BOTSWANA: Apparent piety in Botswana encourages Christian faith

This whole country seems full of God, and as a Christian, I am so encouraged.

I’ve never felt so comfortable talking about my faith in any other environment. So many people, more so those of the older generations, are always openly praising the Lord and telling stories about how He has provided for them. Christian students constantly invite me to church and ask me to join Bible studies and Christian clubs. At many churches, Sunday mass is an all-day event, some services lasting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Someone’s God isn’t a taboo subject here. It’s an engaging, socially accepted, encouraged conversation topic.

Many appreciate gospel music. I hear it being sung casually but beautifully in my dorm, morning and night. Sometimes people sing it so loud it wakes me up; I smile tiredly with joy.

I often hear Batswana express that God has blessed America—that I must be a righteous and deserving person to be living there. I explain that I am neither—that for some reason the Lord has graciously blessed me in lifestyle. I feel a nauseating guilt every time somebody mentions my blessings. Why should I have more?

It’s not that all or even most Batswana are poor. They just have less, and they revere all development like it’s the Lord’s second coming.

“I’m from the U.S.,” you say, and their faces instantly animate.

“Oh, wow! The U.S. I’ve always wanted to go there,” they answer. Then they ask you to take them back with you.

While many appreciate Botswana, some ask me why in the world I chose to come here. They say it’s hot, boring, underdeveloped.

I can’t really articulate why I came here, but I certainly know why I’m staying the semester: the flora, the fauna, the sky, even the bugs here are beautiful. Blue-tailed monkeys plod around campus, and there is a game reserve three minutes away with warthogs, impala, zebras and colorful birds. The people care about and for each other—they aren’t afraid to give until they have little, to ask for what they need or tell you how they’re really doing. Nearly everybody is welcoming, so willing to share their culture and so excited when you show interest in it.

This weekend, I went to a local festival where I was welcomed with traditional beer and a heaping plate of chicken feet (toenails included), intestines and chicken necks. Everyone was eager to teach me traditional games and dances and to help me practice my Setswana by speaking slowly and simply.

Everybody smiles and laughs when I try to speak the language. I’ve been told that they’re not laughing at my poor pronunciation; they’re just surprised. I’d be surprised if that were true.

Saturday I camped in a village called Mokolodi with some fellow Americans and local Batswana. I then played tourist-for-a-day and went on a safari, where I stood in awe at the raw beauty of giraffe, zebras, hippos and impala and fell in love with the country all over again.