How Do We Support Ministry Projects in Africa Without Enabling Them?

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My wife and I are volunteering in Kenya for the third time now. We are helping prepare men and women to become pastors in the Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA). 

The problem is that unless we bring in money from North America, the school van and car do not receive insurance or a license. They will also not get repaired (these roads big-time beat up the 1996 Toyota and 1998 school van). Also the staff would not be paid each month. 

Unless money from North America comes in, this ministry (the Reformed Institute for Theological Training) appears to have no chance of survival. 

Any advice from those of you have faced this through World Relief or World Missions?  

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Community Builder

Hello Gilbert! I'd suggest contacting with the World Renew office in Kenya as they may know of organizations in similar situations. Our country consultant is Jenninah Kabiswa, [email protected].

Additionally, Anthony Sytsma who is currently serving in Uganda actually adapted When Helping Hurts to be taught in Kenya and Uganda. It would be great to get his take on things. You can read about his training and find contact information here: https://anthsara.blogspot.com/2018/02/helping-without-hurting-in-africa.... 

Community Builder

Thanks Wendy. Andrew has already replied with much insight.   

Janice and I will read all the replies we get from The Network.  

God is so richly rewarding our work here that we stand in awe. Yet we want to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves."     

Until then,

gil 

Community Builder

If you want to talk in more detail over email, my email address is [email protected]

Community Builder

Hello Gilbert, I'm writing as someone working with World Renew in Uganda. I have also visited RITT in person, but I don't know the situation there that well, so I will keep my answer general and answer as if I had no knowledge of the place.  If you want to have more a more specific discussion, perhaps we can do so privately over email.

This is a great question and it can certainly cause a lot of angst and frustration and confusion. You want to help the Church, you want to give generously, and yet you want to do it in a way that will truly help long-term, and sometimes it is simply hard to know what the right thing to do is.  And figuring out what to do involves a lot of listening, questioning, praying, analyzing, and most of all deep and meaningful relationships.  That means that for outsiders like me to tell you what you should do is going to be very difficult since we are not in those relationships and we don't have all the information. Ultimately you will have to make your own decision, trust God to use you, err on the side of mercy and generosity, and remember you are under God's grace even if you make some mistakes in how you try to help.

I highly suggest reading When Helping Hurts. If you only have time for one book, read that one first. But also helpful to give you some guidance on this question would be African Friends and Money Matters, Becoming Whole + The Field Guide to Becoming Whole, and Helping without Hurting in Short term missions.

A few thoughts to think about, though it doesn't give you a clear answer:
1. Is your giving helping them to become better stewards of their own resources and more sacrificial and generous givers themselves? If not, maybe you could change your pattern of giving. 

2. What are they contributing themselves? If they are already contributing a lot on their own, but simply cannot manage all the expenses, then don't feel too bad about giving to help them to do this ministry. But if they aren't contributing anything on their own, then there could be a problem there.

3. Often the money is there, but people don't give because it's easier to depend on foreigners to give instead. This hurts their stewardship and ownership. We might think, "nothing will happen if I don't give" but it might be good to find out what will happen. You might find that the money is there, and they will give what they can to keep the ministry going. Then you will happily come back and keep helping them to do even more by giving generously. But you might find out that the ministry was not very important to them and they were only doing it because of the free money, in which case it will be good that you stopped.

4.  Sometimes a ministry that has no chance for survival means it is not being run well. If it's completely dependent on outside foreign support, then there could be a lot of underlying problems in the churches or denomination or ministries that you cannot easily see as outsiders. It might be better to use our money to support ministries that are already being run with good stewardship, being faithful, and doing good work, and being supported locally.

5. The money may actually be there for things like licenses and insurance, but because of corruption and broken rule of law, people choose not to get those things and spend money on other things. As brothers and sisters in Christ, encourage them to obey the law, and if they don't have enough money for insurance and a license, then they shouldn't have a vehicle at all because they cannot truly afford it according to the law. Would you drive without a license in North America?

6. Talk to other people that have worked with the same ministry or denomination. What were their experiences? Talk to as many people as possible and find out if dependency was already there in other cases. Did World Renew use to work with them? Did they stop? If so, why? Did Resonate use to work with them? Do they still? What about individual missionaries or partner churches? What about missionaries from other countries and denominations? Find out as much as possible. Don't do things in isolation. I'd suggest sending a email to both Resonate and World Renew about this.

7. Do you feel like you are doing things "for" them or alongside them - "with" them, as partners? If the former, then something definitely needs to change in a big way. And it could very well be your fault, rather than theirs. Sometimes we, I, all of us, need to repent of trying to push our ideas on other people and repent of trying to be the savior to people we perceive as needy.

8. Are the local churches contributing to the ministry?   If they are not contributing at all, not even 1% of the total costs, then you should ask yourself why that is. Do they not believe in the ministry? Do they feel it's a foreign ministry and not theirs?

