Africans Call Me “Father” (and It’s Humbling)

A Travel Guide for Life, Faith, and Relationships

 

 

I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. Most of them good. Some unrepeatable in a blog written by a pastor. However, when my African brothers and sisters call me Father (as a term of respect and endearment, not a religious title), it always moves me.

 

Over the past sixteen months, I have traveled to Africa seven times, spent over three months on the continent, and logged way over 150,000 miles in the air. Most of my time has been spent in Botswana, but I’ve also spent some time in Rwanda and South Africa. (BTW, if you want to see an awesome video of what we're doing in Botswana, click here. It's pretty cool!).

 

To say that I have fallen in love with Africa and my African friends is an understatement. There is something about the land and the people that sneaks its way into your heart.

 

 

I love the simple joy most Africans possess. I love the passion the Christians have for God. I love the way they worship with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.

 

I also love and appreciate the way they revere their elders. A grayhead like I am is treated with a great deal of respect.

 

At the risk of sounding like an old geezer with an ax to grind, please consider a few insights regarding age.

 

To begin with, we North Americans tend to seek the fountain of youth, and we do just about everything we can to hide our gray hair and wrinkled skin. Not so in Africa.

 

Too many in our culture treat the old with an attitude of tolerance rather than with an openness to their wisdom. Not so in Africa.

 

In Africa, my gray hair is a badge of honor. When I get on a bus, the young offer me their seat. When I speak, the young lean in to listen.

 

 

It’s humbling.

 

It’s refreshing.

 

And it took a while to get used to as well.

 

I know that old doesn’t always mean wise. I know that young doesn’t mean dumb. Age is not the only factor when it comes to knowledge and wisdom. I have learned a lot from many who are much younger than I.

 

But when Africans refer to me as Father, and their ears and hearts are open to me, it inspires me to want to pour all that I am into their lives.

 

So, if you are old(er) as I am, are you intentionally investing in the generations behind you? And if you are young(er), are you purposefully listening and learning?

 

Maybe we Americans can learn something from those who live in Africa where old age is seen as a blessing and wisdom is received as a gift.

 

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