Musings of an American in Africa on Veterans' Day

"Please Daddy, will you give mercy?"

Our three-year-old squinted up at his Daddy, waiting for his response. The present report of his day's behavior, under most circumstances, would earn a relatively significant consequence.

But that sweet, trusting voice. And such a sincere request.

Ethan looked down at him. "I will give... no...mercy!" he declared as he began tickling Josiah, who collapsed into a pile of relieved giggles.

*  *  *

I sit here broken today, an American in Africa on Veterans' Day. Two days ago, the world witnessed a nearly exact split of votes in a U.S. presidential election that offered many of us two unsupportable options. Since we are geographically removed from the fray, it is hard to imagine the demonstrations of hatred that have erupted in our passport country this week. But we don't have to imagine them, because we can see them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. We can see them, and feel the nausea that began during the primaries grow into full-fledged repulsion. My thoughts turn to our veterans, whose sacrifices guaranteed us the continued privilege of free elections. Are these the things for which they served, and for which many died?

And who is to blame? While there are many things of which our president-elect could be accused, he is not the one spraying swastikas on public property, physically assaulting minorities, or defacing places of worship. There are obviously those who harbor significant hatred in their hearts and find the aftermath of this election a timely opportunity to "express themselves". Prevalence is difficult to assess, since each of these horrific examples is shared and re-shared on multiple online platforms and acts of kindness between "sides" do not getting media coverage. However, even a single example of demonstrated hated is too much: providing both evidence of despicable depravity, and sufficient tinder for maintaining public outrage. Such hatred (including supposedly "justifiable" hatred towards those considered hateful) is incompatible with love. And without love, we are left only with fear.

*  *  *

As I consider my son's response to his impending (just) punishment today, the question remains: Father God, will you give mercy?

We have sown to the wind, and are reaping the whirlwind. Years and decades of pursuing self gain to the detriment of the orphans, widows, minorities, and foreigners among us have made us hard. We cannot imagine the plight of the "others" at home or abroad, because we have considered them only in their disruption of our personal goals. We are appalled at the hatred we see, but we should not be surprised. We have earned all of this chaos, and so much more that He has spared us. Can we do what He has required of us: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God? If we can't (and perhaps we can't, as we are seeing now), can we know and rely on the love God has for us? Can we let His love cast out fear and hatred, so we can truly love those around us?

We can honor the sacrifice of our Veterans by making America a place of love. We can do this because of the sacrifice of our Savior, who brought light to darkness and continues to give grace upon grace. When we come repentant before our Father and His children we have wronged, He can give... all... mercy.


  1. Our daughter, son-in-law, and two grand-children are leaving for Africa next Monday. Chris will be doing his post residency at the Mbingo Hospital. Ashley, will be homeschooling Micah and Micaja. I hope you will be able to meet them. Theur last name is Gifford. We are worried about them going and how the kids will adjust. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    1. So wonderful to hear from you! Thank you for reading, and for commenting. We are excitedly waiting the arrival of the Giffords! We met Chris when he visited a few months ago, and have been emailing Ashley. They are lovely. Your worry is entirely normal, but do not fear! This is a beautiful place to live, and to visit. We will make sure they have plenty of fun and fellowship. Praying for you all during this transition.

    2. Thank you, Elisabeth, for responding to me! Your encouraging words are a comfort. That is so neat that you've met Chris and you've corresponded with Ashley. I think they're both overwhelmed right now with packing and making sure they have everything. It is such a blessing that I discovered your blog. I've really enjoyed reading it. Thank you for your prayers and we will pray for you and your family, too!

  2. Oops, I realize I misspelled your name, Elizabeth! The font is too small without my glasses to make sure I'm hitting the right keys! Lol


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