Being in the slums of West Africa is one of the most gut wrenching experiences one can have. Streets of mud, trash everywhere, people everywhere, no light, children playing right next to raw sewage, mothers bathing their children a couple feet from traffic, etc, etc. It is absolutely inconceivable how this can be real, especially in countries where oil money flows like water into the hands of businesses, corporations, politicians and the very powerful. It is also one of the most centering experiences that one can have. It reminds us of our resilience as humans to remain hopeful in almost any condition.
The joy that even the slightest word of hope brings to a person is overwhelming. The poor here hold on tightly to even the smallest strand of hope as if it were a winning lottery ticket. They are used to seeing promises made and broken by everyone around them, and yet they continue to hope that one of those promises will be kept. Religious leaders, politicians, family members and friends can all betray them, but yet they seek hope.
When I say that I have hope for my own life, it seems so shallow. What would I hope for that I already don't have? What could God possibly give me that I don't already possess? I hope that someday my life will have made even a small difference in the lives of people who have nothing but unkept promises. I pray that my actions, my words and my life would all reflect the character of the God who never disappoints, never lies and never goes back on His Word. The sure and eternal hope in Jesus is so much better than the fleeting and false hope given to people living in the African slums. I just wish that the two had more in common.