Tag Archives: Africa

For the love of God, STOP: On stereotypes, the church and Africa

It is too early in the year for the type of ignorance being peddled about Africa by some church affiliated folk in the name of missionary work. In this era of Google and social media, why do people insist on clinging to that false image of Africa? You know, the country ravaged by disease, poverty and war where people live in anything but buildings? In a time when information is literally at people’s fingertips, is it that difficult for one to educate themselves about African countries? Sure, you don’t have to know everything about all 54 of them but knowing that Africa is NOT a country is a solid first step. It’s not a hard concept to grasp guys.

I came across an article titled “First Presbyterian Church recreates rural African town.” The church, which is in Gainsville, Georgia, was scheduled to have a “Life in an African Village,” event this past weekend. According to the article, the event was geared towards teaching children in the area about daily life in a foreign country and missionary work. Because life is the same in each and every village across the continent…ha! The children would “build makeshift huts, listen to African drumming and sing African tunes…” How would they build the huts, you ask? Well, when I initially read the article, there were pictures of cardboard boxes open on the side with hay on top. I think that is how they were planning on doing it. The pictures have since been taken down. I wonder if it’s because they finally did some research and realized that that is not how huts look. Or maybe not. A girl can hope.

If that’s how they think huts look, you can only imagine what they told the children about living in a village. Only heaven knows what they said about the African culture that people love to define in ways that align with their personal interests. The guest speaker and performer at the event was a Zambian man who was also in attendance at the same event last year. Ala! Didn’t this depiction of Africa bother him!? Or did he say something about it last year and the organizers just didn’t listen? But then again, there is always that one African patting these we-will-misrepresent-Africa-because-we-have-decided-that-our-version-of-Africa-is-more-accurate-than-reality types on the back.

Then there is an American woman who went to Kenya on a mission trip and didn’t fall in love with the country. Why? Because she didn’t see poverty nor encounter people who don’t speak English, as she had expected. Yes, this happened, as written on her blog. Her entire post is condescending and made me question the motives of her mission trip. I guess we now know what happens when savior complex and superiority complex thrive in an individual.

The woman’s post will make you believe that people go on mission trips to delight in seeing poverty and feel good about waving their invisible alleviate-the-suffering-of-the-locals magic wand.  Seriously, how else can you explain this excerpt from her blog post?
My heart was prepared for dirt floors.
For dirty laundry hanging everywhere.
For kids that were half naked and covered in bug bites.
People who couldn’t speak English.

not this.

Eh!? You would think that when someone plans to go on a trip to a country they have never been to before they would do research on said country. Isn’t that just the common sense thing to do? Clearly she couldn’t be bothered with all that. She had created this image of Kenya in her mind and that is much more important than the reality on the ground.

Who gets discouraged by not seeing poverty!? Shouldn’t that, I don’t know, ENCOURAGE  you!? Shouldn’t it make you realize that the images you see in movies and commercials are completely distorted to push a certain agenda? Shouldn’t it make you want to change that and present accurate images of the country? That could become your mission, no?

It seems that this lady was so set on jetting in, tiling the dirt floors, washing the dirty laundry, clothing the half naked kids, putting balm on their bug bites and of course teaching Kenyans English.  While we are at it, why would dirty laundry be hanging anywhere? Because cleanliness is only reserved for wealthy folk and those from the West or? Oh, where would we be without her blessed heart and those of others like her?

Why spend all the time, money and effort to go to a country if you are hell-bent on forcing it to fulfill your stereotypes? How much good can you do for people if you are struggling to accept the fact that their circumstances are not as you expected? Is it not possible to spread His message where dirt floors and half naked children are not involved?

That blog post is both ridiculous and disturbing. This had been said before and evidently, we need to keep saying it. Kenya, and Africa as a whole, doesn’t need to be saved. What we need is non predatory partnerships, among others, to fuel our socio-economic growth and political development.

So, if you are going to teach children about mission work and Africa, please present the continent accurately. It’s the least you can do given all the resources available at your fingertips. Perpetrating stereotypes is lazy and a disservice to all involved. Avoid the reenactments too. There are plenty of pictures of huts online…no need for hay and cardboard box tricks. If you are going on a mission trip, research on the country you are going to. Leave your ignorance, prejudice and pre-determined uninformed solutions at your house. Interact with people, find out what their community needs and how you can be of help.

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THE BIBLE SAYS

Many a false prophets have used the phrase “the Bible says…” in order to promote their personal will and deceive the masses. Such prophets are now using “the Bible says…” to amass personal wealth by extracting money from members of their congregation.

