On my mission trip to Tanzania in East Africa, I learned many things about genuine love and happiness, hospitality, the difference between needs and wants as well as patience.
When we arrived at the airport at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro most of the village we were visiting was there to greet us with flowers grown in their gardens, long embraces and lovely smiles.
These villagers were truly happy to see us and treated us as long lost brothers, sisters, sons and daughters and they barely knew our names.
According to Pastor Calvin Keesy, the man generous enough to welcome my sister and I into his home for two weeks, 70% of the village population lives on less than a dollar a day.
Even with so little access to resources that are readily available to us, these villagers and the rest of the villagers that live on or at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro consider themselves lucky.
For three months out of every year most of the country of Tanzania turns to dust due to yearly droughts. Thanks to the clouds and storms constantly occurring on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, these villagers have constant access to clean water that has been fortified by running through the mineral rock of the mountain.
This means the residents can always grow crops, drink water that strengthens their teeth and does not cause them to fall ill, have resources for their animals and have a more moderate climate.
These are things that we take for granted in the United States. If drinking water causes people to die or get sick it causes a public panic and a media scandal while in Africa it happens every single day and is accepted as a part of life.
While I was in Tanzania everyone everywhere was truly kind to everyone else.
One day, while I was sick from the food, a friendly man with a car picked me up in his car to drive me the rest of the way to our destination. When I got in the car it was only him and I but by the time we arrived at our destination our car was full of friends and strangers alike.
Small children walk to school, church and other activities alone. Very few homes have locks or any kind of security. Everyone is safe and cared for thanks to the community. The United States is known for being unfriendly by other cultures but as a midwesterner I thought of myself as someone who is friendly to strangers and from a safe place.
After my time in Tanzania I realized I knew nothing about genuine kindness. Everyone I interacted with cared about the wants and needs of family, friends and strangers more than their own.
People here often have the impression that Africa is dangerous and lawless and while that is true for some areas, most of the people in Tanzania are more kind than anyone I’ve ever met in the States.
When people here think of the tragic situations that occur in Africa we immediately jump to the assumption that they need our help. I learned the truth while I was there and it may come as a shock but they most definitely do not need our help.
Our intervention can prevent and fix some issues that cause death and illness but those that endure these tragedies in Africa are a strong and courageous people. They are capable of withstanding incredible amounts of loss and
adversity and carry on with their lives, being kind and caring for their neighbors despite the fact.
Africa is indeed able to sustain themselves but the youth of the country are driven to learn from the Western cultures successes and failures, hopefully to create a beautifully balanced culture.
While we have advanced technology and infrastructure here in the States we have a lot to learn about community and genuineness as a culture from Tanzania.
Visiting Africa opened my eyes to things that can not be taught in a classroom or fully expressed by videos, pictures or words. If the opportunity ever arises that would take you to see cultures so different from ours, I strongly encourage you to take it. It will make you grow as a person and learn unique life lessons.