africa, in all its beauty & all its chaos

P1040248yeah, i needed a little break from church talk here & thought i’d shift gears today.

i wrote this little piece as a momento from africa, a marker & reminder of our time there and what it meant to me. i shared it at our denver voca femina live share party a few weekends ago & this past weekend at the refuge as part of our lent conversations. i thought i’d post it here, too. it’s more powerful and meaningful as a spoken piece instead of just being read on the screen, but instead of keeping it to myself, i’ll pass on a little more africa love.

it’s always good for my soul to remember.

africa, in all its beauty & all its chaos

i had always wanted to go to africa.
i had heard it gets under your skin and sewn into your bones.

that once you’re there, you can never shake it.

the beautiful red earth.
the beautiful black people with gorgeous white smiles
and hope that lights up the world.

a world of chaos and beauty
and beauty and chaos.

it’s a pitch black night with no power or water
a family sits in darkness
waiting for our visit
we stumble up the stairs, hands gripped tightly.
we follow our new friend’s lead.
one candle burns dimly in the corner
but 8 african smiles pierce through the darkness

“welcome, welcome to my home”
our host is so gracious.
so proud
of his dingy matchbox apartment that sometimes doesn’t have power for hours.

i can barely see their faces, 6 kids 2 grownups
in a space as big as some walk in closets.
we feel awkward.

in that moment i am sure i am on holy ground.
ground that oozes hope.
ground that oozes love.
ground that oozes light.

in a world of chaos and beauty. beauty and chaos.

africa, a land of
orphans taking in more orphans
songs rising to the heavens
joy springing up from the dust
rice filling bellies before bedtime
friends huddling on the side of the road warmed by the fire
peddlers scraping and scrounging

africa, a world of chaos and beauty
and beauty and chaos

and it’s not too long after i’m there
that all my brilliant mothering skills kick into gear
i start to feel desperate to make order out of the chaos
i start dreaming of ways to start filling in the potholes on every road
ship them into shape
infuse them with efficiency
use the wet wipes i have in my purse to clean way the grime
start sweeping away the rubble
to bring order out of chaos.

to make things neat and tidy.
tidy and neat.

the way i like them here even when they never are.

and then i see it more clearly.

their world of chaos and beauty, beauty and chaos.
my world of chaos and beauty, beauty and chaos.

in the pitch dark they have hope
in my pitch dark i get hopeless
in the potholes they smile and laugh
in my potholes i cringe and start to swear
in their rubble they see beauty
in my rubble i see ugly

yeah, africa, you got under my skin, you seeped into my bones

you reminded me yet again

there’s beauty in my chaos, chaos in my beauty.
beauty in our chaos, chaos in our beauty.

peace & hope to you in your beauty & your chaos.

ps: this picture is at nakuru state park, walking out on the lake to see the flamingos. i thought it was a good lent image, too. i have really enjoyed this season.  God’s stirring up some good stuff, more on that soon.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • This is stunningly beautiful and powerful! Thank you for sharing it. I want to share it with others.

  • We live in such wealth compared to many people in Africa! Did you discover ways in which we can really help people there?

    I doubt that giving money to churches in the USA to help them build and maintain multi-million dollar properties and pay staff salaries that are hundreds of times the amount two billion or more of the people on this planet live on satisfies what I find in Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25.

    In a similar vein, I am wary of sending a check to many “mission” organizations when I know that most of that money is used to support offices here in the USA, and to pay salaries, build houses for missionaries and similar “overhead” in Africa. That is not feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty something to drink, clothing the naked or caring for the sick.

    Yes, I know there may be some “overhead”, but how do we really help?

  • sarah – thanks…feel free, that’s what it’s there for. i hope one of these days you can share at a voca party.

    skylark – 🙂

    debbie – wanna come with us in january?

    sam – yes, i totally know what you mean and that is so important to me–does the help actually get there? in this particular situation, and one of the reasons we are drawn there, is that there isn’t a money train or an excess of overhead or any kind of excess at all. we brought some $ with us that friends had given & it went directly to food & to help pay the teachers who hadn’t been paid in a while because there was no $. right now, there isn’t even an easy way for an american to send money because there’s no US address, bank, etc., but the refuge has a few folks who are going to send a small amount of $ regularly for food for the kids & pay for teachers & we’ll just wire it once a month. we are in communication with them & just today i got an email about being able to pay the teachers’ salaries this month on time because of the small amount we were able to provide. this is definitely not a big business, ha ha. if you at all want to be part, once or ?, just lmk.

    manuela – welcome, glad you stopped by!

  • How many $ are they short each month for food for the kids? For teachers salaries? Do you really think that money wired to them is used for those purposes?

    • i don’t have their exact shortfall every month but i do know that it costs about $200/month for bare minimum just beans/rice/corn that they need & teachers are paid about $70/month. my hope is that some people over time consider sponsoring a week of food for the entire orphanage or 1 teacher’s salary. i will send you the video that jose & i made so you can get a better idea. i feel very sure that the $ is going directly to the kids; i don’t know if i would have before i was there but after being there, umm, yeah, pretty positive no one’s milking any excess because there isn’t any. i also know there are plenty of needs where you are, though, too!


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