This is the third post in a series on the decision Beth and I have made concerning a long-term move to Africa. In the first post I detailed how the process started and in the second post I walked through the specifics of the nation we are strongly considering: Swaziland. This post will cover the whys and whats.
Most people are considerate enough to assume we have a reason for going there, so the most frequent question has been “What will you do there?” In fact, in one conversation I had with an Embassy employee, I was told after explaining our plans that “No one just comes to Swaziland.” Well, we are hoping that is hyperbole.
The most honest answer to the question of what will we do is quite simply “we don’t know yet.” It isn’t that we are planning on moving our family 9000 miles away with no plan, but instead, we don’t want to rush our decisions. We don’t want to align with an organization without first knowing the impact (positive or negative) they are having. We don’t want to commit to helping with AIDS victims if we would be better suited to work in the educational system. We don’t want to live in Manzini if we would be a better fit in the eastern plains. (you get the picture). So right now we are being very intention about our research. We are getting to know the groups currently there, and what opportunities may be there for us. We are speaking with both Americans and Swazi citizens about the needs and resources. We are investigating job opportunities in the public, private, government and non-governmental sectors. We are looking at faith-based and secular openings. Here are a few things we may consider:
- I may apply for work at the University of Swaziland teaching Theology and Religion at the University of Swaziland.
- Beth may try to work in the Ministry of Education to put her special education training to work.
- We both may work in an orphanage working with orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC).
- We may work with an NGO doing AIDS prevention and education.
- I may work in the private sector doing web development while Beth volunteers in the community.
- We may join the Peace Corp.
- We may work as “missionaries” with any number of faith based groups in the country.
- We may figure out these are not the opportunities / needs of the country and do something like sugar cane harvesting… who knows!
I realize that does not answer the “what” question, but I hope you understand our motives. I fear too many people decide what needs to be done without ever stepping foot in the country or assessing the impact of their decisions. That is why we are planning a trip there next summer to serve as the capstone of our state-side research.
Now, let me comment a bit on the why of our decision. The most straight-forward answer is this: we want to experience life outside the United States in a setting that forces us to reexamine our lives. (so yes, you could say our motivation is primarily selfish). Despite the fact Beth and I have spent the last 2-3 years trying to simplify our lives and work towards making the world a better place, it is so easy to get caught in the rat race of life and forget there are things larger than us. As Rob Bell as put it, “one of the greatest dangers of life is assuming our world is the world!” Put another way, it is easy to get caught up in things that don’t matter when most of the world is struggling to survive. (Let us not forget every day 30,000 children die of hunger of preventable diseases, while Americans alone throw away 25% of our edible food.)
I was reminded of this tonight while watching Schindler’s list. At the end of the movie, after the war has ended and the Jews have been freed, everyone there is greatful for the fact that Schindler has saved over 1,000 Jews and he can only weep and wonder about how much more he could have done. He breaks down when he realizes the gold pin he is wearing could have been used to save one additional life, or his car could have saved 10 more. He says “why did I keep the car…”
Here is the clip:
We have realized that the questions we ask, and the issues we care about are directly related to our surroundings. Our goal is not to go somewhere to “fix” things, but rather to be in a place where we are concerned with the things of more significance than what we eat or what we will wear.
The experiencing of living in a country life Swaziland is more than just something Beth and I want to go through. We want Mikayla’s formative years to occur in a society where the day to day struggles are litterally a matter of life and death, yet where community is something much deeper than who you hang out with when you are not holed up in a comfy suburban home with 1000 channels, a maid and a wardrobe of clothes you never where because they are out of style.
Will it be tough? I am sure it will be. Will we miss our friends and family? Absolutely? Will we regret it, or encounter problems beyond what we expected? Perhaps. But, do we feel this is something we must do? Without doubt.
As for a finish… we are looking at returning in 2019 or 2020. That would be the year Mikayla would start Middle school. Our rationale is this: we want her to get the best education possible so she can do whatever she wants with her life. At the same time, we want to return to the US, because we feel this nation has the resources — both financial and individual — to change the course of the world.
As you can tell, we still have a lot to figure out, but I am excited about the direction we are heading.
To wrap things up, I want to give you a few blog links of people who are in Swaziland:
- A Hipster’s Adventures in Swaziland – a researcher on the Swazi judicial system – he does a good job at commenting on the “real world” in Swaziland.
- Mfomfo’s Blog– regular commentary on the shortcomings of the Swazi government.
- Swazi Secrets – Blog – Entrepreneurs who are trying to make a living selling nuts and oils
- Scott in Swaziland – Medical worker
- David in Swaziland – Another medical worker
- Hard Corps – Swaziland– Peace Corp Worker addressing AIDS issues
- Straight from Swaziland – Christian missionary
- Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland – Roman Catholic Mission in Swaziland