Tess Cassidy, 2013 Study Tour Participant

misconceptions1As our flight began its descent, I was filled with joy that I was minutes away from standing on African soil. When we cleared the clouds, it wasn’t what I thought I would see. Instead of a more sub-arid landscape, the ground was a luscious, bright green with trees scattered about. I loved it more than I could imagine, but I kept thinking of how different it was compared to my assumption of Africa.

Entering this trip, I told myself that I didn’t have any expectations of what to experience and see. I was completely wrong.

This encompassing thought of misconceptions of Africa dawned on me during a reading for my class on African and African-American Art. To start off the class, we read a variety of texts to set the background. This specific passage was about how Western Societies, dating back to Ancient Greece, portrayed and perceived Africa before they even explored most of it. The things people believed were ridiculous: everything from people who lived with lions to people that had one eye in the middle of their forehead. It wasn’t until the 18th century real accounts made Westerns reconsider their beliefs on Africa. Some of these absurd tales were about Ethiopians– that hit close to home. Back when these ideas were written, the readers had wild and exotic perceptions of Africa and Ethiopians, but in the 21st century, did I have skewed perceptions?

By looking at pictures of African landscape, African children smiling, some hurting, others playing– it all made up an image in my head of what Africa was.

misconceptions2During my trip,the basics of these thoughts were true. Children were there with smiles and laughs, along with a few where their faces showed hindrances weighing them down. What pictures don’t show are the children’s personalities and hearts. The children I met over there aren’t the same as the ones I saw in pictures– these children had their own stories and gave hugs and played patty cake. Their eyes are filled with love in a picture but are filled with even more love in person. The pictures can’t fully convey the immediate love we, Team Ethiopia, had for them and they had for us. Pictures can’t truly live out an experience for someone.

Of all of the misconceptions I had, expecting to get my heart broken was the biggest. I was expecting undesirable living conditions and an abundance of sad stories to weigh on my heart. Instead, every single encounter where World Vision was at work was boiling over with joy; my heart was filled. Here I learned there is no limit to love and joy. In a place where they have much less than us, I became filled; not broken.

All of my previous conceptions were misconceptions. God wanted to show me his huge plans and real work– even if that meant a trip to Africa to prove it.