Why go to Africa?

The where and the what posts that you may have already seen about our plans to move to Burundi were fairly straightforward. Mostly information about the country where we’re going, and what we’ll be doing there.  The the answer to the question of ‘Why go to Africa?” is really the heart of the matter.

The hills outside Gitega, Burundi

Perhaps fist a bit of background.

We, as a family, have faith that there is a God who wants good – not just for us, but for everyone.  We feel that we have been blessed in so many ways – which means that we can in turn try to give to others. Not because we have to. Not because we need to. Not because someone told us we ought to. But really…because we can. Because making a difference in the lives of others is really the most significant thing we can do. We believe that ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ really is not just a trite saying.

The mere fact that we have been born and lived in affluent nations, combined with the aptitudes that we have, mean that we have the opportunity to use what we have been given (resources, skills, time) to invest in others. For us, university education is pretty much a given, an expectation. For most of the world, this is not the case at all. For most, one person completing university is a rare luxury that has huge implications for entire extended families. The below two maps show where people live (proportion of population) compared to who goes to university (proportion of higher education students)

Nation size relative to proportion of world population
Nation size relative to proportion of world population
Nation size proportional to enrolment in higher education. Notice how Africa appears to almost get squished right off the face of the globe.

We believe that protecting our children is not our ultimate goal – but we aspire to raise them to be brave, not merely safe. SIDE NOTE: For a fantastic bit of insight into people living out brave not merely safe, check out the work of IJM – an organisation started after the founder was assigned to head up the UN investigation into the Rwandan genocide.  He decided that being brave and facing the horrors of sex trafficking, slavery and corruption was more important than keeping a secure, respectable job at the US Department of Justice. Here is the intro to a talk I saw him give in 2008 that I have never forgotten.


It’s not that this is some dream of mine (it never has been) that I’m dragging my family on (not at all). We are all really excited about this next step. (OK, our 2-year old hasn’t really given us her full endorsement…but I think she’s on board).

To be honest, I imagine it’s impossible to pursue this kind of thing with completely pure motives, completely selfless intentions. We, of course, see real benefits for us in this. It will be a great learning experience – for all of us. Our kids will develop a greater sense of the world – the real world, all around them. We want to grow – all of us – into a deeper understanding of life, faith, joy, and family – which of course you can’t really do without some pain, sorrow and disappointment. Do we think this is the only way to serve others, that everyone has to give up their jobs and move to Africa?


Some who were eager to join Mother Theresa in her work were told by her: “Find you own Calcutta!”  I think she knew that exotic locations and extreme-looking contributions can draw us away from places and people that we are well-suited to help right where we are.  Matthew, a Roman tax-collector turned follower of Jesus wrote this down when Jesus was instructing his followers to go and heal and help:

“freely you have received – freely give”


One response to “Why go to Africa?”

  1. George et Al,
    Great post! We are praying for you. We will miss you in Canada, of course, like we have missed you the whole time y have been in France. But we know you are doing the right thing. Inspiring…

Feel free to comment….