9. Avoid paternalism. Don't treat them like children. In other words, don't do for them what they could do for themselves. Are they able to support this ministry through the local churches but simply aren't doing so because you are there to give instead?

10. Whose vision is it for the ministry? Where is the passion coming from? From you or from them? People who really believe in what they are doing will want to give it their all. 

11. What prompts your question? It could be that you sense there is a problem of dependency already that you can't fully put into words, but from all your experiences and conversations put together, you have a general feeling of unease. Listen to that. It has guided me well many times.

12. Encourage the people you are working with to utilize their own assets, skills, resources, labor, knowledge, etc. Don't do "for" them. Help them to use the gifts God has given to them, and come alongside to further help them in the good things that God has called them to do.

Again, if you are not sure, err on the side of generosity. But the world is full of needs. There are many financial needs. It's better to use our money in healthy partnerships that don't create dependency.  And ministries don't last forever. Sometimes if they have become unhealthy, it's good to let them go, so that new healthy ones can be started.

I think you would also do well to read my article on Bible colleges in Africa - I believe my article will very much help you to answer your question as well - https://network.crcna.org/global-mission/does-africa-need-more-bible-col...

Community Builder

Wendy, thank you so much for your nice comment and encouragement! I didn't see it until after I had commented. 
:)  
Helping without Hurting in Africa is in final editing stages, it will be published and launched this year!

Community Builder

So happy to hear that it will be released this year! (I think we were answering at the same time haha)

Hi Gilbert,

I am wondering which agency you are currently working with? Resonate Global mission does a lot of leadership training in East Africa. In fact we have You might want to contact the Resonate office to see how you could volunteer through the Global Mission agency. 

Here is the link the the East Africa region:

https://www.resonateglobalmission.org/east-southern-africa

Mike Ribbens is the East & Southern Africa regional leader and you could also connect with him for more information. [email protected]  

 

Hello Larry and Rev. Kamps,

Thanks for sharing my details. I am happy to engage as you continue to discern how to be wise and gentle. Be free to send an email my way when you have the space for further dialogue. Grace and peace, Mike

Participant

Someone else opened thus: I will also--"hello Gilbert"---I recall your comments a couple of

times re'our ' class at Manhattan Christian....You mentioned couple of times my math

teaching...;base six...I thought that was interesting...

Blessings in your, {I assume}, volunteer work ...WE have done some of that also.

World renew; Habitat; CBI; Hope Haven, etc.

cvz

 

 

Good day Gilbert:

      Having lived in West Africa for 11 years and Egypt for 3 and now on a short-term teaching assignment in South Africa, your post caught my attention.

      In Egypt, I was the VP of a theological school and an estimated 90% of the funding came from outside of the country. At the same time, the students had expensive electronics, some drove some very modern cars, and when there was a celebration in a family, the catering costs were very high. Yet I repeatedly heard that there was "no money" to support the school.

      Some very good work has been done on the phenomenon of dependancy in Africa. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hnd there are many well-meaning North Americans who have a kind of God-complex and they see African in need of their saving hand. It provides a great ego-boost and nice newsletter material to document how many of these---and pardon the politically incorrect language---less than capable, less than endowed with resources from the Lord, have been saved. The problem with this picture is that these people actually are very capable, very endowed, very resourceful, and will survive and thrive long after the so-called saviors have left. If I have seen anything in Africa, it is the ability to be resourceful in the midst of difficult circumstances, and to be content in them as well as truly being able to reach out to the living Savior.

       The other side of the two-edged sword, is when local Africans adopt a mentality that they must be "saved" by a rich expat. It effectively cripples them. This seems to be the case in what you describe above, with respect to the vehicles.

     I am not proposing a facile answer, but the wisdom of agencies who have served for a long time in these circumstances might be very helpful, as suggested above.

 

Blessings in your service.

John Span (PhD) teaching theology at Mukhanyo (Reformed) Theological College, South Africa.

 

     

Community Builder

Thank you for your insightful and very helpful response. I have gotten similar and also helpful responses from others (like Anthony Systema in Uganda who teaches at the theological school there). He was in the past on campus here at RITT (Ref. Institute for Theol Training) and was considering a teaching position. But he saw that the RCEA was "trapped" (my word, not his) in thinking that outside Kenya $ would run the theological school.

Now Janice and I will have to decide what we do with the information we have received from you, Anthony, and a few others. I will WAIT on it for a few weeks. Waiting clears my mind. It also helps me see the vision, and renews my faith.

Then I think I will write a paper explaining what I have learned in waiting. I will not include any names (yours or Anthonys) in my paper. I plan to share it with both the staff here, and the leaders of the RCEA (which is in Eldoret, 25 kilometers away). Then J. and I will decide if we return in January 2021.

ThX again,

gilbert kamps