Word of the Week

This week, I'm on travel with Feed the Children. Kevin and I have come to Africa to support the launch of the new Feed the Children brand  and do some other important work as part of moving the mission of this organization forward.

It's been a joy for me to reconnect with the larger FEED family and put my feet on the soil of a nation that I adore! I've tasted again ugali and greens and some of the best tea you can find anywhere on earth. I've hugged some babies who were crawling the last time I saw them, but now are walking! And I've been given the given some amazing gifts of love and acceptance by co-laborers here in our great mission of no child going to bed hungry.  

And as I'm having this fabulous multicultural experience, I've thought much about "What Americans Can Learn About America From Not Being In America." So I want to begin to share this three-part blog series with you: 

Pride in one's country-- no matter where this is-- is something most of us share no matter where we live.

To be formed as a human being by a particular culture, language and cultural stories is simply part of what it means to be alive. We all love what we know.

However, what happens when your particular national story grows to be the ONE acceptable take on history?

What happens when your particular nation becomes the ONE acceptable point of view?

What happens when your traditions and practices become imposed on people of other nations as the ONE way?

While I am an American through and through, traveling always makes me quite aware of how Americans-- sometimes even unconsciously-- enter spaces.

We see the world from our distorted lens.

We think we know best-- in most things.

We are so good at giving advice to solve problems, but not staying around to see things through. (Read American foreign policy for the last 50 years if you don't believe me!)

We think the way we eat and bathe and dress is the only acceptable way to find happiness.

Coke and IHOP pancakes anymore? You, don't have a granite tub? How can you live like that? 

We think we can ignore the pain and suffering, the hardships, and the real stories of what it means to be a human being in a places without running water, refrigeration or two cars parked in a driveway.

Because why? We're American! Things are different in our context. Why must we adapt to anything else?

With living like this, we find ourselves with a spiritual problem: we see the world we want to see. We live in a world of blessings. Yet at the same time we are so poor.

In response, I found myself writing this litany of repentance for my fellow Americans (maybe even some other Westerners too). Maybe you might want to join in with in prayer as you read:


One: Lord, we confess to you that we've lost sight of how our world really is: a world where mothers must take 3 buses to find work. A world where children make their own toys with cardboard cut-outs in the street without supervision. A world where even the best education can't lift a man out from the slums.

Many: Lord, in your mercy, forgive us.

One: We confess how quickly we are to judge-- to enter as know-ers, not listen-ers. We talk without taking breaths about our plans, our programs, our successes. We assume that hard work and determination is all that a child needs to rise above their parents without ever meeting a child turned away from learning because her school fees weren't paid.

Many: Lord, in your mercy, forgive us.

One: We confess that we adore our ways of living. We like driving big cars. We like eating at restaurants where too much food is served on one plate. We like wasting toothpaste at the end of the tube. We like shopping in big bulk stores for what we already have.

Many: Lord, in your mercy, forgive us.

One: We confess that we like obsessing about problems like colors of cake frosting, wrinkles on our foreheads and the right kind of beer at baseball games. We consider our appearance and our bodily pleasure above all else.

Many: Lord, in your mercy, forgive us.

One: We confess that we money we spend on Starbucks, fast food and take-out dinners that could be better spent on putting a child with big dreams in Africa through college.

Many: Lord, in your mercy, forgive us.

ALL: We confess, O Lord, that as Americans we have fallen short of your best ways for us. Help us take "I" out of the subject lines of more of our sentences. Help us move our money into different kinds of purchases. Before we speak so much, remind us that we're a part of a global family, in which we are just one part. AMEN