One of our favourite things to do with some of our Ex-pat friends here is to have marathon board game sessions. We’ve been through all the classic games. Ticket to ride, Settlers of Catan, Azul, 7 Wonders and our latest obsession, Terraforming Mars. There is one game though, that we have banned. That game is Agricola. This game is tremendously frustrating. The game is based on a mediaeval agrarian society where the focus is on growing food, growing your family and your farm. What happens though is as you try and build your little empire and build your family you spend most of your time trying to figure out how to get enough food to feed your family. There’s a constant tension between trying to get ahead and improve things and yet not forget that your family needs food. You only get the sense that you’re getting somewhere just as the game is coming into its last few rounds. Everyone finishes the game quite frustrated and quite exhausted from the stress of trying to figure out how to get all this stuff accomplished.
One day as we finished one of as we finished one of these games, we reflected that it’s what life must be like for our Yawo friends. They spend most of their life trying to figure out how to get ahead, how to put tin on their roof, and how to feed their family. And maybe just as things seem to be getting a little bit easier and as their family has grown, life comes to an end. The game that we banned ourselves from playing is the game that our friends have to play all the time, in real life.
I’m aware that many people in Australia also have these same struggles. There’s a balance to be found between getting ahead and providing what a family needs in the immediate moment. Our friends here though operate at a different level. It not a choice of “when should we let our teenagers have their own phone” but rather, “should I fix the roof or have dinner this week”. And when the choices are this basic it becomes important when deciding, when will I plant the farm, how much effort shall I put into weeding, and who gets new clothes this year.
But then you walk through the village at the “golden hour” and you see another richness. As the day finishes and everyone is sitting on the verandas chatting to family and friends; kids running around though the lanes between houses; all the generations together… Its then that you realise that we in the west have reduced poverty to a material measure. Don’t get me wrong, material poverty sucks and people are suffering because of it, but our Yawo friends show us that relationships are the reason that life is lived.
I don’t write this as a rebuke to the West or as a call to live simply and reconnect. It’s just an observation that we all lack and have some things in abundance and understanding how that impacts people is harder than it might seem on the surface. Even after living here for 8 years I don’t think I really get just how poor people are and the choices they have to make. Similarly, when we explain how life in Australia works to our friends here; with going to work every day and living separated from family and friends, people here just cant understand the disconnect and the lack of time in life.
Jesus said he came to bring life and to bring it to the full. We all need that. We all need lives filled with enough love, shelter, food, and connection to make us live as God intended.
Well that turned out pretty waffly. Maybe you got something from it!