Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Money to Africa - Good Intentions Needed

I wrote in my last post..... "Let's find honest and transparent local organizations to give to. Let's make sure this money doesn't create more corruption." That is addressing the environment needed on the receiving side. Just as important are the intentions behind rich countries giving money and development aid to Africa.

I recently read a very interesting NY Times best selling book called Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. While I didn't really buy into his sensational approach and strongly slanted political views while he shared of his career experience in developing countries, I was struck by his illumination of how big American companies have manipulated the poor through World Bank loans and other forms of aid. His job as an economist was to go into developing countries and inflate his projections so that loans could be so large that everyone knew the developing countries would not be able to pay them back. Often this loan money, for instance to build a hydroelectric dam, would come from the World Bank in the U.S. and go directly to the large U.S. companies constructing the dams. The developing countries never saw the money and big American companies reaped great profits while the developing country was saddled with huge debt in which the "project" did not perform as projected. This practice, in his view, was an intentional strategy by our government to expand the U.S. global empire by using that credit relationship to exert power over U.N. votes, gain land access for military bases, control developing country leaders, etc.

I don't doubt that there is some truth to all of that, capitalism too often tends to breed greed and corruption and make the rich richer while the poor get poorer, but what especially strikes me was his experience of how callous so many of his colleagues were towards the lives of the poor. There was not much effort to understanding the cultures they were working in, how the debt would saddle those countries preventing crucial education and healthcare needs, etc. And so I do agree with his suggested line of tough questions at the end of the book that we all need to ask ourselves.

  • Have I allowed myself to be sucked into a system that I know is unbalanced?
  • What will I do to make sure our children, and all children everywhere, are able to fulfill the dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
  • What course will I take to end the needless starvation of the world?
  • How can I help our children understand that people who live gluttonous, unbalanced lives should be pitied but never, ever emulated, even if those people present themselves as cultural icons and try to convince us that penthouses and yachts bring happiness?
  • What changes will I make in my attitudes and perceptions?
  • What forums will I use to teach others and to learn more on my own?

He provides us some good questions for us to ask ourselves but I didn't see any mention of the love of God and Christ in his book. So, I would add the following questions.

  • As a rich Christian in a highly developed country living in a shrinking global society, do you read the WHOLE Bible? The one where there are over 2,000 Bible verses that exhorts you to show love and compassion for the poor?
  • How can you practically show Christian love and compassion for the poor today?
  • Are your attitudes and perceptions to the poor around the world and in your own city really pleasing to Christ?

1 John 3:17: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Money to Africa - Caution Needed

Bono has helped created a huge wave of interest in alleviating poverty in Africa. In his own words, "we are close to a tipping point". I'm thankful that so many people are finally showing compassion to millions in dire need. Some of them are my personal friends. Remember, many more Africans die each day due to preventable sicknesses than the number who died in the 9/11 attacks. 9/11 changed our world. It's about time that Africans get their world changed for the better.

At the same time, we must show extreme caution as we hit this tipping point. Huge amounts of money are flowing to Africa and much of it will be wasted if we're all not careful. We should be generous, but let's use good stewardship principles as well. Let's find honest and transparent local organizations to give to. Let's make sure this money doesn't create more corruption. It's complex and it is our responsibility to make sure the money is "invested" well. Bono gave some great advice in this article, "listening to activists living in Africa will be important."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

More from Adam Langford

Read Adam's latest update from Jinja, Uganda for a great perspective on an American's life, business and ministry in the developing world.

Sickness, frustration, loneliness, humility, joy, purpose and a deep down fulfillment are typically all wrapped up in a cross-cultural experience like that.