Paid in full

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Truly, it’s a miracle. Less than 30 people showed up to the fundraiser, nearly 20 of whom are refugees of extreme poverty. I watched the parable of the woman bringing everything she had, pennies, before the Lord, and he was so faithful to again provide for his people.

“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Thanks for joining Christ’s Victory Centre in attendance and prayers!

Wise ‘Giving’

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Poverty and wealth have and will always inhabit our societies. With an undoubtably blessed and unfair birthright, I have the money to drastically change someone’s life. However, in recent research and interviewing, we’ve come to understand that giving isn’t simply the act of turning over monetary gifts, but rather the act of empowering and enabling one be it a physical, emotional or spiritual meeting of needs. But how do we do this responsibly?

I’m told each year the United States Government gives ten percent of our crops as a donation to the vast need we understand to exist along the eastern coast of Africa, including Kenya. These crops are then picked up by locals who are able to sell them for incredibly low prices, given it cost them nothing to produce. However, with good intent, we’ve created poor replications tenfold our hopeful giving. With incomparable prices from the local markets farmers across Eastern Africa have gone under, unable to compete with our cheaply sold, donated crops. Similarly, we’ve wandered past countless markets during our time in Nairobi and not once, aside from local tailors, have I seen shops with local clothing being sold, but rather ironically have purchased second hand clothing from my very own country now flooding the market of Nairobi.

Beyond the physical detriments of our hopeful giving, we’ve created not only a psychological impairment for ourselves but also for those we’re helping. We’ve not only put ourselves in the hero complex of coming to the rescue of the poor and the hurting as one worth merit, but we’ve also begun to create a mentality of dependency from those to whom we give. At this point, if we stop giving our crops, the farmers themselves, now the impoverished, are not only unable to provide but also now depending on this food. Handouts become their means and without them there is a sense of loss and indirection of where to go.

So if our attempts to help are instead a hindrance, how do we even begin to help?

This past week we met with a very wise man named Andrew with a beautiful, God-given vision for a holistic means of giving and training in micro-finance loans. He pointed us toward some great perspective:

“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” 1 Corinthians 4:7

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35

While it initially seems tough, Andrew reminded us that specifically we as Americas didn’t get where we are today financially by laying dormant or being idle. Rather we worked for the bread we eat. And if it’s true – if it is far more blessed to give than to receive, we’re stealing the blessings from this nation by continually giving our aid blindly. The continent of Africa itself is far from poor. The Democratic Republic of the Congo alone has 80% of the worlds resources of coltan, not to mention the gold and diamond resources found within the continent. Africa is rich, it doesn’t need our blindly-given money.

Andrew challenged us to question the resources we might be able to offer in knowledge and skill, begging of us to love unconditionally through the form of teaching to fish rather than giving our monetary, and honestly far easier, gift. How can you specifically love unconditionally in a logical manner?

We’ve been spending three days each week here Nairobi at a school in Githurai called Christ’s Victory Centre (CVC). It’s a school for the underprivileged in the Kenya, be it refugees, internally displaced people, orphans and/or the severely impoverished. It’s been the opportunity of a lifetime to get to know the students and management of the school. It’s been my honor and privilege to hear their hearts. Because CVC serves a population where money is hard to come by, it is suffering significantly. Many months behind on rent, the school was facing possible closure pending the owed rent money.

In talking with my good friend, Akonkwa, treasurer of CVC, he said, “Some day this will just be a story for us. We’ll say, ‘Remember that time we struggled at CVC?’ But these kids; this is their lives. This will affect the rest of their lives. I continue to work because I know this is where God has me, and even though we’re so stressed, God will bless this work someday.”

It’s been a struggle to choose a giving of empowerment when our hearts just want to supply all immediate relief to the hearts and lives we’ve come to love so much. We’ve been giving of our knowledge, skills, connections and always open ears and hearts. But through much prayer and wisdom God has continued to give understanding by way of sources like Andrew, much more knowledgeable than ourselves.

Through hard work and God’s faithful provision, CVC has paid enough money to keep the school open until an upcoming fundraiser in May. Please join us in prayer for this event, that if God wills, the school will gather enough funds to stay open as they begin to implement self-sustaining projects.

