Breaking Down Walls

By Savannah Swanner | Jul 16, 2012

It has already been a little over two weeks since I left the house.  Time seems to be going so fast.  One thing I have been dwelling on lately is the thought that these children are real kids, just like American kids.  I have realized recently that up until now I have subconsciously given orphans super powers.  I have stereotyped them as being children who survive in unbearable conditions, making them some kind of Super Kid.  I am not sure what a “Super Kid” looks like.  Perhaps they are always perfect children, always grateful for what they have?  Whatever qualities a Super Kid possesses matters little.  I, however, do feel the need to ask for forgiveness from my new friends for these wrong assumptions and stereotypes.  These children (and teenagers) are perfectly normal.  Our cultures may be different, but this is the only difference.  The kids push each other, steal toys from one another, fight for attention, and yet love with amazing innocence and sincerity.  My Angel House kids are normal kids!  Neema’s not the best at always using the potty, often squatting in the yard to pee or sometimes jumping on you with wet pants, leaving pee marks (she’s only three years old).  Paulo and Bahati just finished episodes of the chicken pox.  Bahati would not stop itching, so she got an infection and had to be taken to the doctor.  While waiting her turn, she was notably scared.  She barely looked up and refused to speak but a few words to the doctor (sounds like many kiddos I know).  Kekwete likes to model and dance in front of the camera instead of smiling.  Ghana loves hide-in-seek.  Most of the teenage boys are too cool to hang around us missionaries.  The teenage girls are sweet and mothering while still concerned about their bumps and other skin imperfections.  These sweet children are normal—they play hard, laugh a lot, LOVE Band-Aids, tease others, and get dirty.  The only difference is that they have fifty other brothers and sisters to experience life with.  What an amazing blessing God has given me!  I am beginning to really understand that His people, His children are created in His image!  Whether we are worlds apart or just a few towns away, we are all created in one image, His image!  It doesn’t matter whether He has placed you in America, Africa, Asia, or Australia.  We are His children, all children of God with a Heavenly Father shining down upon us.  Praise be to Him!  I pray that all may truly begin to understand that we are all equal!  We are all created by the same God, loved by the same Spirit, and redeemed by the same Savior!

With this all in mind, it seems that many of my African teenage friends also have stereotypes that are far from the truth.  On two different occasions I have had conversations with a few teenagers dreaming of marrying white people.  When I ask why it is that they want to marry a mzungu (Swahili for white person), their responses surprised me.  They felt that all mzungu’s were “good people.”  The girls reported that they felt African men were “no good.”  The same was reported about regarding African girls from the male side.  My response to the girls was assuring them that whites boys were no better than African boys.  There were plenty of good boys as well as many who had much to be desired.  If they dreamed of having a marriage that was beautiful and healthy, then they needed to look for someone who loved Jesus more than he would ever love them.  With this response I immediately got responses of “oh yes, we will find someone who loves Jesus.”  Whether they were only appeasing me or truly taking to heart my advice, I am not sure.  My conversation with the male side revealed a little more.  He felt that African women were too unreliable because he had seen and heard so much about their unfaithfulness.  When it came to whites he felt that we were all stable, never unfaithful, and always loving God.  At first, I think I was in disbelief that someone could think this, but I soon realized this young man has only met white people that are here to serve God.  He has met those willing to give up their lives and/or money to love, help, and share with those that they have not personally met.  Of course he would think whites are good because that is all he has been exposed to.  I explained to him that whites are no different than Africans, Asians, Indians, Hispanics, or any other race.  Whites are unfaithful just as much as our African friends while they also can love like my new African friends.  Whites are people that mess up and often fall hard because we are people just like everyone else.  I explained that unfaithfulness was also a problem common in America, as was divorce.  His response was the best yet…he said, “Well then I must look for someone who loves Jesus.”

It seems that both my new friends and I have much to learn from one another.  We are breaking-down damaging stereotypes while changing each other’s lives.  We must all realize that problems here are the same problems everywhere else because they are rooted in sin.  We must truly learn in our hearts that we all have problems and not desire what the other has that we think might fix the problem.  Instead we need to take our problems straight to the cross so that our faulty thinking can be revealed by God’s glory!