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.