Tuesday, July 26, 2011

5 Ways Africa Has Changed Me

I thought I would be changing Africa...but Africa has changed me.  Here are five paradigm shifts in my thinking... 

#1: Success is Obedience

If at all possible, I prefer to avoid failure...it’s just a bit too much like failing. 

Success just looks better, smells better, feels better. 

For some, success is about “big” - the big promotion, the big sale, the big house, the big car.  For others it’s about being “right”  - being the right weight, from the right school, with the right degree, running with the right friends, your kid on the right team, living in the right neighbourhood, in the right part of town. 

In Africa for me – it’s tempting for it to be about numbers – the numbers of lives changed, programs started, jobs landed, babies saved, desperate mothers helped, etc.

My big epiphany?  Obedience to God is really my only success. That’s it.  Obeying God. Even if it looks like failure, it’s not. 

#2 Pray about it

For any upcoming decisions, problems, dilemmas – I usually like to think about it, discuss it, rethink it, ask a few more people, perhaps throw a little worry at it.  In general, mull it over.

What happened in Africa? I had friends who would often say, “Julie, have you actually prayed about that?” 

“Huh!” Some missionary to Africa I am! I usually had to say, “Yeahhhh...not a bad idea.  Guess I’ll try that.” 

So now...I ask God what He thinks. You know what?  He actually tells me! I may not always like it...but nothing compares to God's voice.

#3: My 2% 

Some people believe destiny finds you and others believe you find destiny.  When people in the  “destiny finds you” camp say “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be” I think “Oh please...you clearly don’t realize your choices can change everything! Make better choices! You can make it happen! Stop dilly dallying around!” 

The problem in my case – with the “you find destiny” camp - is that every choice matters, every decision is crucial – and hard work takes the cake. 

What I learned in Africa?  Both camps are right, but for anything lasting to actually happen –I need to put in my 2% and totally, utterly rely on God for the other 98%. 

#4 Never Enable, Always Help

It is a fine, razor thin line between helping and enabling. 

My shocking realization?  Enabling is doing something for someone they CAN do for themselves.  Helping is doing something for someone they CAN’T do for themselves. 

Too often I am helping myself right into enablement. My mother is the most amazing helper, non-enabler I have ever known (you would think 37 years of watching Dot Jensen in action would rub off sometime soon).

Since this mind blowing realization – I am rethinking how much I pick up after my tutu-trailing, sequin-spreading 5 year old and spoon feed my I-only-eat-mac-n-cheese-popcorn-and-bananas 3 year old. Not to mention a whole new look at how I give money away, distribute clothing donations, design employment programs and approach micro-enterprise.

 Emme analyzing this morning's attempt to add microscopic amounts of strawberries to breakfast..."I'm prrrrrreeeeetty clear about my feelings on bananas - not sure why my slave force isn't  picking up on that."

Jensen's question..."What is this 'bed making' you speak of?"

#5: Everyone needs a prayer team

One of the perks to moving to Africa is people expect you need a lot of prayer. And we do! 

We have a “Prayer Circle” of about 20 people who really do pray for us...we’ve sent out the “Prayer Red Alert” for our job skills program, women needing work, little girls who were raped, a boy that was kidnapped, Karl’s back, our bed bugs – you name it. Anything that just wasn’t going to change unless God intervened.  It’s surprising how much stuff that is. 

The point is – you don’t need to move to Africa to get a prayer team.  We all need friends who will really, truly pray for us. 

I would encourage you right now to pick 5 people who really like you and would be happy to pray for you.  Guess what?  People want to know you – the real you.  They WILL pray for you.

In fact, we’d love to be the first people on your list.  Just email me: julie@karlandjulie.com.  I’ll start praying for you today!