Tag Archives: Poverty

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.

No Country for Women – Part 3

Just when you think our “leaders” are finally getting it together, they open their mouths and expose their lack of common sense and basic intellect.

Slightly over a week ago, William Kabogo, a Kenyan governor, decided to give a lesson, let’s call it “Challenges to Socio-Economic Progress 101,” to a crowd in his county that had gone to witness him launch a water project. The remarks he made made me wonder who exactly elected this guy and why. For it is impossible to disguise such stupidity. Politicians have doctorates in being chameleons, that I know. However, there is a certain level of stupidity that quite simply cannot be chameleoned (yes, I invented a word) away. Surely, how did the electorate miss this man’s brand of stupid!?

Here are some of the remarks that he made as reported by the Daily Nation.

“…and you young women should find husbands and get married because you are the cause of all these problems we are having yet there are men all over the place.” Oh OK. So the existence of women is the reason why there is unemployment, poverty, poor infrastructure, inadequate health services and lack of water, among others!? And men are magically the solution to all these problems!? And getting married will allow the men to unleash their problem solving skills and propel communities forward!? Obviously the only aspiration young women have is to get married, right!? Yeah, that’s definitely the most effective way to eliminate problems faced not only by the governor’s county but the whole country! Really though governor!? Please miss us with that craziness. That is nothing but chewed up grass.

“Once you get to 35 and you don’t have a husband, you should find out what’s wrong with you because you are on the wrong path, isn’t it? Now we’ll start the practice where if you want to get elected, you declare your intention with your wife or husband at your side.” Again, when did the singular goal of every woman become getting a husband!? So if you are not married then you are on the wrong path and doomed to fail at life!? Ha…spare us the lies governor. There are millions of single women who are thriving in all aspects of their lives. And what’s this about declaring your intention with your wife or husband at your side!? Because what does that prove? What is the correlation between being married and being a great leader!? That’s right…absolutely none. There are any unmarried people who excel as leaders. Heck in some cases they even perform better than their married counterparts.

“Someone who is able to manage a home is equally able to run the affairs of the people. But if you cannot manage a home, yet there is usually no cause for worry in a home…can you manage public affairs?” Eh eh…clearly his insanity has no quota. There are plenty of people who are great at the home front but not so much so on the leadership front. Again, there is no correlation between the two. If his statement was even remotely true then every married person would be an excellent leader.

Some of these politicians are simply exhausting. Sometimes I think it is a tactic they use. They keep us so distracted by their ridiculousness and scandals that we don’t notice that they are actually too busy not fulfilling the promises they made when running for office.

What’s equally appalling is that there were people in the crowd cheering him on and cosigning his craziness!? Really!? Is that where we are as a society!? Don’t get me started on the reporter who had this to say about the governor’s remarks, “These would have passed for a set of innocuous statements or advice from the governor had the facts and context not been different.” Ala! In what context would these remarks have passed as harmless or advice!? Please tell us.