro-economic sense, but in practical reality? What can we learn and share from our beloved Kenyan friends?
Will Africa change the world through medical research, financial innovations, positive cultural frameworks of faithfulness to family and community, entrepreneurship, sharing economic systems that are not oppressive to the poor? In other ways?
If I left Kijabe tomorrow, what would remain of what I am building, either with Friends of Kijabe or with relationships? What will actually last, how do I invest in that, and where is the best investment of my time?
Who is my team, and how do I make room for them to have more impact than I ever could?
How do we want our friends and family to perceive our work?
How do we want our Kenyan colleagues to perceive our work?
Who do I want my children to become?
What if, as “missionaries”, we must learn to seek and knock and perpetually grow, more desperate and hungry than the people we try to fill?
What does it look like to minister from weakness, as the phrase goes – one beggar showing another beggar where to find food?
What battles are the people around me fighting?
What if I need the people I serve more than they need me?
What if I had to leave Kenya? This place and people and the work are becoming such an integral part of my identity, who would I be then? Could I survive the heartbreak.
When did I truly start loving sukuma and ugali and develop an insatiable taste for Kenyan milk?
What is the true, deep beauty of Kenya – beyond the surface of beautiful landscape and animals – that we must convey if we are to share the true narrative?
Who do I identify with as an American-African? Who are my people, my tribe, my family?
Where is the line between need and opportunity, compassion and enabling?
Who do I fundamentally, unequivocally trust?
How do I fill my life with good, wise, constructive voices?
When our friends and family come to visit Kijabe, what do we want them to see of us?
What does a disciple look like, who has fully embraced the gospel but has not relinquished his or her identity?
If I could only accomplish one thing today, what would it be?
If I could only accomplish one thing with my life, what would it be?