Before Elliot was born, a relative of mine insisted to me that when I held him in my arms for the first time, I would change my mind about going to Tanzania. He said that I would do anything to protect my child. This is the first question in considering risk: why take any risks at all?
Of course, talking about risk in Tanzania is a bit misleading. There are risks to staying in Australia too. They include rampant consumerism, a hyper-sexualised society and spiritual complacency. Their subtlety makes them even more insidious. There are dangers in any society. So this discussion is largely about exchanging one set of risks for another.
The first reason to choose to go to Tanzania is the recognition that Arthur and I won the genetic lottery. We belong to the world’s wealthiest people. We have more money, security, food, education, access to healthcare and entertainment options than most of the world’s people. And we did nothing to deserve that. Those advantages are ours because we happened to be born in a certain country, at a particular point in history. Call it luck. Or call it grace. Such prosperity is an incredible gift of God, one which we have not earned. One reason to accept the risks of going to Tanzania is the recognition that we have no entitlement to the advantages of life in Australia.
Yet, we do have those advantages and so we need to consider how we will steward them. Our disproportionate wealth brings responsibility. Gifts are given to serve others, not just our own ends. Now, there are stacks of ways to be good global citizens and faithful stewards of God’s gifts to us. The one that’s presented itself to us is the invitation to live among Tanzanians and work with them for wholeness. The second reason to accept the risks of going to Tanzania is that this may be the best way to responsibly steward the gifts God has given us.
The final reason I want to consider here is that of avoiding hypocrisy. When we go to various groups and talk to them about our work, we run a ‘corruption simulation’, one in which the participants are put in the horrible situation of helping their fellow countrymen at significant cost to their family, or caring for their family but neglecting to love their neighbour. It’s a tricky ethical situation but a common one for Tanzanian uni graduates as they’re confronted with the opportunity to leave their country for greener pastures or to pursue their own wealth. But if we’re going to ask Tanzanians to stay and work for change in their country, at times at great personal cost, shouldn’t we also be willing to do the same? Where is the integrity in asking others to do something that we are not willing to do ourselves?
So those are some reasons why we’re not choosing to cling to the gift of ‘life in Australia’ (and there are more to come.) But at the same time, there’s very little that’s noble about disregarding the gifts and means that God has generously given to us.
In the next post, then, I’ll consider the reasons for and against medical evacuation from Tanzania.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.