Monday, August 4, 2014
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ― Ernest Hemingway
The very sad events of the last couple of days have left me wondering if we did the right thing in coming here. We knew that life here would be rough at times, but we never expected the number of deaths with which we would have to deal. Friends, family members of our workers, neighbors, orphans we have fed and educated, all have died from AIDS, malaria, house fires, and pneumonia. I tried to do a count and got depressed when the number reached over two dozen. The first person to die that I knew while living in the United States didn’t die until I was thirty years old. No one in my immediate family died until I was almost fifty, but in the last eight years I have had to do funerals for a pastor hit by a bus, the son of a friend who died of AIDS, and have gone to funerals or paid for coffins for at least twenty more. Just today, another neighbor died of a stroke. John Donne wrote that everyone’s death diminishes the rest of us in his poem, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” I didn’t really understand that on a visceral level until we came here. We do feel diminished, but the more I think about, we are exactly where we are supposed to be. As Hemingway says in the quote above, it’s not about getting where you are supposed to go as much as it is about the journey that gets you there. I was afraid to leave the U.S. until I was over fifty years old. Since then, I have been to South American countries four times on mission trips, to England, Switzerland, Greece, and Turkey on an ecumenical trip, to seven Caribbean islands on a pleasure cruise, and to two African countries in the service of God. Had it not been for the other trips, I would never have come to Africa—where I will be until I die. The little boy holding the globe in the picture will likely as not never leave Tanzania, but his journey is just as important as mine. We will work to see that he is fed, educated, knows Christ, and is brought up in a Christian atmosphere. He will have the opportunities to do whatever he wants to do. We can give him and the other orphans like him at least that much. With some of my mother’s estate money, I set up educational trusts for several of our workers’ children so that even if we aren’t here, they can still go to university if they make it that far. While sometimes it is hard not to let the weight of many deaths get us down, we must always remember that we came here to give life, to help others live rich lives that have opportunity for them. The students at the teacher’s college are always so grateful because they are old enough to appreciate the gift that we gave them. So, while that globe the boy is holding doesn’t look like an oyster, it is for him. Death is just a part of life, more so here than back in the States, but still as the hymn of promise tells us, our end is our beginning, and in every chrysalis there is butterfly yet to be free. Our ride is not over and the bumps just make us appreciate the smooth parts even more. Get aboard. There is no living in standing still, get involved with something that is bigger than yourself. You will never regret it.