There is a girl who calls the Sekute villages of Zambia her home, a girl far too pretty for the age of six, a girl rightly named after the Biblical Esther because of her pure, natural beauty.
A girl, by civilized standards, too joyful to be living in a remote village in the middle of Africa.
Esther enjoys the dry season as every Zambian kid does—waking up early with the sun, helping her family feed and care for the chickens, filling jugs of water at the well and masterfully balancing them on her head—and, of course, dancing.
Every night as the sun exits the clear blue ocean above and is replaced by a million sparkling stars, a fire is built and the dancing begins.
Esther, in her usual red Elmo jacket and long blue ‘shatangi’ that runs far past her feet, claps her hand off-beat and sings songs about Jesus into the night.
And her large, white-toothed smile never leaves her face.
She sings and dances with a village of one-year olds and eighty-year olds, all just as joyful and giggly as the last.
I watch Esther dance and find myself amazed—and humbled. I look around and wonder how she can be so happy, how she can dance so freely. The crops are dried up, with nothing but hope that there will be an abundance of rain the following season. The parents have aches and illnesses that can’t seem to be shaken, and a simple sip of water is miles away. Why is she so happy?
As I ponder these things, I continue to watch Esther—and she continues to dance. In the company of a hundred joyful Zambians, voices are lifted high to the heavens and the ground is stomped in simple, rhythmic motions.
In the midst of what looks like fear and hopelessness, they dance like they are marching towards Heaven’s gates.
And with no promise of what tomorrow will bring, the smiling and laughing carries on long into the cold African night.
I write this not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned with Africa—especially because there are currently many diseases with few remedies, a lack of clean water, and an even bigger lack of the true Gospel.
But I write this to say that Americans should not feel bad for Africa. We should never find ourselves in the mindset that we are ‘above’ other countries, and that we should pity them. Rather, while we should do all we can to help the world, we should not look past the problems here in America that are just as big as Africa’s.
After visiting Zambia for the second time, I was able to have multiple conversations with villagers and missionaries alike. And I was told many times that Africa sees destruction in America just as we see ‘hopelessness’ in Africa, and that the continent of Africa believes that America needs prayer and God just as much as they do—if not more.
I write this to say that we should stop feeling bad for the world and start focusing on our own issues. To think we are ‘fine’ where we stand (in relation to the rest of the world) is a very scary position to be in. Yes, I believe that we have the duty of helping the world because we are so blessed financially, but we must stop putting the world beneath us and focus on the spiritual problems that we have created here.
In short, don’t feel bad for Africa.
Because America needs God just as much as they do.
Photo credits to Nicklaus Hart and Mandi Croom.