On top of all that I wrote yesterday, we are also rethatching our entire house. This time we are using the best under thatch wood framing we can get, so it will last at least five years. This means lots of hammering and banging over our heads all day—thank God for Tylenol.
I was watching a workman with holes in his clothes and poor tools doing really quality work. It would be easy to want him to have better tools and better clothes, but that would be putting my standards on his world. But you see, we don’t live in that nice world of mine, we live in his world. Here, they do the best they can with what they have, and what they have is very often inadequate or substandard. We live in what is often called the “third world,” but my missions professor at Boston University, Dr. Dana Robert, used to tell us that it is not the “third world”—it is really the “two/third’s world” because the conditions here are just like they are for over two thirds of the people on this planet. Two thirds of the world’s people use squat holes instead of flush toilets. If you have a flush toilet, you are in the minority. If you have excellent medical treatment available—you are in the minority. If your life span is above fifty years—you are in the minority. If you are safe from malaria and polio—you are in the minority. I could go on and on, but the only way you will ever understand just how much of a minority you are in is for you to travel to our world and stay long enough to get to know the people who live in rural areas. You can go to big cities in any part of the world and find they are all pretty much alike. If you have only been to Dar Es Salaam, you haven’t really been to Tanzania. If you only visit the national parks or big tourist attractions in any country, you haven’t really been to that country. You know this. Is New York City representative of the entire United States? Or Los Angeles? You know it isn’t. I didn’t really understand this till we moved from Boston (about five million people) to Gravette, Arkansas, a town of about 1,200 people with twelve churches whose members would never set foot in any of the other churches. I had never lived in a place where you left your keys in your car, your doors unlocked, and where if you sneezed—your phone would ring and a neighbor would say, “God bless you.” I loved it. I loved the people. I loved the way they cared about each other. It opened my eyes to the differences and joys that can be had by being involved in the lives of others. If I had not had my years of the Gravette experience, I would never have been ready to travel to a new continent, new culture, and live in the “two/third’s world,” but I did. Through Facebook, Google+, and email, I stay in contact with my friends from Gravette and all of the other places I have lived. John and I are really a part of the “three/third’s world” because from here we can see that we are all interconnected. Sadly, many of you cannot see or experience that connection, but people who have gone on many mission trips know the life they lead in the U.S. is not isolated but connected to people in far away places where Christianity has changed because of their involvement. Yes, many things are sub-par where we live, but we can still laugh and enjoy life. Maybe we can’t always get sliced cheese or bacon, maybe there isn’t a single cardiologist in the whole country, but we have always been able to flourish (with a little suffering for seasoning) because God is with us wherever we are. Anytime anybody sees me sitting outside and knowing I am sick, they always say, “We are sorry you are sick, but you know that God will help you.” And I always reply, “Kweli” or that is so true.