Trinkets or Treasures?

Trinkets or Treasures?

Tammy and I recently took an amazing trip to the Serengeti in Tanzania Africa. While reading and planning for this trip, I was particularly intrigued and interested in seeing the Maasai people. These people have lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle in Tanzania and Kenya for centuries. They live simple lives, living in huts, and are primarily nomadic shepherds. They are well known because they live near the major animal preserves and national parks. They most interesting thing to me are the adult men known as Maasai Warriors. They reportedly have no fear. They wander through the Serengeti with just a spear and are known to intimidate lions, leopards, and other human predators. They carry the respect of the locals and are treated with reverence. The Maasai people in general, are known to be unaffected by the local influences. They avoid the digital age, materialism, electricity, any comforts and live very simple lives.

So when Tammy and I were given the opportunity to visit a Maasai village, tour their huts, and discuss their lifestyle we were very excited. We watched them dance, danced with them, sat with them in their homes, and toured their village. I was very impressed with the sense of community and the joy that poured out of these people. I was impressed that they were so different and held to age-old standards of a nomadic and simple lifestyle. They were proud people who embraced their heritage and destiny.

But then, it became time to leave. They asked Tammy and I to look at some of the jewelry that the women had made and asked if we could help them out by purchasing something. I saw some coasters and choose three of them. They would sell for $3 a piece back in town and I thought it would be nice to help them out. I didn’t really want the coasters but felt obligated. Tammy had selected some bracelets and other trinkets. Now we had already given them $60 as a donation to tour their village. When I asked the Maasai leader how much I owed for the three coasters, he said with a straight face…$210. When I told him I was born at night but not last night, this group of Maasai people turned into a highly functioning band of gypsies. We got out with most of our money, but their greed completely ruined my image of the Maasai people and their heritage.

I wondered how many people have had the same experience with those who follow Christ. They hear about people who have chosen to live in the world but not of it. They hear about people who hold on to age-old traditions passed down from generation to generation. The hear about people full of love, mercy and grace. People who are Spiritual but just living nomadically through this human experience. They are invited into our homes and communities. They are desperate to see the joy, love and peace that comes from a life of simplicity and biblical values. And then, we don’t live up to their expectations. They examine our lives and see that we really don’t live differently from the rest of the world. They see us watching the same TV shows, the same movies, listening to the same music, pursuing the same sinful desires, compromising our morals and living lives chasing greed and materialism.

They examine our lives and see that we really don’t live differently from the rest of the world. They see us watching the same TV shows, the same movies, listening to the same music, pursuing the same sinful desires, compromising our morals and living lives chasing greed and materialism.

I was so disappointed in my experience with this group of Maasai that it was hard to engage later with others were not part of that village but shared their heritage. I may have expected too much, but the disappointment shaped my view for the rest of the trip. I know it is not fair to generalize but it is hard not to.

The entire experience for me was simply this. If I am going to profess to follow Jesus then I better live like it. The world has seen enough fake manipulation and twisted motives. I asked God to show me anything in my life that would cast a negative impression of Him to others. I never want to be seen selling fake trinkets when He has given us true jewels.

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