Leaving the First World to Find the God of the Real World

January 15, 2014

In America, we are a people of first world problems.  African Farm Boy

So many first world problems that we even have a hashtag to keep track of all of our #firstworldproblems.

And even though I know that first world problems are tongue in cheek, are not real problems, I so often live my life as if my first world problems are real life problems.  

Today, I’m heading over to Uganda, a land that does not know any first world problems.  Uganda is a place where people do not complain that their iPhones are broken or their bus was late.  Uganda is a land filled with real world problems.  Hunger is a real world problem.  Disease is a real world problem.  Prostitution, rape, addiction, abandonment, poverty, desperation are all real world problems.

But you know what? This trip is not about problems.

I’m not going to inundate you with sob stories. I’m not going to go to the other side of the world to parade people around like they are zoo animals in a commercial.

I’m not going on a guilt trip and I’m not going to send you on one.


Because people are more than their problems.

They have real dignity.  They have real value.

 People are not defined by their problems, be they first world or real world.  They are not defined by what they do not have.

People are defined by their spirits, their smiles, their hopes, their laughter.

I am going to Uganda in the full expectation of seeing, yes, some real world problems.  But the real world is not just problems. What I want to capture with my camera and my keyboard is some real world beauty.  I want to see real world hope.  I want to find real world redemption.

I want to find the God of the real world.  Not the first world god who keeps us comfy and rallies behind our silly politics and keeps a convenient distance until we need him.  I am going to be investigating how the real world God is redeeming the real world. I want to find the God who goes into the darkness and shines light, brings hope, delivers healing, breaks chains, makes beauty.

That is what I am going to share with you. The next couple of weeks, my blogging schedule might be a little off-kilter.  And yes, it’s going to be about Uganda.  It’s going to be about beauty, redemption, and finding the God of the real world.

What can you do?

You can pray for our group.  Try to resist praying for our “safety.”  I’ll save that topic for another post.

You can follow all of our bloggers’ stories here.

You can follow us on Twitter #AfricaWH

You can look at World Help’s orphan rescue campaign.  Watch the short video embedded in the page featuring little Jerry.

And you can prayerfully consider partnering with World Help as they build three new facilities to rescue abandoned infants and children.  My wife and I have already made our donation.  My tiny church is making a donation.  Not because we were coerced or manipulated, but because we believe in what World Help is doing.

Again, this is not about guilt or badgering.  If all you feel moved to do, or are able to do is follow our stories and pray, that is a blessing too.

I’ll see you from the other side of the world, my friends.

2 responses to Leaving the First World to Find the God of the Real World

  1. Safe travels. There’s nothing like a short-term mission trip to a third world country to broaden your perspective and to wake you up to become more mission minded. I look forward to hearing more about your journey.
    Jon Stolpe recently posted..Book Review: The Noticer Returns by @AndyAndrews

  2. I don’t mean to just be a contrarian, but… here I go anyway. Uganda *is* a place where people complain that their iPhones are broken or their bus was late. There are cities, and universities, and hospitals, and lots of people who have to get to work on time! By erasing the reality of that experience, you’re doing exactly what you said you wouldn’t do, parading them around as some kind of exotic poverty display. (See the first comment, above, which totally missed any point you intended to make about mission trips not being poverty tourism.)

    I also don’t know how to feel about the characterization of the “first world” and the “real world.” For one thing, there are plenty of people dealing with hunger, disease, poverty, and so on in the USA. Are those “first world” problems and not “real world” problems just because they’re happening here? Are Americans not “real” because our GDP is too high to “count” in some vague way? It sounds like — here’s a throwback — Sarah Palin talking about “real Americans” in contrast to people who … what, are college educated? Live in cities? (Have iPhones?) On the other hand, though, Uganda is a poorer country and the average standard of living is lower. (And the low extremes are lower, as well.) That makes a difference, at least on average … I just don’t know how to refer to it.

    I do look forward to hearing about your experiences in Uganda. I am very curious to see an American perspective on the Christian community in a region where people are accused of witchcraft and maimed or killed (sometimes by their pastors), in a country where a religiously-driven bill was just passed making homosexuality a crime punishable by life imprisonment (ratcheted down from the death penalty).
    NFQ recently posted..Look how far we’ve come