i am because we are

13 Jul

When we walk anywhere in Ghana, our feet, socks, and shoes turn an orange color from the clay / sand soil. The orange soil is everywhere and is impossible to remove. If we wash off the layer of dust in the shower or if we sweep and mop our rooms, we can find the orange dust there in what seems like a matter of minutes. The removal of this orange dirt is a constant task that will never be completed. This is how I look at the soil, as a nuisance, something that needs to be removed in order to feel clean. The Africans look at the soil as their means of survival. They plant their crops in the soil and hope that the rainy season will make for a plentiful harvest. The soil provides food for their animals and can be tied to much of the movements of life. In America, unless we are cultivators, we rarely think about the soil. Our food comes from the store, pre-packaged and washed, not from the ground laden with soil.

Adam and I have had several discussions about tradition. I have strongly considered what this term means while here in Africa. In many of our conversations with different African people they will inevitably bring up the word, tradition. Africans use this term as a way to identify who they are with their past and relate their future to their traditions from the past. They will tell us stories, proverbs, and parables that take into account their tradition. In Africa there is a not a sense of, ‘I think therefore I am’. They instead will say, ‘I am because we are’, a statement with deep roots in the tradition of those who came before them.

The connection here between Africans and tradition is like the connection between Africans and their soil. They are content with the soil being a part of their everyday movements. In fact, they are more than content, they understand the connection so deeply that no thought would cross their minds that soil was not an important part of living. The same can be said of tradition that no thought would cross their minds that tradition was not an important (if not the most important) part of living.

I should find it intolerable to think that, as an American, I rarely consider tradition. I should hate to fathom that I needed to remove or clean up my tradition in order to feel clean. I should detest thinking of tradition as a nuisance. I should recoil from the idea that my tradition needs to be prepackaged and washed. But this is how I think, I am because I have made myself to be something. But this is not how the Africans think, they continue to think, I am who I am because we are grown out of tradition.


p.s. The internet has been pretty poor lately. We are trying our best and posting with pictures is getting more and more difficult. We will keep trying and thank you again for all of your encouraging comments. We love them!

5 Responses to “i am because we are”

  1. Karen Tucker July 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Happy Birthday Adam! Hope you had a wonderful day yesterday – we’ll celebrate when you return.

    Love you!

  2. Jenny W. July 15, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    You know Aaron, sometimes I really like you 😉 Thanks for the thoughts.

  3. Susan S July 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Aaron, Adam, Rachel, and Courtney,
    I have read all your entries and keep you faithfully in prayer – sharing your blog with my friends and family. In reading the ladies’ entries, I have been inspired to share faith with my clients even more consciously this month. In reading Aaron’s tonight, I am reminded that in our culture, we emphasize the individual – we don’t often start our thoughts in terms of community, whether it be family, church, work colleagues, etc. We have a language and culture – and tradition – of starting all thought and analysis with the individual, perhaps at the expense of remembering that we are the Body of Christ, communal by God’s creation, our biology, our history, our dignity as humans. The loving service and ministry which you four are providing to our African sisters and brothers reflects the sense of tradition which you are learning from them! Thank you for sharing your spirituality, truths, and love with us.
    Love and peace,
    Susan Schoppa

  4. Tommy Tucker July 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    Great piece Aaron. You know I am ‘Old School’ (very Old School) and deep in tradition. I really liked reading this and it brought back lots of memories. One tradition I try to keep is when someone gives me a good bottle of wine as you and Courtney did (Russian River Valley you know) I like to keep it until I can share it with the givers. I still have the bottle ya’ll gave me for my birthday and can’t wait to share it with you when ya’ll return. Can’t wait to see you guys.
    Love Tommy

  5. Caleb July 24, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Deep. I’ll be thinking about this for a while. Love you guys.

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