Recently, KTN Kenya aired an investigative piece titled “Prayer Predators” (English version)/ “Makri ya Injili” (Swahili version). It looks at one Victor Kanyari who purports to be not just a preacher but a prophet and a doctor. The piece shows how he manipulates his congregants and others members of the public into bankrolling his “ministry.” He gives sermons but his walk is evidently kilometers away from the Bible he quotes so often. He says that God has given him a message about person ABC who is suffering from disease DEF and character GHI who has issue JKL. It turns out he has staff members who source these stories from unsuspecting congregants. The stories are then written in a book that Kanyari references while preaching. He claims to be able to cure cancer and HIV, among others. In reality, his staff members give false testimony that they had diseases that were cured due to Kanyari’s prayers and the financial seed that they planted.

What Kanyari does is disturbing and shocking. He preys on people who are struggling to make ends meet, searching for hope to cling to, desperately trying to find a cure, and in some cases looking for a way out of their current situations. He does it with such brazen confidence too, like that’s the price people have to pay for his existence on this earth.

Kanyari isn’t the only one. There are many others like him who have and continue to capitalize on religion. It’s not just in Kenya either, we see it happening all over Africa. These so-called prophets and preachers are trading “miracles and prayers” for money. If you want to pray for a person, just pray for them. Why do they have to part with money for that to happen!? The same applies in the case of miracles.

These crop of preachers constantly take from worshipers, and when there is no more left to take they bang on the pulpit, evoke “the Bible says…,” and ask people to dig deeper into their pockets. Obviously they are the only ones who know what to do with the congregants’ money. Obviously they are the only ones who need it. Obviously these preachers are the only ones who need to buy luxurious cars and live in mansions. Obviously they are the only ones who should be seduced by, and protected from the elements of nature by wearing custom-made outfits. Obviously they are the only ones that deserve to be able to afford to be pampered in spas and beauty parlors. Obviously they are the only ones who should be able to pay for their children’s education. They are, after all, (wo)men of God. Why should anyone else be able to do such things!? Why!? Especially when you don’t sacrifice your time to master the Bible and share it’s teachings with the rest of the masses. Why should the rest of society get a slice of the good life!?

Such preachers keep prospering though, and they are not shy about letting the public know just how many ways they have been “blessed.” It doesn’t seem to matter to them that worshipers in their churches continue to struggle physically, emotionally, mentally and financially.

Unfortunately, a number of the faithful members of such preachers’ churches don’t have the opportunity to watch or read the investigative pieces that expose the shenanigans of their leaders. There are also those who suspect something is amiss but are afraid to speak out against the (wo)men of God because “the Bible says…”  It doesn’t help that there are really no life-changing consequences for such preachers’ actions. Sure, there is the public shaming and ridicule, and meme-sharing on social media, but after that people move on and eventually forget.

The worst thing that happens to such preachers is that they become the running joke and their names are turned into verbs. The best case scenario is people writing pieces about business lessons that can be learnt from these strain of preachers. Yeah, the people who faithfully give their hard-earned money every month to these preachers are really curious about business lessons they can learn. Sick people who give financially in the hopes of being cured would really love to know more about these business lessons. The people who are groped, and asked for a small donation in the name of healing  would really appreciate your insight on the business lessons they can learn. Seriously, turning lemons into passion juice is good and all, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. If you look hard enough, you will find business lessons from a seasoned car thief too. How long will we continue to applaud and reward such behavior either overtly or covertly?

There has to be an effective way to stop these predatory preachers. Does anybody know of one!? Maybe throw the same “the Bible says…” quotes at them when they ask for a small donation in exchange for a prayer or miracle. The Bible does have a lot to say about money, healing, false prophets and deceit, after all.

MAMA’S WORDS – DATING 101

I found out recently that one of my relatives should have written a handbook on dating. If you were, are or have tried dating in this so-called modern times, then you know there are moments when you wish you had such a book to throw at some people.

When Aunty J (Yes, another Aunty J story!) was growing up, they lived near a valley. She had an uncle who owned an eshiriri, a stringed instrument with a drum-like base from the Luhya community. If you know anything about the Luhyas, it is that we love our music. He also had a girlfriend who lived on the other side of the valley. Every evening he would sit outside and play the eshiriri while singing. Now, I wasn’t there, obviously, but I have this mental image of him seating on a three-legged stool, wearing bell bottom trousers and with a healthy budding afro. He wasn’t doing it for money or communal entertainment. It was how he communicated with his girlfriend and requested her to come visit. Yes, people did communicate with their significant others pre – the text message. I can imagine he inwardly willed the air to carry his  music over the valley and direct it straight into his girlfriend’s ears. He would play and sing until the girlfriend heard him, and wouldn’t stop until she came over. She always did.

It’s a far cry from what happens these days. Nowadays people simply text “Wanna come over?” and that’s on generous days. When they are feeling stingy with their words then it becomes “Cme ova?” Seriously people, no effort left to put in this dating game huh!? Is this the downside of technology,are we just becoming lazier as a people or is it that changing times have altered the dating game?

