When Africa breaks your heart

When I say I’m ready to come home, I am saying that I miss my boys, yes. I’m saying I long for regular routine and whole family and the easy acceptance of friends. But I’m also saying that I’ve grown tired of Africa.

Africa, oh, Africa.

It’s the place where you can hear lies as half-truths and second-, third-, and quadruple-guess your actions but they always end up being wrong and right at the same time with no neat division.

It’s the place that teaches me how conspicuous really feels, when my white skin is the target, the highlight, the hated/wanted thing. It’s the place I feel dirty in my whiteness, so obvious in a sea of beautiful shades of dark, black, brown.

It’s the place God brings me close enough to hear him whisper, “Just wait and see what I’ll do.” It’s a continent packed with thin places. Sometimes it feels too close to God’s heart. Sometimes I feel tired.

* * *

Africa broke my heart today.

African Time grated and bound up today, instead of freed. My pushing met blocked path after closed door after pushback. I said, “let me at least do everything I can,” And God said, “Just wait and see what I’ll do.” The thought hit me in the heart.

“Just wait and see what you’ll do?” I said out loud in my empty room. “Will you do anything?”

Guess what evidence I saw today of His hand?

I was about to say nothing. But there were two things.

I’m still waiting to see what he will do about my prayers, about my pleadings, about my missing home.

But today, he gave me a message from a friend when I desperately needed one. And tonight, he gave me a warm shower. Where there have only been cold showers before, I took a good, warm shower where there shouldn’t have been one. I felt Him saying, “I know today was hard. This is for you.”

And suddenly, His love is everywhere.

* * *

I bought a necklace today — a silver Africa. I brought it back to my room, stared at it and just cried. I couldn’t even bear to put it on.

I touched the edges of the silver charm. It’s both smooth and sharp. Beautiful and dangerous. When you open up your heart here, Africa finds a way in, and then you feel beat up for the rest of your life.

* * *

I prayed, “help me see what you have for me today” and instead I stare at my phone, willing it to ring, and I understand why today was so hard.

If you ever want to see how much you control in your life, come to Africa. (God has me here for the third time. I can’t imagine why.)

* * *

He brings me back around, tonight, to the conversation we had a couple months back, the one where I begged Him to let me go to Africa now, not later. The one where I asked Him why I had to carry this burden. The one where I yelled and swore and woke up with a huge headache. The one where He spoke back, clear as day, like a conversation, reminding me of when I asked for this. Of when tears streamed down my face as I sang, “Break my heart for what breaks yours,” and I never felt a prayer so deep, and now He’s gone and done it.

It hurts more than I thought it would.

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5 comments on “When Africa breaks your heart

  1. julie Brock says:

    Break my heart for what breaks yours, and the shattered thin pieces of our souls splinters and embeds in the unknowing feet who need our sliver of a word, spirit, breath more than we can understand—and he does. He does.

    How I mis you, my friend. How I miss your bared, compassionate heart. How I learn from your love and journey.

    Do a few sun salutations with me when you awake, okay?

  2. Aaron says:

    “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” – C.S. Lewis

    Love you sister –


  3. Christin says:

    I have battled so much today with Africa. Wondering if God will literally move us there. Praying some days that He would. I long for a slower pace. I beg for less distractions. But would I be just trading one set of problems for another? Am I running from something when God really wants something else? I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure that out–waiting on Him; weighing the thought.

    If God wanted me in Africa, wouldn’t I have been born in Africa? Or is He breaking my heart for something greater then the American dream? Are desperate families longing for someone to care? To simply love on them and tell them they aren’t alone?

    There are some things money can’t solve and sitting here sending money there doesn’t seem like enough. Money’s just a tool. It cannot replace relationship and it certainly cannot replace the Gospel.

    Oh so much to work out–to pray through. Your words are so spot on, Kim. Africa has wrecked me. But in a good way.

  4. You trace this journey of being broken so well, Kim… all the wreckage and beauty and pain and pleading and yelling and quiet. It brings back so many thoughts of Africa, that decade when Africa was all that was on my heart – and then, it was gone. I feel that I came close to Africa, very close to it breaking my heart, and then my life and dreams fell apart, and Africa never resurfaced. I don’t know if Africa will ever break my heart, but I really appreciate hearing your journey and how you are running and stumbling along, and how big and beautiful and bare your heart is. Thank you.