When I first came to Mozambique, I was curious about everything. But most about the other person. Ready to learn from people here. On their soil, in their home and surroundings. View from their point of view. I came empty, that is, I put aside the world that I knew. As far as it is possible. I wanted to meet a new one. Without judging. No right. Without my only proper normality. It was like that at first.
And then I saw eyes raised with an exaggerated sigh and little smirks. Or I saw tears, tears that flowed sincerely, accompanying the hands unfolded in helplessness. I also listened to complaints, indignation, or small, cutting jokes. Were the whites saying that? About the locals? Yes, the whites. Yes, about them. Yes, but not always and not all of them.
The following years that I spent here began to accumulate in me… anger. At timeliness. At insincerity. At unreliability. At mediocrity of work. (As well, not always and not for everyone.) This can happen when you stay here longer.
Rolling your eyes and repeating funny stories about one event or another is sometimes an infamous rescue. From a world that we love but that pushes us away. Which doesn’t want us. At least not with those assumptions, not in the form that we come here too often.
There was a time when my first delight flew away somewhere. A handful of everyday facts with emotions attached to them remained. Over-reactivity. Unfair assumptions. Until I discovered that there was no room for a person from here within me. Instead, there was quite a lot of anger.
“It is easy for us to feel sorry for Africa. It is even easier to worship it. And the easiest way to approach it is to dominate it. These are the most popular methods of taming a continent, which for some whites is a pang of conscience. For others, like us Poles, it is more and more often a way to get away from normal, boring, unfulfilled life. What these strategies have in common is that we put not Africa and the Africans at the center, but ourselves.” This is what Dariusz Rosiak wrote in his book “Zar. Oddech Afryki” (“Heat. Breath of Africa”).
And although I found different answers along the way, this one touched the core in me. These stories about Africa are still more about us. Too much. Although I stop for the person from here, I still look at him/her with European eyes. So it’s more about me, my discovery, than about him/her. (Let me remind you again that not always, and it does not apply to everyone.) The way I talk about him/her, the way I describe events, is based on what I know. Which is my normalcy. Just as I will not run away from the color of my skin, I will not run away from the fact that I am Polish and that I grew up in Polish culture. And whatever I see, I experience through my Polishness, or, more broadly, Europeanness. But it’s not a point. Just asking what to do with it? How to put Africa and the Africans at the center?
It’s easier to talk about loving people. Is it also easier to read about it? It looks better than anger. But both of these sides are true. Ask those who have been in Africa for a long time.
But, there is also God’s Kingdom. It doesn’t distinguish between cultures. More precisely, it does not change its approach, regardless of cultures, traditions or behaviors. As it approaches, it brings as much love as a person needs. It brings repentance. And good news about salvation. I remember that in response to my first doubts, a few years ago I created a graphic, which was made of a picture of two girls I met in one of the mozambican villages and words: “God’s Word is true everywhere, in all circumstances. And for everyone.” If not for this, I would have long ago concluded that the white man is completely unnecessary in Africa. And it is when it comes to color. Here the love of Christ is needed, which can be brought by the one who experienced it. No matter what his/her skin looks like or which culture he/she has in him/her. Go everywhere, to the ends of the Earth.
Putting Africa and the Africans at the center means constantly looking into the eyes of Jesus. He loved me, although He could be angry with me more than once. So often I do not fit in with His Kingdom culture. And He? He still loves. That is enough for me as my own reason to love. The love that is the choice. This is also how the anger flows away. In the old one, incumbent, you need to tinker a little longer until it disappears. For example, using the Word of God as a tool, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me [Jesus].” (Matthew 25:40)