Why “learning to appreciate all I have” was NOT a lesson I took away from Africa

Posted: July 12, 2016 by Patrice Miles in C.A.R.E. Africa, Egbe, Egbe Nigeria, Miles In Missions, Nigeria, Orphans

This Blog was written by Payton Sheeran who is a teacher and came and lived with our family in Egbe, Nigeria for one month. She came to help at the school where the C.A.R.E. kids attend. I added the pictures.

13600273_1020653531382722_5929615649844329561_n “…give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” Proverbs 30:8-9

Many times when people come back from mission trips to other countries, they say that their experience there made them appreciate all they have in America. While I understand where they are coming from, this is not a lesson I took away from the month I spent in Nigeria. Now don’t get me wrong, I did recognize the poverty I saw in Nigeria. Many of the homes I saw were small with only one room. Those who do work make very little—if I remember correctly it is equivalent to about $2 a day. The people live simply. Some do not have enough; some have just enough. Though I stayed with missionaries and did not experience real poverty at their home, it was still not like living in America. However, I enjoyed this simplistic lifestyle. I enjoyed just having enough.

13528906_1020650084716400_2984030722363838612_nComing back to the states I experienced somewhat of a small culture shock. While I knew I would miss the people of Egbe, Nigeria, I did not expect to miss living in their culture. I missed living simply and being in Africa. My thoughts coming back were not “I am so thankful for all the things I have here,” but “why do we need all this excess stuff?” While I am thankful for the things I have, my eyes were opened to all we have in America that we do not need. While the people in Nigeria live simply with enough, or less than enough, we in America live in excess with way more than enough. Do we really need a fast food place on every corner? Do we really need 100+ options for cereal?! And shampoo? And soap? And everything else with our many options? We have so much in America. Everything seems to be accessible, right at our fingertips. But instead of making me grateful, this makes me sad.

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With a changed heart, coming back into America, it did not feel so much like home anymore. I didn’t feel like I quite belonged anymore—and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to belong to this culture. My first impression of coming back into America was that this culture seems to be shallow, selfish, and taken for granted. While I’m not saying that all Americans are this way, our culture as a whole seems this way to me. We take for granted all our excess stuff and the ease we have in obtaining what we need. We can be selfish and shallow as we move throughout our day—just focused on what we need to get done or where we need to go. I know because I’ve been guilty of it myself many times. Jumping right back into the hurried state of America, where there is always somewhere to be and something to be done, I missed the welcoming culture of Nigeria. There are things to be done in Nigeria. There are places to be. But those are not the only things that matter. People also matter.

13599977_1020660138048728_3769125568168879628_nA big part of Nigeria is greetings. You greet everyone you pass, whether you know them or not. Whether it is saying “good morning,” “good afternoon,” “good evening,” “you are welcome,” or “well done,” everyone is greeted and everyone will greet you. In America you are lucky to get a smile from someone who passes by you. Though it is not always that people are trying to be rude or insincere, we are just too wrapped up in our own worlds to even notice the people around us.

13528798_1020660714715337_6583995232999457567_nNow am I saying that the culture of America is all bad and Nigeria is all good? No, of course not. There are good parts of each culture and things that could improve within each culture. I also am not saying that the solution to America’s excess is to just give a bunch of stuff and money to Africa so that they can have more than enough too. In fact, I do not believe that “more than enough” should even be the goal. I think a better goal is for all places to have enough. Not more than; not less than; just enough. But how do we obtain this? This problem is one that has existed for centuries and I know that it is bigger than me. It most likely will not be solved in my lifetime. But there are changes we can make. Instead of enabling, by just giving stuff and money, we can empower. Empower by sending and supporting missionaries. Empower by teaching the Nigerians in a way that they will not have to depend on us—in a way that they will learn and then be able to teach others. And then let them teach us. Let us be empowered by their culture. Let us learn how to be more welcoming—to slow down and notice the people around us. To live more simply. To strive for “enough” instead of “more than enough.” The goal is not to force the Western culture on Nigeria—or anywhere. From what I’ve seen—in the selfishness and shallowness—the Western culture should never be the goal. We can learn from the Nigerians—through the way the live in their culture, and they can learn from us. Though this is all more easily said than done, if we each start in our own worlds and our own mission fields—some in our very backyards–it is one small step that can begin to make a difference.

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Comments
  1. Victoria Lemke says:

    Very well said! We can only pray for a heart change that starts with ourselves. Thank you for the thought provoking post.

    • Mary Eicher says:

      What a precious story. Thanks for sharing it hon.
      How are you doing? Look at the picture often of you all and pray. Love, Old Grandma in Texas

  2. Megan says:

    Such a beautifully written truth statement. Enjoyed reading! Puts life into perspective for those of us in America. We were told when we got back from a mission trip we would quickly forget and how true that was. We didn’t think it could ever happen after what we saw but of course it did. We are just like the Israelites. God is constantly asking us to remember.

  3. Jody says:

    beautifully stated – thank you!

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