This fall 13 of us from Downtown Church will travel to Western Ethiopia for a cultural immersion trip. It's not a mission trip in the traditional sense. We won't build, fix, convert, or fund anything. On it's surface this trip is entirely self-serving. We are going to Ethiopia because we need to hear new stories so that our own, especially the one we tell about God, may be loosened from the grip of provincialism, imperialism, and the myth of Western exceptionalism. We will work on a coffee farm beside Ethiopians. Their food and music will be ours for two weeks. The work will be difficult considering modernity hasn't made it to Ethiopian farmland yet. But the work won't be as hard as the task of keeping our mouths closed so we can listen. The temptation to wonder why the roads are ruddy and the internet is absent will linger. But we must subdue our desire to suggest a better way. We go to listen and hear new stories, not write them, from friends we will remember long after we return. What will happen next is not known but I'm sure we will return next year. Maybe then we will begin to assume the honor of being a neighbor, maybe then we will be invited to share in the pain, poverty, joy, and beauty of being Ethiopian.
I found the talk below on my lunch break today. We often joke about Africa as "one country." All African's are the same, right? Poor, helpless, and lazy; you know the type. Adichie is a novelist, and she from the same country as Chinua Achibe - the Nigerian writer who penned Things Fall Apart. Her talk concerns the danger of telling one story not because it is un-true, but because it's incomplete.