John has a personal blog that I get to borrow posts from sometimes. I thought you all would enjoy these two posts!
A day in the life of an African missionary is something wonderful, joyful, but also odd. You have the greatest life and greatest mission in all the world. The odd part is how you stand out. When you are a missionary, that happens to be white, in a sub-Saharan African country, you are an oddity. For example, of the 3 million people that live in Kumasi, maybe 500 of them are non-African. By this I mean, they are the Lebanese, Chinese, Indian, European, or American - all the groups that make up the 'bronifuo' (this is the term for all foreigners). The thing that really makes the missionary different is how he interacts with the people. All other foreigners are here on business, and personal interaction is simply that - business. But the missionary's job is people, and this fact takes him to the local people everyday.
Now this said, you have to understand that most children here do not see white people that often. Also, the average adult rarely interacts with a white person. So, the broni (white man), just like all things in the world that are little understood, has ascended in the mind of the average African to the level of a myth, a legend, a demigod. They are special people who come from the lands of promise, and in their pockets are unlimited resources, plane tickets, visas, and toys. They are the Santa Claus (Father Christmas) of the world. They come with red sweaty faces and jolly smiles carrying bags full of presents for all the good people in the community. (This idea has been greatly encouraged by the UN and other Aid Organizations that visit local communities). The foreigner is greeted, cheered, and loved, just as Santa is welcomed. No one would dare to turn away this benevolent spirit, this embodiment of the hopes and dreams of happy children. You might think that I am being trite, but it is true.
I was reminded of this today as I visited some new people. I had to visit a few new areas, and I had to go back to some places that I had not been in a while.
I'll give you a brief description of my walk: I'm walking through the streets; the first child sees me; I begin to hear the whispers, "Broni! Broni!" At each door, at each corner, I see the faces of smiling children pointing, laughing, waving. Some will be brave and shake my hand; some will just follow along for a few blocks sounding the call that a white guy is visiting the community. Today I had five children, starry-eyed and in wonder, run up the road and hug my legs. Normally after a while a few adults join in and greet me, laughing with joy when they hear me speak Twi. Overall I feel like the Santa Claus of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. I am the last hurrah, the grand finale. I now know how tired he must get after waving at all those children.
When an African missionary first comes to the field, he feels like every day he must face an overwhelming papparazzi. He feels like a Santa at the mall with tired knees, just waiting for the day to be over so that he can go home. But, in time it becomes part of life. You adjust, you learn, and you grow. And though you cannot give a bike, an orange, or a football to the children that ask you while you walk down the road, you can give them something - HOPE! Hope, because a gospel-preaching church is being started in their area. Hope, because they can be invited to Sunday school. Hope, because you get a chance to invite their family to Bible studies. And with this hope comes strength!
Because this hope gives you a mission, you learn to live. Just like all overweight, elderly men with beards in the States around Christmas, you live with the association. So, to all those odd Father Christmas missionaries out there that are tired of all the attention... just remember with the job comes great rewards. Just like old Saint Nick, we get the blessing of giving every person a gift. Not one wrapped in paper, but one straight from Jesus Christ - the gift of salvation.