Thank you for your prayers.
After about two weeks in Kenya and Tanzania, I’m back in Seattle. I spent most of my time in Kenya to assess ODW’s partnerships and projects in response to the worst drought the Horn of Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) has encountered in the past 60 years. I have some both encouraging stories and difficult stories to share – as well as images – some of which I’ll share and some that’s best not to share.
But before I share some upcoming posts about things that discouraged me, encouraged me, and the rise of skepticism and cynicism in development, I wanted to share a post detailing how much I’ve enjoyed my two weeks in Africa, my first trip to East Africa, and my third visit to this beautiful continent.
In fact, this post may be the most important of the ones I share about my trip – even if it doesn’t directly engage the main purpose of my trip: to assess ODW’s Horn of Africa response.
The responsibility in story-telling.
It’s important because the last thing I want to do is perpetuate a false picture of how Africans or for that matter, people of all “developing” countries are perceived as helpless, hungry, needy, incapable, etc.
For some, the quintessential image of “Africa” is the image of a young African boy with the bloated stomach, snot running down his nose, eyes dazed, and flies peppered around his head. You’ve seen this image, haven’t you?
Are there those that are hungry, thirsty, and living in desperation? Unfortunately…yes. But such can be said of those in our respective countries – even sadly and poignantly in the country I love and call home called America.
My point is that to reduce the tapestry, identity, narrative, history, and fabric of an entire continent (comprised of many different countries) to one angle is irresponsible, dangerous, and simply…wrong. Even if that angle might be accurate, to convey that angle without the context of a larger story is dangerous.
Time and time again, I’ve been asked – passionately, politely, and at time, angrily – by my African friends and colleagues something to this extent:
Eugene, we know you run a development and humanitarian organization. Thank you for your work but as you share the stories of difficulties and pain, don’t forget to share the stories of beauty, hope, courage, and love. Please be responsible in your story-telling.
Please tell your western countries that the whole of Africa is not dangerous, war-mongers, child soldiers, starving, helpless, and desperate. Please tell your folks that while we appreciate love, prayers, and support, we are not in need of the “Western White Saviors” (or Asian Saviors for that matter). We are proud. We are beautiful. We have a history; We have beautiful stories and songs. We are not perfect but we, too, are created in the wondrous image of God.
It’s with that in mind that I share some pictures I took during my visit. Mediocre pictures that don’t do justice to the beautiful countries and to the beautiful people I had the privilege of meeting.
Some pictures from Kenya and Tanzania:
Picture above: An amazingly beautiful day as we traveled the not-so-often traveled nomadic roads near SE Kenya. We were hosted by the Islamic Foundation and enjoyed an incredible walk through those fields. The word beautiful does not do justice to what I saw.
Picture below: I worshipped at St. Peter Anglican Church in Chamwino, Tanzania. I had the honor of preaching there that morning. There were five choirs that sang about 9 or 10 songs. Each was spirit-filled and wondrous. My favorite was this women’s choir. They soared – spiritually and literally.
The beautiful music of the Gogo people being shared at the 5th Annual Wagogo Music Festival in Tanzania.
As we drove around the most bumpiest and pot-holed roads I have ever encountered in my 42 years of life that made me combat the food I consumed in the mornings, there were some views that eased and erased any nausea I was experiencing. This was one of those views on one of those drives to a project site: Landscape. Sky. Clouds. Giraffes.
The food of Kenya. Delicious. I would thrive in these parts of the world because rice was served with nearly every meal. FTW. I don’t unfortunately have any food pictures from my visit to Tanzania because I was too busy eating. Goat never tasted so delicious.
This six-year-old girl managed several smiles. About 8-10 months ago, she and her family (including her 5 siblings) traveled (by foot and cart) nearly 200 miles to escape the worst drought that has hit this region in about 60 years.
The Wagogo Music Festival. Song. Dance. Prophetic lyrics. I’ll need to share more because I was stunned by the lyrics.
Somali Kenyan IDPs (internally displaced people). They left their homes. Everyone lost most of their livestock. But they maintained their commitment to their tribe, their neighbors, their families, and some of the most colorful and beautiful clothes I have seen.