What I Learned About Fear from Africa

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Several months ago, in the height of the Ebola outbreak, I was scheduled to go to Africa to help women and children in need. Many people in my life, including family and doctors, strongly urged me not to go. They said it was not safe and that I could go a different time. They said it wasn’t worth the risk.

I disagreed. Because Africans need to know that their country is more than a medical label or deadly virus. That they are valuable and deserve care, regardless of danger. That they are worth the risk.

Was I scared of Ebola? Honestly, yes. Several weeks before the trip I made the mistake of watching the news. The death was very real. And the lack of a cure seemed the most real of all. There was a voice inside telling me that this trip wasn’t worth it and that I shouldn’t risk my own safety.

Safety. That’s an undercover idol isn’t it? But it’s one we pursue often, especially in the States. Other countries that don’t have that luxury, don’t try to hold onto it. They trust God. And I wonder if maybe He doesn’t hold them just a little closer because they do.

Ebola is scary. But you know what’s even scarier? Kids in Africa, people in Africa, not getting the love and support they need and deserve – because of the world’s fear. Because of the world’s “safety.” Safety is something we’re never guaranteed and can’t control anyway.

So I went to Africa.

And it was one of the most challenging trips of my life. But it was powerful.

In Africa I had to face my fear, head on, every day. Kids that were visibly sick came running up to me and hung on me, wanting love. Wanting to be worthy of love. Wanting hugs, and games, and a world where sickness isn’t everywhere. Would I pull away? Keep myself “safe”?

I played, and laughed, and ran. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience waves of fear. I was praying the entire time. Praying for safety, for wisdom, and mostly praying that I wouldn’t turn into a person that thought my safety was more important than these kids. My life has the same value theirs does, my dreams have the same weight theirs do, and my safety is as important as theirs. But not more important.