“Africa is for babies.”
That’s what our Mennonite Church Canada colleagues in South Africa, Andrew and Karen Suderman, assured us before we first left for Botswana. Their experiences with their own children, highlighted by their interaction last year with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, spoke well to that. So, we thought, why not give it a go?
Back in Botswana for our second term of service, our two-month old son Malakai is settling in well, and is already being doted on by many surrogate cousins, as well as grandmothers, who greet him with a high-pitched, “Ma-LACKEY-LACKEY-LACKEY!” It’s taking him a little while to get used to the loud exclamations of the preachers at church services, but he really seems to enjoy the exuberance of the dancing during worship.
Having gained some experience during our first term, as we now begin to try to discern which areas of our work here in Gaborone that we should pursue this term, one biblical analogy has taken on new meaning for the two of us. The mercurial apostle Peter, himself having grown in wisdom and maturity in the decades following Jesus’ ascension, writes, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” A concept which I believed previously, the craving of a baby for milk and the blink-and-you-miss-it growth which follows, is now a lot more visceral thanks to Malakai and his needs (as one of his outfits reads: “Afterparty. My crib. 2am.”; that’s about right).
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This next term of service with which we have been blessed presents us with the opportunity, as with our very relationship with God itself, to grow up in our salvation, here in this African context. If we understand salvation, at least narrowly, to mean that we have been released from the captivity of our own brokenness and so have been granted freedom from striving after the meaningless, then we are liberated to simply be. That is, to be who God made us to be, to reach our full potential in him.
With Malakai, as we are apparently not the first parents to learn, his craving for milk, met with his express desire but without a concerted effort on his part, results in healthy growth (and the expulsion of a lot that is not necessary; yes, I’m talking about poop). Our own craving for “pure spiritual milk”, which is our seeking after Jesus, brings us into the results that God is enacting.
So, what does that mean for our second term in Botswana? It means that we’re realizing the need to simply seek after Jesus, not our successes, and the rest will follow.
We feel called to follow Jesus back into the prison with which we have been developing deep relationships these past few years. We have experienced him in studying the Bible with our youth, and while we don’t know the exact shape that this should now take, we’re going to follow him into that work. And we’ve experienced the goodness of God in many of the relationships which we’ve been cultivating, and we’re going to see where that leads as well. As for the different projects with sports and churches, we’re hoping that we’ll get a sense of direction as we move forward, craving Jesus, like babies.
In the meantime, we’ll keep a close eye on Malakai to see how it’s done.