After two weeks in the USA I’m back in South Africa. It was so good to reconnect with Lollie, Tayla and Liam. As I’ve stated before, being rooted is important for me. My roots go deep into this African soil that I’m sitting on. Yes, I’m part of a global world. But this can only be lived out from a specific location and for me and my family that is South Africa.
On my recent trip I realized again how rich our African heritage makes us. Not necessarily monetary (though for some of us it includes this). I really think that Africa has a rich heritage of relational slowness. Imaginations that are not (yet) poisoned by America’s incessant tendency (not all) to turn everything into something bigger, shown by the focus on programs, models, curriculum and other exportable products.
In one of many conversations we talked about the importance of friendships and relationships. The response to this conversation was “You know we should develop a curriculum for building friendships.” By no means do I want to generalize this as an American problem, though I must say that I’ve experienced the disconnected state of a lot of people during my two week visit. Ironically when we went to one of the local Colorado Springs bookstores there was a $200 friendship box – a curriculum for building relationships! It is into this kind of poverty that I see a richness of our African heritage.
It’s as if everything in the USA must grow (especially numerically). The small is despised. The little ignored. Celebrity, epitomized in Christian circles by those who are on the platform (also known as platform speakers) are worthy of attention, but what about the old ones? What about the little ones? What about those who are not in the spotlight?
Ironically, Len linked to a short reflection I wrote while I lived in the USA during 2000-2003. We live in an age of amplification. It deafens us to the unspectacular, mustard seed pace of the kingdom. Winter Park had a bridge where someone wrote graffiti in protest against this smalltime town’s rapid expansion – it said “uncontrolled growth = cancer”. The town has seen immense expansion and the spray paint have been removed. I wonder if this wanring is also being erased in the think tanks of Amercian Christianity.
My most life giving moments in the USA involved people. When I sat with the Shafer family sharing stories and remembering times of friendship and when we ate together with people in the pubs and eateries. When I drove through the ski country I remmebered when we hung with friends and ate meals with people. Times when we laughed, cried and talked deep into the night. These rhythms that resist being plotted on a spreadsheet draws me into ancient longings God has placed inside of us to love and be together. It was not the spectacular malls with their amazing bookshops and other stores that impressed me. It wasn’t even the Christian celebrities I was surrounded with that blessed me. The blessing was in the small things, the little ones and the unspectacular. In people who shared their “love of the world”.
I’ll write some more but maybe I’ll leave this entry with a thought that troubles me deeply. During this trip I also experienced a constant sentiment that Americans want to come and ‘change Africa’. My question is into what? What will this look like? And maybe more important, what can we learn from one another?