We are not cool.

This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately.

http://aswwu.com/collegian/voluntourism-more-harm-than-good/

http://www.theonion.com/articles/6day-visit-to-rural-african-village-completely-cha,35083/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=LinkPreview:NA:InFocus

This is the concept of serving others just to draw attention to ourselves, or make ourselves look good. Of using service or missions as an excuse to travel the world… and worse, the notion that Westerners are the only ones who can solve the world’s problems. The assumption that we are the only ones who can make a difference, or that our way of living is best for everyone else. The labeling of all who do not look like white America as “needy,” or “the least of these.” When we do that, we assume that we are not least.. that somehow we must be more?

It makes me really sad, and reluctant to share stories and photos the work that I have the opportunity to be a part of in East Africa because I am afraid of it being perceived this way.
I have had the opportunity to work with people from both sides of the world to start an organization (Under the Same Tree) whose mission is to partner with locally led initiatives and community based organizations in East Africa, and help to insure they have the resources that they need to thrive. This plays out on the ground level to provide poverty alleviation to families, wellness for children, and care for orphans. We are about highlighting strengths, sharing life together as a global community, breaking down false perceptions, and improving the quality of life for all that we work with. For Christians, this means truly becoming a global body, because there are actually more Christians in Africa than there are in the US!
And as for me, I’m trying not to let articles like these discourage me from sharing my photos and stories. But know this – I am not amazing. I do not believe that Westerners are the ones bearing the solutions to the world’s problems. I do not believe that the people we work  with in East Africa are incapable and needy. No, they blow me away with their resourcefulness and ingenuity. We get to partner with this. I am continually blessed beyond measure by the love I receive from my friends in East Africa. They adopt me every time I’m around. I get to share that with you.
Know that our service in East Africa is not just a meet and greet and leave type of thing. We are, God willing, in this for the long term. We will get to see babies grow up and lives lived out. Side by side.
I know I can’t change stereotypes. But I want to value very highly the lives that come alongside mine, no matter where or who they are. I want that to be what you see in pictures and stories as we head out to East Africa next month.
A few weeks ago, David asked me if we were cool, Are we the cool kids? I laughed a lot and said no. Maybe we are a little unconventional. We like running around outside. We like to laugh and have fun. We like to sing. We enjoy each other. We love Jesus and his creation. We enjoy our friends. We are happy. We are really loved. We are willing to live outside of the norm.
Here is what we are not – 
We are not cool, we are not hip or trendy… sorry about that, friends. We are not amazing. We are not idealistic, I used to be, but not anymore. Contrary to popular jokes, we are not hippies. We don’t have it all together. We are not rich. We are not perfect. We do not live in the absence of fear, stress, or worry. We are learning to depend on others for our needs.
Those are my thoughts. Merry Christmas. 🙂

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