We've been home over a week now, and we're all well. The kids slept and watched movies most of the way home on the plane, which made it much easier than it was when we traveled eastward a few months ago. When we disembarked after the eight plus hour leg over the Atlantic, the man who had been sitting behind t. remarked how well behaved our kids are. It was the first time I'd ever heard anyone say that about my kiddos. Maybe we are doing something right.
Since we've been home, t. has vacillated back and forth between saying he wants to go back and saying he doesn't want to go back. I can live with that. Because we are going back: this July and August, and then more after that. At least there are some things t. is looking forward to. Though it is difficult for him at his age, and thus vicariously difficult for us, and I am convinced that in the long run it will be good for him. He will not grow up with the same assumptions as other American kids. I can't help but think this will be good for him. Sure he'll be infected to some degree with ipods and shopping malls, and later with cars and houses, but he will at least be aware that that is not the only way to see life. OK, I'll admit it: He's already completely obsessed with both ipods and cars. But still, there is nothing like being transplanted to a different culture, where your family is working toward different goals, for challenging your own assumptions and worldview. It's hard, even for adults, but it's good. It's a way to pursue a true worldview rather than just adopting the one of your own culture.
My own calling has never been so clear to me as it is now--as God has made it over the past months. First and foremost I am a husband and a father. My primary vocational effort is centered around transforming the diminished understanding of health, creation, and personhood that has infected my culture and is thus spreading around the world. We in the West take scarcely little time to even consider what health and personhood are.
If you don't believe me, ask a medical student, who has just finished 8 years of training to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars and who is about to give at least three more years in harsh indentured servitude to residency training: "What is health, actually?" "What does it mean to be a person?" You'll mostly get blank stares. No kidding. But it's not their fault, they've been fed a consistent ten to twenty year diet of institution focused, disease focused, reductionist curricula, which is incapable of answering the deeper questions of life.
That's where my generation of doctors are. The generation before me is probably worse off. And we're just a subset--an example of a culture that is at a loss to engage with its shortcomings. We wonder why addiction, depression, and cynicism are rampant and worsening. We fail to engage with poverty in any real way, and our development projects fail to transform peoples lives--all stemming from a disordered understanding of personhood and all that proceeds from it.
My calling? To engage with the next generation over these issues, and to do it through relational mentorship. As my friend recently put it: "The relationship is the curriculum." I will strive to communicate the truth about personhood, health, and creation to the next generation by investing in trusting relationships. I suspect that if all I did were to rant about it in a blog, it would not make a bit of difference.
So we will be going back to Tanzania, to City of Hope, and taking students and residents along with us. As I said above, there is nothing like being in a different culture to make you evaluate your own assumptions. We will work with Americans and Africans together, to ask honestly: What does it mean to be a person? What does the Bible say about health and healing? And hopefully by God's grace, we will be renewed by the transforming of our minds.
So, if you or anyone you know is interested, we will be facilitating a seminar in Tanzania this summer entitled Foundations of Health and Development. Half day of discussions about the issues above and half day of practical application through community health outreach. Americans and Tanzanians working and dialoguing together. Anyone is welcome. It will be roughly mid-July to mid-August, and we are working with several universities and medical schools to have it listed as an accredited program. Contact us for more details. Here's a link to info: http://teamworkcityofhope.com/foundations-of-health-and-development/