It’s been a crazy ride, and it’s so far from over, but praise God for what he’s done. I’m so thankful to be struggling alongside my brothers and sisters. We’re also thankful to celebrate with them: both the term being over, and God’s providing the money for a temporary extension, We had a HUGE dance party. “It’s time for AFRICA!”

Here’s an interesting interview with James Shikwati on the hinderance of first world aid on the African Economics, for those of you who might be interested in understanding better this perspective. I’ve also been given the book ‘Dead Aid’ by Dambisa Moyo from a Christian American living here on our compound-worth checking out.


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Where are you from? America?

My sponsor, she’s called Terry. She’s from Australia.
I’m so thankful for Terry.
Do you have a mom?
What’s her name?
Tell your mom I love her. Tell her Ann loves her.
I will.

This past weekend we went with Ridgeway Baptist Church to an Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camp in Nakuru, Kenya. In the 2008 presidential elections there were two candidates: Kibaki, of the Kikuyu tribe, and Odinga, of the Luo tribe. Tribes, still playing a pivotal political and social role  in Kenya, are the root of much segregation between tribes and generations.

In an election between two contradicting tribes, a great chasm grows not due to political party affiliation, but rather an inherent nature of birth. Rarely do you see a person vote against their own tribe. The 2008 election was no different and the conflict great. In attempt to be the better candidate, each would go into cities and slums, and set fires and riots, only to come back to these places and resolve the conflict they’d begun in hopes it would appear they’d fix all of the problems of the nation. There were thousands of people killed, and many injured. Stories have been told reporting the number of people at the Nairobi Police station near Githurai, where we’re residing, went from 300 to 7,000, over night. People were left without homes, injured or killed — thus, displaced people camps.

This is where we found ourselves: amongst people who had been through more trials and seen more hurt than I could ever imagine.

And we left never to be the same.

The Giver

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I sat in the left center seat of the van. She stood right outside my window, my reflection obscuring my view of her worn face. She begged with weary eyes and outreached, leprosy-stricken hands for help. It was looking in her eyes, glimpsing her pain, and doing nothing to help, that I realized the world was broken, and I was the source.

Those eyes, forever engrained in my memory, hover in an ever-present reminder. With great blessing comes great responsibility. I’ve been blessed to travel much and often; blessed to see, meet and intermingle with experiences and people. In a world of brokenness perhaps what’s more shocking is not the pain felt but the pain ignored. I’ve walked past thousands of helpless people, justifying my inaction with my own inward pride.

In Lois Lowry’s, ‘The Giver,’ the world became too difficult and messed up, so the community took to a lifestyle of ‘sameness.’ In a sterile world without colors, emotions, rights, freedom, family, and love a young man by the name of Jonas is given the opportunity to see the world which once encompassed all of these natural beauties. Though pain ensued, Jonas quickly found himself yearning for the realities of the past.

Proverbs 11:24 notes “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Perhaps an obscure parallel, but in a continued forward motion, an ever present sense of need surrounding, I’ve found myself adopting this sterile sameness. Failing to stop, for fear of the ensuing pain, I’ve missed the ‘even more’ to be gained. In an ocean of pain what is one drop less but still an ocean?

Young Jonas finds himself the receiver of all the memories, knowing in his mind the potential of life, but watching the rest of the world daily choose sameness and numbness. ‘He found that he was often angry now; irrationally angry at his group mates, that they were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.’

Martin Luther King Junior once said ‘Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree [today].’ I have to believe any display of love, despite how small, is still worth giving. Dr. King knew he couldn’t end the hurt in the world. He knew racism would prevail, despite his efforts, but he spent his entire life working so no one could say he didn’t try. Similarly, Mother Teresa said, ‘If you can’t feed one hundred people, then feed just one.’

Now residing in Kenya, I’ve found myself all the more blatantly surrounded by pain, obstacles and need but simultaneously amidst colors, emotions, rights, freedom, family, and love. Where there is great giving there is more to be gained. For I believe it is in our imperfections and pain the perfection and love of God prevails.

A piece of advice from a youngest child: If you learn from the mistakes of those who go before you, you’re ahead. Learn from my mistakes – give without abandon.