This August, I will have the incredible opportunity to travel to South Africa through Child Family Health International, where I will spend a month exploring the issues of HIV/AIDS and the challenges to delivering healthcare in a nation very different from my own.
My decision to go to Africa stems not just from a personal desire to go, but from a deeper calling. For years, I have felt myself drawn to the continent and its people, and troubled immensely by the unique challeneges there, especially surrounding health and healthcare. Henri Nouwen, a Jesuit who worked for many years in Latin America, best sums up my feelings in his book Gracias when he writes, “Somehow I felt that teaching future ministers in the United States about God’s mysterious work with people could not be done unless the word ‘people’ included the millions of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking beings whose destiny is intimately linked with that of their English-speaking brothers and sisters. Somehow, I knew God’s voice could not be heard unless it would include the voices of the men, women, and children of Latin America.”
For me, those voices are of the millions of people living in Africa, struggling with crippling HIV/AIDS, post-apartheid racism, deep poverty, post-colonial independence, resource depletion, and so much more. I know that the mission of my life is to improve health and healthcare, and I cannot do justice to my education and pupose without spending time in Africa.
I believe that the purpose of life is to plant trees under whose shade we will not sit. I do not know what good I may be able to do in August, but I hope that I will make some impact that lasts longer than my short trip there.