J. Lee Grady: How Ministry in Africa Taught Me to be Thankful

by J. Lee Grady

I love Africa. I’ve made many trips there, and I just returned from 13 days of ministry in Kenya and Uganda. My friends in those countries would have loved to fly home with me. Some joked about hiding in my suitcase. To them, America is a land of limitless opportunity.

Yet when I return from a foreign trip, I notice many Americans don’t appreciate how blessed we are. We gripe about our First-World problems. We are clueless about how most people live in the real world.

When I sit down to a big Thanksgiving meal this week, I’m going to thank God for the things I’ve taken for granted:

I am thankful for food. One pastor I met this week in Uganda said when he was growing up in his small village, “Breakfast was a miracle, lunch was a sign and a wonder and dinner was a breakthrough.” Many Africans don’t know where their next meal will come from. Families struggle to scrape up enough money to feed their children some ugali (corn meal mush) or matoke (mashed green bananas). Meat is an expensive delicacy.

I am thankful for my house. On Tuesday, I visited a pastor who lives in a two-room apartment in the Ugandan village of Migeera. The kitchen is on a stoop outside the front door. The bathroom is in a separate building and is shared by several families. Yet Ugandans from rural areas would consider this home extravagant compared to their one-room mud huts.

I am thankful for running water and indoor toilets. I’ve had to take bucket baths with cold water on some of my Africa trips because water pressure is either low or water isn’t available. On my recent trip to Kenya, my hosts boiled water on their stove so I could have a warm bath. And many Africans use a spade to dig their own latrines; then they cover their waste with dirt.

I am thankful for reliable electricity. I’ve been quick to complain when a storm knocks out the power in my home for a few hours. Yet the majority of Ugandans are not connected to the power grid, and they burn wood for cooking. In the nation of Malawi, in southern Africa, 80 percent of the population lacks access to electricity. They use kerosene lanterns for light.

I am thankful for health care. Many Ugandans don’t live past 60 because of disease and the hardships of life. I’ve met several people there who said their mothers died in childbirth. While we certainly need to reform our own health care system, we should be grateful that one of America’s biggest challenges is caring for elderly people who would not have survived in other countries.

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SOURCE: Charisma Magazine

J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression. Author of several books including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, he has just released his newest book, Set My Heart on Fire, from Charisma House. You can follow him on Twitter at @LeeGrady or go to his website, themordecaiproject.org.