In a matter of weeks, I will be in Africa and numerous friends and family members back home are concerned for my welfare. I might face disease, rebel violence, terrorists, and more, they tell me. Really, though, the world is closer than they think.
With four children, much of my expat life revolves around their school and their activities. The beginning of the school year was full of new faces, hand shakes, and air-kissed greetings. The top news story at the time was the ebola outbreak. It only occurred to me later that I exchanged hand-shakes and probably germs with a West African expat who had just flown in from the very place I was seeing all over the news. That my children were going to school with and were even in the same class with children arrived from an outbreak zone. How would that make you feel?
To be honest, the experience gave me pause, to think, to consider the risks we live with every day and how we perceive which threats are near and worrisome as opposed to those that are a world away. In the expat community in Holland there are no “world away” issues. If something is on the news, I have a friend or acquaintance personally effected by the issue, a fellow basketball team parent whose family here and far is experiencing stress. Thus, every day I am more thankful for the way God is working in my life and that He hears my prayers over world issues brought to my doorstep. I don’t know how others cope with the magnitude of this small world. But I digress…
With ebola I went into information seeking mode, asking my new friend about her family back home, offering my prayers, and hearing the kind of up-to-date report no one but a first-hand witness can give you. Yes, a friend of her family died. He was a medical worker with a wife and baby at home. “Thank God,” she said, “his family is fine.” She continued to tell me that the medical community was responding quickly and efficiently, the outbreak was not spreading or raging through her country, in fact is was being contained, brought under control, bit by bit. Now many weeks later the World Health Organization is reporting that countries such as Nigeria, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are “Ebola Transmission Free.”
How much of that good news have you seen in the media?
At the height of the media frenzy, my children’s school sent home an information sheet about ebola, what it is is and how it is transmitted, how to protect yourself and your family from this and other virulent viruses. The sheet was not much different than last year’s stateside school reminder about the cold and flu season. My reasoning when facing risk is like this: I and my friend back home are more likely to die in car accidents than in any of these more news worthy ways, and, more importantly, my faith is always in the Christ of Christmas.
Do I consider the risks of where I travel? Definitely! Do I subscribe to the Travel Alerts from the US State Department? Without a doubt. Are there events which, if they occurred where I am heading, would delay my trip to another time? Certainly. But I’m not going to the Congo as a tourist to see the okapi (Photo) or simply visit loved-ones (Can’t wait to see you!). I am the president of an non-profit, a very small NGO. I have a duty and a mission as well as co-workers on the ground who need encouragement and support (and who have up to the minute reports). I’ve weighed the risks, and this bit of my extended family a world away is worth it.
This is my calling, right up there with being a wife, mother, and other.
I hope and pray you’ve found yours, your cause, the one you take risks great and small for, day in and day out. To me, that’s really living, risks and all. Ebola may be spreading (or being contained) two countries away and rebels encamped within 100 miles, but I left a part of my heart in Africa when we visited there for our adoptions.
Live life big even in the small things.
Kristin King is an author, publisher and President of Future Hope Africa.