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How to survive a “I Hate Africa Day”
“In the end, our Call is to Him. Everything else is just geography.”
Is it a sin to have a “I Hate Africa Day”?
I sure hope not.
Because from time to time I don’t love Africa.
There are some days when I’d rather be back at The Old House in Dry Creek. Back among the familiar and family touchstones of my fifty-seven years.
I’ll admit it: There are times and days when I hate Africa.
Recently I had an “I hate Africa Day.” We were in northern Uganda. A long emotional day in a huge refugee camp. I’m not a picky eater but the supper that night featured a piece of chicken that was as tough as it was raw. I left hungry. The better lodging in the town was filled by UN and Aid workers.
We stayed at a cheap guesthouse that was cheap for a reason. The rain really broke loose just as we lugged our packs in. My rain gear was in the bottom of a box in the back of the Land Cruiser. My partner Bob described the rain as a “frog choker.” Not to be outdone, I described it as a “log floater.” It nearly quailified for my personal favorite, “Raining bull heifers and enough hay to feed them.” (Thanks Emil Turner)
By the time DeDe and I got to the porch, we were soaked.
The guesthouse wasn’t clean. In honor of the bathroom, I nicknamed it the “Sticky Floor Hotel.”
Bob swore it operated part-time as a brothel.
There was no hot water. Didn’t expect it.
Electricity was spotty. Just like I expected.
Under the mosquito net, it was stifling. Being hot or skeeter bit has no good options.
I was Wet. Tired. Hungry. And Hot. Not a good combination.
I didn’t handle it well.
The situation had gotten my goat.
My bucket was full. And I was ready to dump it. I was unhappy.
And I was ashamed. We’d just left thousands of South Sudanese who had no shelter from the storm. I had a roof over my head and a bed to lie on. We’d watched a long line of pail-carrying women waiting for food. An equally snaky line of yellow jerry cans and tall thin Dinka ladies.
Laying on the bed with the pattering rain on the tin roof I was angry. Mainly angry at myself for not being grateful or even slightly spiritual.
I’m embarrassed to even tell you what a bad sport I was. My wife, who is an angel, just gave me as much space as our cramped room had.
I’m not happy about it, but I was having a I Hate Africa Day (or NIght in this case.)
I thought about Ol’ Paul and Silas in the Philippi jail. Singing at midnight.
Then Shipwrecked Paul. He was cold. tired. wet. and hungry. Built a fire to dry out and got a snake bite. That’s reason for a full-fledged I-Hate-The-Mediterranean-Day (or Month.)
Yet Paul used the occasion to share the Gospel and heal folks.
I was more like Elijah after the Mt. Carmel episode. I was hunting a cave to hide in for a few days (or weeks.)
But the sun came up the next morning.
I got out and made a pot of fresh coffee on our camping stove.
A group of children came through the parking lot picking up peanut-sized pods that had fallen from a large tree. They reminded me of a flock of geese foraging over a rice field.
The children held up a bucket of the pods. “Porridge for breakfast.”
As the coffee water boiled, I began humming an old song, “Picking up PawPaw/Putting them in your pocket.”
For the moment, I was back in love with Africa.
5 Take aways on a “I Hate Africa Day.”
1. Those days and moments when come.
2. Those times will pass.
3. We should expect them, but not wallow in them.
4. These times will hit us hardest when we are tired, wet, hungry, and hot/cold.
5. In times like these, we must go back to Our Call.
As a young missionary aptly said, “In the end, our Call is to Him. Everything else is just geography.” Amen and Amen.