You Can’t Take Your Baby To Africa!
Aren’t you scared for their safety?
Don’t you think that’s a little irresponsible?
Won’t your children suffer?
People are always asking why we choose to live in Africa, especially in light of the fact that we now have a ten week old baby girl. Fair enough. And here is our answer.
Let me first clear up the assumption that we live there because we feel compelled (and equipped) to help “save Africa” or that it’s where our ministry is.
Prior to moving to Rwanda in 2006, I was consulting for charities, volunteering for causes, creating and leading campaigns, lobbying for better human rights policies in developing African nations and scores of other philanthropic activities. I did this primarily from Nashville, TN.
None of this changed when I moved to Africa, nor was any of it reliant on my living in Africa. It doesn’t matter where I am on the planet. I’ll always be altruistically motivated. Our choice to live in Africa stems from something else entirely.
Another assumption is that we’re sacrificing our life for the good of humanity, or that we are set on some sort of pious of martyrdom. However, I assure you, we’re not sacrificing anything. We’re simply making a deliberate decision to live where we thrive.
When someone asks us why we choose to live there, I typically refer to one of the many experiences I’ve had around the world where something went awry and as a consequence, some deep aspect of humanity surfaced that otherwise would have never shown its face.
In America, it’s easy to go through life as nothing more than a spectator. Life just sort of happens to you. Information, communication and transportation are easily accessible. Water and electricity are not appreciated; they’re just expected, like air. Priorities revolve less around survival and strategy and more around comfort and safety.
Frankly, this puts me to sleep. I find myself becoming content, apathetic and lazy. My perspective gets skewed and life seems off. I’m not the best me in this environment.
But living in Mombasa keeps me on my toes. I am constantly having to watch my back, think ten steps down the road, analyze every situation for danger, work harder to make everything happen, practice patience and resilience, adapt often and engage in so many other necessary coping mechanisms. This is an environment that keeps me in a constant state of refinement and sharpening.
It’s impossible to fall asleep at the wheel. I love that.
Here’s the thing. We’re altruistically motivated. It’s that foundation from which we make decisions. When we’re in an environment that constantly challenges us, I believe it makes us better humanitarians, and ultimately, more understanding, loving, patient and caring people. And that’s our goal. It’s not a sacrifice or some sort of masochism; it’s simply what makes us truly happy.
It’s important to remember that we’re not motivated by the usual motivators such as financial gain, popularity, meeting the status quo, collecting achievements, safety or comfort.
Remember that feeling you get when you’ve just finished climbing a 14,000 foot mountain, or running a marathon, graduating university or sharing a special, deep moment with a friend? I have the feeling pretty much all the time.
I like how I always feel alive. And more than anything, I live for those moments when I’m amongst strangers and something chaotic happens that profoundly connects us. Walls come down and true humanity comes out. That’s living!
Sure, sometimes it’s ugly. And we learn from that too. But more often then not, something beautiful happens. People forget about socioeconomic status, race or religion just for a moment, and become human again. They cling together in a moment of vulnerability. It’s pure, human and awe inspiring.
Like any caring parent, we want to raise our children in an environment where they will thrive. So naturally we pull from all of our life experiences, wisdom, passion and perspective, and we act deliberately to ensure that environment. For us, it’s the developing world. It’s not for everyone. I get that. And I’m not trying to convince anyone to emulate our path.
So why do we choose to live in Africa? Because we’re deliberately choosing to value human connection, adventure and relationship over safety, comfort or a need to meet the status quo. It’s an environment that we’ve chosen because it makes us the best humans we can be.
We also happen to love the weather and the beach.
Welcome home! And enjoy the beach.
You both are such an inspiration. We wish you many blessings on this new journey with baby Saoirse. Love you guys!!
Thank you for sharing! You three are beautiful : )
Love it brother, just shared on Facebook. Makes so much sense and honestly makes it tempting to move out of country…
Thanks for sharing this brotha. I was wondering why I got so many comments on this post! And you can join us in Africa any time!!!
Hey Bro, I just shared this with a friend who feels called to Israel. Your words here bolstered his faith.
Excellent! So glad it was inspirational. Thanks bro.
I get it…..I understand. By the end of this year, our family would have traveled to Africa four times in one year. Although people are usually kind, some are scared for us. Nothing I say can make them understand until they go with us. Everything changes after that for them and they no longer ask me those questions or make those comments but rather, they are the ones who now receive those questions and comments 🙂
This is incredible and very inspiring. I hope that we can all find something that makes us this passionate at some point in our lives! Good luck with everything. You children are so lucky to have parents that are building this incredible life for them.
Thanks so much Stephanie. Our children are our greatest, most important and profound project. It’s also the one we find the most joy from investing in!
I have known missionaries that have raised 3 kids in Africa and they all made it back to the states safely:) It is funny how we (speaking mostly about myself) fear the unknown. You and your family are going to be awesome!
Jared….you always infuse me with encouragement and challenge me to live intentionally. Love what you wrote…and I love you and your little family. Kiss that baby for me.
Thanks Theresa, as always. Much love to the Lode family!
Great article, Jared. It’s a reminder for me to be intentional because it’s so easy to be distracted from mindful living in the US. I’m looking forward to digging into you & your dad’s book, too! Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Kevin! I hope you enjoy the journey!
Jared……Your wisdom and your passion are such an inspiration! I am so honored to have met you and to have had the privilege of talking with you a bit. What a joy to meet your beautiful wife and precious baby girl! Whether in casual conversation, through your writing or just watching you live out your passions, you are an inspiration to us all! Thank you for being a faithful messenger and reminding the world of the simplicity of life’s most important aspects.
