I am a middle aged white American woman. Before the term “white privilege” was coined, I lived it. Through no choice of my own, I was born into a family who wanted me. I had a mom and a dad who loved each other and their kids. They clothed me, fed me, and gave me shelter. I was known by them. I had every advantage. I was educated without question. I was given a strong foundation of faith. I had scores of friends at school and at church and I lived in a country that valued freedom and independence. I was born during peacetime which lasted well into my adulthood. All these things were free to me. I did nothing to earn them. I did nothing to deserve them. They simply were. I had no idea this was not a common occurrence for everyone. I took every bit of my good fortune for granted.
So now, here I sit in Africa, on a team of women mostly like me. I have supporters who are the same. We have woken up to the fact that our privilege gave us the gifts of hopefulness, positive outlooks, and the feeling that anything is possible. We were taught you can be whatever you want to be as long as you work hard. With our advantages we were educated. We married educated men. We raised our kids the way we were raised.
Why would God take middle aged American white women of privilege and send them to Uganda, Africa? I have asked him this question myself. It is certainly not to rescue anyone. Not to force feed the people. The refugees are in a most difficult place, but there is nothing about their situation our little team can change. Complexities layered with strife and causes of which we have very little understanding are not problems we can solve. So, why then does God keep calling us back to this place?
“You need them.”
Hmmmm… he is right. I need what they have. The ability to live in the moment. The desire to keep surviving, keep putting one foot in front of the other. The way many of them depend on God for daily needs like FOOD. The stamina and sheer strength of the women as they go about daily living tasks. We are alike in that neither of us got to choose where we were born, or who our parents were. I could have just as easily been born in a war-torn country, where my family was slaughtered. Where food is scarce. Where safety is unavailable. Where running away from danger is the normal way of life. I could have not had access to education, or dependable shelter. I do not know if I would survive such a life. A life without any privileges, where I feel forgotten and abandoned.
It is just like God to pluck us up and put us in the midst of such heartache. He uses things like this to confound the wise. It is so, we can see up close, the gaps in the gifts we have. Even here, we ride to camp instead of walking. We fly to town rather than taking a lorry or bus. Even here, our privilege follows us. Yet, I believe God is doing a new thing this time around. He is opening my eyes to see the gifts they have to offer to us. He is allowing them to teach us. We are the educators, and we bring with us knowledge of literacy. We bring compassion and prayer, and some hope that we were born with. We freely share what we have been given. In return, they share with us their stories, their hearts and their tears…but also their joy. Their desire to educate the future of their country.
God has teamed us up with a Nigerian with big vision, and Ugandan teachers who know the culture. He has brought us all together with the community of refugees who want to make a difference in their own lives.
In the camp they call us Khawaja. It is not derogatory, but a term of identification. We are the white ones. The ones who are different and do not belong, but they have extended their arms to us. Embraced us with their hearts and freely share their gifts with us. I need what they have. We come together, not as victim and rescuer, heavens no! We are an interdependent cohort of grace…an international group of people who want the best for the children of South Sudan.