To be perfectly honest, I find writing blogs to be very daunting. Translating incredible, life-giving experiences onto a two-dimensional document seems to somehow diminish it’s magnitude. I have a deep respect for those moments that are never shoved into the public forum but are instead held close and quietly treasured by the ones who know them. I really wish everyone reading this blog could experience this journey first-hand, alongside of me. Plus it would save me the time of writing this 🙂 I don’t feel at all adequate to properly communicate my time in Angola.
The past several days have been full of adventures. We flew into Lubango and were picked up by Dr. Kubacki and shuttled to the home of a pilot missionary there in town. They were Canadian. So we got along just fine 🙂 Yesterday we made the 10 hour drive through some rugged terrain to Dr. Kubacki’s home in Cavango. During that bumpy car ride, we had some great conversations — learning about his heart for the people of Angola and his desire to enter their pain in order to show them God’s love and help alleviate their suffering. He challenged me in ways that I so needed. Honestly, if this entire trip had ended with that 10 hour conversation, it would have been more than worth the investment. We also discussed differences in Angolan vs. American culture. Absolutely fascinating. I think we as westerners tend to think that the whole world thinks like us. So not true.
Here are a few things I have learned so far:
1. Angolans are relationship driven — not task driven. They are perfectly okay with sitting and talking for hours. It doesn’t bother them if they haven’t “checked” things off their list. My first reaction to this was “Wow! That seems like a bad thing”…but I had to think again. The strength of relationships that bind many of these villages and families together is incredible. And they are so very friendly! I can only contrast that to my performance-driven culture, where relationships often seem shallow and people are suspicious of others who seem “overly-friendly”…
2. There are many diseases like TB, malaria, leprosy, etc. here. But there is virtually no anxiety or depression in Angola. Dr. Kubacki explained it’s largely due to the fact that their view of life tends to be fatalistic…meaning they acknowledge that we as humans have little to no control over what happens in life. That gives them some sense of peace and acceptance. Westerners believe the opposite – WE can dictate the terms of an outcome. As I recognized and processed this, I came to the conclusion that there is likely a balance. Recognizing that we can affect change is wonderful – it’s why we have hospitals and major scientific advancements. However, the illusion that we have complete control truly does lead to an unhealthy extreme. We are not the One running the universe. But we can get to know Him! I wonder how healthier we would be if we became a little more like the Angolans in realizing that we are not as “in control” as we think we are.
3. Here in Angola – character trumps charisma. Somebody can be the best public speaker, but if he or she doesn’t back it up with a life of respect and integrity, nobody is going to trust them. Also, marriage is seen from a practical/utilitarian view. Arranged marriages are the norm. Romantic love is not emphasized and really not important at all. Respect and honor are. Displays of affection are not seen as necessary. Girls are encouraged to find somebody who will treat them well and honor them rather than the guy they “fall in love with.” So different from the way individualistic westerners typically think and function.
4. Plenty of people out in the rural villages have never heard of the United States of America. They live in huts, most don’t have cars, no refrigerators, no microwaves, no electricity. But I promise, you will never see more ecstatic waves in your life as you will when you drive through these villages. Today we spent the day in the local clinic here in Cavango. We saw a young boy with TB, lots of malaria, a lady with CHF, and scabies, and a case of endometrial hyperplasia. I have learned more about tropical diseases in one clinic day here than I did during the 4 years I spent in medical school.
But here’s the best part…
Before clinic started, all of the patients were gathered around and Dr. Kubacki shared a story about Jesus feeding the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21). One of the nurses translated the Portuguese into the village’s native language. After telling the story, Dr. Kubacki asked if anybody knew why this story is important to our life. Silence. Finally, one man spoke up with a confused look on his face “We are very pleased to be hearing this story. But we do not know what it means.” Dr. Kubacki went on to explain that Jesus saw that the crowd needed food and cared about their hunger. In the same way, He cares about our needs too and loves us deeply. He further explained to them: “Our Father’s heart is to help us in our struggle and suffering”. It was a message that I needed to hear just as much as any one of the villagers sitting there. Separated by an ocean and a cultural chasm, both the rural Angolan villager and I need to know that our Creator cares about entering into our pain.
Dr. Kubacki said that at a previous clinic time, He asked the villagers if they believed that God exists. They all agreed — yes, He does! He then asked them if they know who God is and what He is like. His question was met with dead silence and empty stares.
Our Father’s heart for us is love. And when we enter into another’s pain, we are His reflections.
The scenery is beautiful here. The house we are staying in has a view over a deep African valley with a river flowing powerfully through it. Breathtaking is the only word I can think of to describe it. The people here are beautiful too, in their simplistic and friendly way of life. Absolutely beautiful.