When I was in high school, people communicated with their girl/boyfriends through letters. Yes, good ol’ snail mail. The highlight of these letters was the song dedication that your girl/boyfriend/object of your affection/apple of your eye/current crush wrote either at the end of letter or on the margin or both. People carefully picked songs with lyrics that conveyed a message they couldn’t write outright due to nosy concerned teachers who occasionally opened the letters and read them, before passing them on to the intended recipient. Ah, the boarding school struggle. Extra creative people wrote poems that waxed lyrical about all the recipient’s attributes and the sustenance the sender drew from these. Of course there are those who sprayed cologne or perfume on the letter so that the recipient could get a whiff of them. During the holidays, it was face to face meetings and long telephone conversations. I thought our dating game was up there until I heard the eshiriri story.

That was all before everyone had access to a cellphone/ smartphone. Dating in these smartphone era is something else. People will try and fail miserably  to woo you through WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine and such. Then they get shocked when you give them an ample serving of side eye and keep it moving. What does a person expect when they contact you on WhatsApp and paint a picture of the rosy future they hope the two of you will have even after years of not hearing from said person? Seriously? Where is the effort people? Where is the e.f.f.o.r.t? No one is asking or even expecting you to play the eshiriri and sing or string together a sappy poem, but dang…try a little…just t.r.y. Heaven knows many of us would pick the strumming of that eshiriri  over “Cme ova?” any day.

MAMA’S WORDS

A series of stories told to us by our mothers (aunts, grandmas and any woman who fits in this category age-wise). We all know about the oral tradition in many African cultures. This is an attempt to document the stories shared through this. These are stories that will make you laugh, cry, question, nod in agreement, pause and reflect, teach, and even nudge you towards that “aha moment” exit.

Do you have such stories dear reader? Feel free to submit them to me at thursdaysspace at gmail dotcom and I will post them on here. Let me know if you want your name included or just your initials.

On Kenya and Digital Gone Awry

The president and his deputy branded themselves as the dynamic digital duo during the election campaign period. They promised us many a digital revolutions in the country. Digital government, digital classrooms, digital government offices and digital public services to name but a few. Turns out that digital government simply meant they (or their social media handlers) would tweet links to their speeches and retweet praises from their superfans. Any questions or criticisms directed to them on their social media channels are either ignored or dismissed.

The digital classrooms are yet to become a reality. The dynamic digital duo had promised that all students in class one throughout the country would get laptops. Last month, the tender for the supply of laptops was awarded to Olive Telecommunications Limited, an Indian company. According to the Daily Nation, the Education Cabinet Secretary said that the company quoted the lowest and most advantageous amount which saved the taxpayers Kshs 8 billion. The cabinet secretary said that they were confident that Olive Telecommunications would deliver. They had after all sent a team of government officials to assess where the laptops would be assembled. They had also seen a list of companies that Olive Telecommunications supplied laptops with. The cabinet secretary led us to believe that everything was perfect and the laptop project was finally ready to roll out.

But this is the Kenyan government after all a.k.a scandal central. Just this month, the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board ruled that Olive Telecommunications Pvt Limited did not win the tender fairly. As a result the board cancelled the tender and asked the Ministry of Education to undertake a fresh tender process. The tender required that the company that got it would be an Original Equipment Manufacturer. Turns out that Olive Telecommunications is not. How exactly did the cabinet secretary and his people miss this? They assessed the company supposedly right!? How did this fact escape them!? Also, Olive Telecommunications did not have the financial resources required in order to qualify. Guess the cabinet secretary and his folks were just going to find a way to sweep that fact under the rug. In December, Olive Telecommunications had offered to supply the tender at Kshs 23.2 billion. By the time they got the tender last month it was at Kshs 24.6 billion. A difference of Kshs 1.4 billion. Pray tell Mr. Cabinet Secretary, why the Kshs 1.4 billion increase!? Is it a hidden transaction fee!? A signing bonus!? A good-job-on-duping-the-Kenyans-again golden handshake!?

We can only hope that the next process will not be as flawed as this one. Although, last I checked, the cabinet secretary has said he is not resigning over this. So if it’s the same people handling the process again, we can only wait and see what antics they will pull…sigh.

Seems like digital government offices are also a rumor as shown by the gem below.

tender

Really Lands Ministry!? A tender for TYPEWRITERS!? It’s 2014 and you are looking for typewriters!? Because why!? What can typewriters do that…I don’t know…say computers and tablets can’t!? I suppose they are the ideal portable device huh!? Are you just looking to collect antiques or what!? Are you planning to use them as decorative elements!? Oh wait…I got it…you are trying to create jobs for the youth…manufacturing typewriters right!?

Digital means different things to different people I guess.