How to Stay Sane in Africa

July 03, 2008

“For the Lord has chosen ZION for he has desired it for his dwelling. This is my resting place for ever, here I will sit enthroned for I have desired it.” Ps 132:13

I feel like I’m on a roll-a-coaster and I’d like to scream for someone to let me off but it just keeps going—-ups, downs, and twisting sideways. They talk here about people having break-downs—just going off the reservation. Some days I can see why.

It’s intense here at IRIS. 

We’ve got witchdoctors spouting off their jabba jabba curses on us, and half the base falling sick with either food poisoning or malaria—take your pick. We’ve got people telling us to just be with Jesus and others telling us to serve more, we’ve got rules and regulations, we’ve got weddings and people wrestling each other over a slice of cake, we’ve got people coming and people leaving, and new schedules every day.

And some days I just want to get up and walk out.

And then I remember…this is what they were talking about—being stripped.

When you get to Pemba they tell you, this is the beginning of a holy fast—not necessarily the kind where you give up all food, (although there is that especially when you can’t stomach another bowl of rice)—but the loss of all comfort, all security, everything before that made us who we were, and everything we used to turn to when we were having a bad day.

It’s the final frontier and out here there are no movie theaters or mountain bikes, no big bowl of ice cream or glass of wine, no big HUGE hug from someone that really knows you, no girls’ night out, no best friend, no boyfriend, no really hot shower, no big fluffy bed, no gym—-well, we do have Pilates with Shara which is basically like boot camp, but also the thing I look forward to most in the week—in part because we get to leave the base.

It is here that you come to terms with your most raw self and the sum of all your addictions.

It is here that you realize you are not all those things that you do, just to maintain sanity, or the people you surround yourself with. It is here that you realize there is no sanity. No sanity at all without lots of God. Here—if I don’t want to go crazy, I have to be crazy after Jesus. There’s nothing else.

Here, character is torn down and rebuilt, and torn down again. All day long, the people want from you—they want your backpack, or your skirt, they want your water bottle or your sunglasses…they want everything you have that they think will satisfy them. Literally today I saw a group of about 500 people standing in line for breakfast (which I served yesterday for about 3 hours—but was pretty controlled and therefore pretty fun) But today I saw them and I wanted to run the other way. I literally knew how Jesus felt when in the Bible it says, “He saw the multitudes and then went up to the mountain to pray.”

Yeah. I get that.

Because there will always be the multitude. It is a never ending stream.

If you are called to this, you are called to laying your life down and that means all of the rights you think you have—-save one: your right to be with God.

Lately, I have needed that more than anything. I literally feel like I could snap if I don’t get alone with Jesus. So today with my sore throat and baggy eyes from sleepless nights I crawled in my bunk and just cried, and prayed, and cried some more.

Because I don’t really know what else to do. And God really met me. Really spoke to me and sometimes I can’t believe that He is that nice.

But He really does love me even when I’m feeling pretty selfish. And I really do love Him even when its hard not to feel alone. And this is all there is—this is what life is about—that moment of meeting Him face to face and coming away changed. Here, I am a resting place for God.

“Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.” Ps. 34

Related Posts