Join Africa: It's a new phrase when it comes to talking about Summit’s ongoing partnerships with several countries in Africa. I’ve been to Africa before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Summit's first ever “Join Africa” class that finished up last week. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if there would be anything new to learn. However, I walked in and saw veterans of Africa mission teams sitting alongside those thinking about going for the first time. So, together, we leaned in, ready to learn just what it means to "join Africa." But before we could talk about joining Africa, we had to talk about why. We started from the very beginning, with God's heart for rectifying injustices. Whether we’re talking about the injustice here, in our backyard, or across the ocean, it matters to God when people are hurting. We, as His followers, are uniquely equipped and called to what we began calling "repair work" throughout our world. This was it, the reason each of us were really there.
As we talked about repair work, we had to talk about what needed repairing. We started the difficult discussion of poverty, what it really is and how can we alleviate it. This is what really resonated with me. We defined poverty in a way my heart had seen and experienced, but could never put into words: "Poverty is broken relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation." This encompassed so much more than my original interpretation and expectation of the word.
Yes, we see and work against material poverty, but so often, that is only the beginning. I’ve met people in various parts of Africa who are, financially, among the poorest on the continent, but who, in their relationships with God and their communities, are some of the richest people I’ve ever met. I’ve seen the opposite to be true as well. Poverty is about relationship, and we can’t begin to rectify injustice of it until we understand and recognize the many different aspects of poverty. If not, we risk not only missing out on opportunities to serve, but opportunities to learn from some of our brothers and sisters overseas who have much to teach about things like joy, peace, community, and perseverance.
When we talk about joining Africa, we aren't talking about joining a place; we are talking about joining people. We are joining Malawian, Ethiopian, and Kenyan brothers and sisters in Christ. We are joining widows who are learning how to better provide for their families. We are joining teachers who long to make a difference through education. We are joining organizations that have been hard at work for years to bring healing to broken communities. We are joining special needs children as they and their families work to end discrimination against the special needs community in their country. We are joining orphans who are being raised to change their nations.
So this is why, I learned, that we aren't just going to Africa; we are joining Africa. We are joining because Jesus has called us to—because He has created us to do so, and He's inviting us into some amazing repair work that He has already started. We are joining because we, as believers, aren't alone; we are part of a larger body who are made to do life together and to learn from each other. And by joining Africa, we are also joining God in His ongoing plan for healing and justice for the world.
Kari Freeman is a Communications Coordinator at Summit in addition to being a pediatric nurse. Last summer she went on her 6th trip to Africa, and she hopes to return soon!