I had the immense pleasure of being included in a mission trip to Malawi, Africa this month. I went in with just one expectation: to feel very, very white.
What some people in Africa call homes, people here at home call 'shacks'. In some cases, I feel as though the word shack doesn't really express the degree of poverty. As we drove the dirt road to the village each day, my heart broke at the great need of the people there. I was constantly reminded of the difference between life there, and how God intended it.
We were met each day by dirty, but oh-so-happy faces of the children. Though we showered each night, by the end of every day we were as covered in dirt as they were. Each day a little more dirt seemed to stick to me, almost symbolically, as each day I noticed less and less of a difference between us. Ironically, my one-and-only 'foolproof' expectation was incorrect. I wasn't white. We were all the color of dirt. Suiting, I suppose since we are all made from it.
As the week went on, we played, prayed and paid for the village children. They had torn clothes, so we brought some replacements. A mud pile for a church, so we bought construction supplies. Malaria, (so unnecessarily widespread it would kill you to think about), so we provided testing and medicine.
But as great as these things may seem, I think I brought more home than we gave. See, as I met each of the faces I encountered along my journey there, I found something completely unexpected: hope.
Not the kind of hope you read about in the Times article about Obama's re-election.
Not the hope you hear blaring from your ninety-inch flat-screen from the latest televangelist.
The hope that comes in simple trusting; knowing the father won't let your needs go unmet.
So now, back safe-and-sound at home - I carry it. As I get discouraged with my dwindling paycheck, my overwhelming wedding plans, uneasiness about the future - I am filled with true hope.
Its the hope that (against our understanding) keeps a smile of the beautiful faces of the people of Malawi.
Thankfully, the God of Malawi is God of the United States as well.