Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Statue Of Responsibility

I want to start this post by giving a “Shout Down” to my least favorite recording artist hitting the airwaves right now: Bruno Mars.  I don’t dislike him because of his goofy name or his extensive fedora collection (although both of those would be valid reasons).  Instead, it is because of his hit song titled “The Lazy Song.”  The chorus goes as follows:

“Today I don’t feel like doing anything

I just wanna lay in my bed

Don’t feel like picking up my phone, so leave a message at the tone

‘Cause today I swear I’m not doing anything”


Bruno Mars has the freedom to write the lyrics that he does and to even do exactly what the song says; be lazy!  I really don’t care what he does on a day-to-day basis, but I am concerned that the message in this song demonstrates an underlying feeling that many young people here in the United States are identifying with.  Instead of wanting to see positive change in their lives, neighborhoods, and world, they would rather “lay in bed…not doing anything.”

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who was a survivor of the Holocaust.  During his time in the concentration camps, he chose to focus on finding meaning in everything that was taking place around him.  His experiences inspired him to write a book entitled “Man’s Search For Meaning”, where he described how he used his mind to focus on surviving during the most extreme conditions imaginable.

There is a part in the book where Frankl says that the United States should have a “Statue of Responsibility” built on the West Coast to match up with the Statue of Liberty that we already have on the East Coast.  He was trying to show that when you are blessed with liberty, there is a burden of responsibility that comes with it.

When I hear stories like Viktor Frankl’s, it inspires me to not take for granted the freedom that we enjoy in this country.  Instead of being lazy, staying in bed, and doing nothing, I believe we should rise to the challenge and find ways to make our lives, and those around us, better. It is our responsibility.

Nate Yokers

Humanity vs Politics

One thing that draws me to Africa, in general, is the complexity of so many issues–past, present, and future.  In fact, they often keep me up at night; running rampantly through my head, and continuing throughout the day.  Frustratingly, I rarely have come across an issue or problem that comes from Africa that can be solved immediately, or even with much speed at all.  Sadly, most don’t even have an answer at all.

With that being said, I came across an article on Kenya that talks about an empty refugee camp close to the Somali border. The camp is just waiting to be used, but the Kenyan government is afraid of allowing people at the permanent camp site because they’re afraid that no one will ever leave; thus creating major security threats and a huge influx of people moving into the country.

What seems to be a clear cut and dry answer to an issue has taken on a life of its own!  And the more I think about it, the more I understand how people on both sides of the problem have valid points.  But then again, with even more reflection, I find another question pops into my mind: “At what point should humanity trump all other issues?”

Every day we see people dying; desperately struggling for survival.  Surely there can be an answer that would serve both sides, right?  In a perfect world the main concern of every government should be the value of human life, but sadly, in today’s crazy, self-centered world, the reality of governments supersedes everything else.  Good or bad, that’s the reality, especially when dealing with multiple governments on the continent of Africa.  I know this issue is far greater than a simple refugee camp, but a step in the right direction is always better than stagnation.

Is the next “right step” toward the refugee camp in Kenya?

Read for yourself.  Then reflect and discuss with others—and with me!  I would love to hear your point of view


Into the Nevernight

For the last decade the continent of Africa has played a major role in my life. I has shaped me, challenged me, and redeemed me like few things, in this world, have. It has entrenched itself in my life so deeply that I can’t even come close to knowing what my life would look like if for some reason it never existed.

I used to wonder how a place called “the dark continent” could bring so much hope and light to my personal life but several years ago I read a book called “Into the Nevernight” by Anne De Graaf. The opening page of the book described perfectly how I felt about the beautiful continent. It was almost like she somehow went inside my head, took all my scattered thoughts and feelings, and created complete sentences far greater than my abilities.

                I could not know, would not know. I could not know how Africa would touch me, bend me, remold my heart, and grant me hope.

                Sometimes there is a place you do not know about, but it is still there, outside your knowing. When you reach this place you change, and you wonder how you could possibly have lived without the knowledge of it inside you. It is as a third dimension to a flat two, color to black and white, a sixth sense to a mere five.

                For some, such places may be in their minds, milestones of healing, memory, revelation. For others, as it is for me, this place has physical, geographical characteristics. I can point to it on a twirling globe, rest my finger over the spot on a map, close my eyes, and I am back there again, seeing as ravenously as a near-blind woman, reveling in the assurance that only in darkness can I sense the parallel dimension.

                Before, I just barely missed, barely caught glimpses of it. Now I now it is there and it has redeemed the rest. For everything I see now is through eyes that could not see before, ears that did not hear, and a heart that would not understand…

                ~~ Into the Nevernight – Anne De Graaf


It is because of this revelation that I continue to go back year after year, and why Africa will always be a part of me, no matter where life may take me. Like the old saying goes, “The Dust of Africa will never leave the soles of your feet!”  I will never be the same as I was before I first stepped foot on the continent and for that I will be forever grateful. I hope everyone reading this has found that “place” in their own life, no matter what it is, because after discovering this “place” life becomes beautifully redemptive! Cheers!

Stephen Ishmael