Due to recent conversations on facebook, I've been thinking a lot about why I choose to focus on helping African children while there are hungry children here in the United States. This is not unfamiliar territory to my individual thought process or to the great debates of culture worldwide. This has often and will often be a response when someone is doing something elsewhere--whether you're talking about adopting a child, raising money, or starting a school.....elsewhere. It's worth considering. Because they're right. There are hungry children here--millions of them. I tutored them last summer. I'm sure I pass them on the streets and don't even know it. And no child deserves to go hungry...or not go to school....or not have a family.
I wanted to talk about my experience concerning why I have chosen this path of focusing on Africans--both overseas and in our community. It's kind of long, so feel free to skim or skip to the end if you're overwhelmed with the details of my story :) I won't be offended.
I kind of feel like I didn't choose Africa. Africa chose me. When I went on my first overseas mission trip to Kenya, Africa in 1995, I had no idea what I was getting into. In fact, I can remember watching a video about long-term missions in Africa and thinking, "That's all well and good for them....but, God, please don't send me to Africa!" My, how things have changed!
After totally falling in love with the people and place those 16 years ago, I did a "semester abroad" where I lived at the same University (Daystar) and, on the side, worked with the same group of "street boys" and their counselors where I had been 2 years earlier--a ten minute walk from the University. I also had the privilege of going into the capital of Nairobi and eating lunch with street kids in the big, local park there. It was a life-changing 4 1/2 months, to say the least! In fact, when I came back the U.S. in May of 1997 I was sure that I would be a missionary to Africa one day! Things had changed drastically from my thoughts watching that video almost exactly 2 years earlier.
Fast forward 11 years--about a year ago. I have married a wonderful man who grew up in Sierra Leone (Blood Diamond, anyone?). I was sure we'd be in Africa by now, but we're not. My hubby feels passionate about the American church (go figure!) and God didn't allow our house to sell when the opportunity seemed PERFECT to go back to Sierra Leone. (At times, I'm still confused and curious about this.) So here I am. And then, last fall, I started having great conversations with a new, good friend and adoptive mom, Jolene.
The conversations actually started because we weren't satisfied with how we were living our lives and how we felt about helping others. We could talk the talk, but we weren't doing enough to walk the walk! So, we brainstormed. We thought about organizing some events to raise money for charities. We thought about volunteering at Faith Mission regularly (which Jolene started doing). We had some other ideas. And then, the idea hit (actually, through Jolene's wonderful husband Darin, first): Why don't we start an organization that focuses specifically on Africans? We are passionate about it. We have a close connection with a lawyer (thanks, Darin :)). We have solid ties in Africa--Ethiopia especially--through our adoption experiences.
And Awake and Alive was born.
Not satisfied with just helping overseas (although this is a noble cause that many do, and do well). We labored heavily and created three unique components for the organization:
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.