Westerners in Africa, The Challenge
Since I am heading to Zambia in June this year I’ve been trying to do some reading and education about the challenge of westerners living and working in Africa. This challenge was made clear to my by my dad who spend about 10 years serving in sub-Saharan Africa as a representative of larger worldwide missions agency. We didn’t live there or anything but he did travel there a lot when I was a kid. He basically spent those 10 years trying to work out relationship between the Church in the West and the Church in Africa.
When I told him that I would be going to Zambia with this very purpose in mind, I was surprised by his lack of enthusiasm. It wasn’t because he wasn’t excited for me. But, his hesitancy was for a different reason. He saw first hand just how hard it was for these two worlds to relate to each other. He told me, “I’m still convinced that the two Churches need each other. But, its just really, really complicated.” This was a good wake up call for me as I head on what I hope will be a very, very fruitful trip. So, like I said, I’m trying to spend some time learning and reading as best I can before I go.
At the suggestion of a friend, I got a book called, “African Friends and Money Matters.” The man who suggested this book to me is a leader in the Amahoro project which is doing some great work. He told basically told me (via e-mail) that I had to read this book. So, being the obedient person that I am I went out and bought it.
I am jsut starting it but the book takes task of looking at the differences in the two cultures and how that creates challenges to working together. He writes,
“Basically the two systems mix about as well as oil and vinegar: the mix makes a god salad dressing only with great and constant effort. But this does not mean that African people and Westerners do not mix. I believe they do mix quite easily, and that they frequently develop friendships with each other. But rather serious misunderstandings commonly occur because the economic habits, behaviors and traditions each brings to the relationship are so different at so many points. These are major handicaps for both Westerners and there African friends to overcome. The major purpose of this book is to help each party understand the other in these complex cross cultural interactions. A better understanding of the principles that each participant follows should enable each to build a better relationship with the other.”
I’m looking forward to learning through this book….