Thanks so much Kelly. I really appreciate your encouragement and support. It was great to meet you as well. Godspeed!
I’m still shocked that you have a baby to take to Africa!
Ha! Me too! But we’re stoked. She’s amazing, and we sure are proud parents! Can’t wait for you and the family to meet her.
Love this post Jared, totally related to all of it (although I don’t have a baby yet!). The most common reaction I get to my work/volunteering overseas is “oh, you must be such a good person” or “that must take a lot of sacrifice”. Hmm…. while my definite motivations have always been to work towards better outcomes in the world, I also find that I personally thrive in such environments and can in no way say that I’ve sacrificed anything of real value to me (tying myself down to a 9 to 5 job for the next 30 years to pay a mortgage and maintain the status quo has never been a desirable option for me!) In my work in India, Samoa and Kenya have always received way more than I have given, learnt way more than I could have ever taught, met the most inspiring people and had the most challenging and rewarding experiences that have opened up my eyes to the possibilities in life!
My friends also wonder when I will ‘get it out of my system’ and just find a guy and settle down in my home town – I’ve now realised this is not my gap year – it’s my life passion!! So thanks for the inspiration, congratulations on the gorgeous new addition to your family and safiri salama nyumbani – I miss Mombasa so much and hope to make it back there and catch up with you guys sometime in the near future!!
Thanks Kate! I can certainly relate. I’m glad you’re continuing to explore and figure out your passion. You’re getting out there and experiencing the world and humanity, and that’s the best way to “figure things out”. The more we just put ourselves out there, the more clarity we get, and the more peace we have in our life. Hit us up the next time you’re in town!
Jared…thanks, very thought provoking. I’m in the middle of a book (don’t tell your brother, he says I shouldn’t read any more books) called ‘Wrecked’ by Jeff Goins that very much coincides with what you’re saying here…maybe I should pay attention.
Hey Jared! I saw you and your dad on TV the other day talking about your new book. I didnt know you were also a writer among your many other achievements! I’m looking forward to getting your book, ESPECIALLY after reading this blog entry! You and your family are not only fascinating, you are such an inspiration! So happy to hear how well things are going. Blessings! (Oh, and congrats on your precious baby girl!)
Thanks so much Linda! We’re quite excited about the book, and of course we’re most excited about our new baby girl! We’re loving life, for sure. We head back home to Kenya tomorrow morning!
Hey Jared, found your post through Joe Lalonde (Twitter). Great post!
I am Kenyan, (from Nairobi), my hubby and moved to the states about a year ago :). Great to read a wonderful perspective on Kenya. it’s amazing the kind of things people believe about Africa 🙂 Funny thing is, we have discovered that people from home don’t know half the story about life in the west/developed world. The same way that people in the west don’t know half the story about life in Africa! Just takes some traveling to shed some light 🙂
Ngina, asante sana! It means a lot to hear you say that. And I agree. We have an adopted son from Rwanda. He’s almost 18 now. But he is always referring to the US as this sort of Promise Land where money and happiness just fall from the sky. And I’ve found that to the be perception held by many Africans. I can certainly understand why, because our media does a great job of branding the US this way. We’ve made it our lifelong mission to play a role in rebranding Africa (largely East Africa) so people understand what it’s really like. There are certainly a lot of misperceptions going both ways. Asante! Siku njema!
Truly, truly enjoyed this post! I am new to your blog, but have heard of you through your dad and brother, who have helped my husband and I change the course of our lives.
I’d say we are greatly indebted to the Miller family as a whole. 😉
I was especially excited to read your post here! Your writing is spectacular and your story captivating! Thank you for sharing your courage, passion and vision for your family with such openness and conviction. It is refreshing!
I hear what you are saying, and I understand. Have been there. Have felt the freedom, the feelings of living in an area that fills you with life and energy, hope and vision.
Blessings heaped upon you as you courageously pursue the best for your family.
Congratulations on your baby girl as well!!!! Parenthood is abundantly sweet!!
Thanks so much Claudia. Great to hear that dad and Kevin have played a role in helping your family as well! They’ve certainly taught me a lot over the years.
Blessings to you and your family on your journey, and thank you for your encouragement!
I just love this post, Jared! Too funny that folks think you can’t take your baby to Africa. What better way to raise a child? Teaching compassion, outreach, ministry by example and who knows what else. I just love it!
I agree Missy!
Jared. Thanks for being real. Not painting some pious picture of how holy you are for choosing to live in Africa. We can all see how beautifully you ARE thriving there…how God lead you there…and how you & Ilea are walking worthy of that calling, by following your hearts & desires & dreams & passions to live where you can really LIVE!
love & hugs to you all!!
Thanks Teri! Yeah, we definitely don’t claim to have all the answers. We just make a habit of going to where we thrive, being deliberate about life and being vessels of love. Lots of beautiful things keep coming from that, and we’re grateful.
I’m new to your blog and decided to read old postings. This post helped me settle a big move my family and I are making. We’re going to an area with poor economics to be artists. Who will buy the art? I have no idea. The weather will be challenging as will the culture. But the scenery will be great and inspiring. I intend to be a regular reader of your blog. Thank you.
Thanks Jonathan. I’m stoked that you like the blog, and that this post was encouraging to you. Godspeed on your new adventure, and cheers to you and your family for going for it!
Great blog. I agree with many things you said. Hope you guys are doing okay. Take care!