Across my homeland, Kenya, orphanages are springing up on a regular basis. Unfortunately, many of these are started for no other motive than to eat out of the hands of the underprivileged.
It isn’t just orphanages. Some African Christians have launched Bible schools and academies that exist only for the trapping of foreign aid. Money meant to feed the poor and educate young Christians has become a salary for those who solicit the funds.
Does this mean that American Christians shouldn’t support missions in Africa? No, far from that. All labor that uplifts human dignity and importance should be undertaken with the painstaking excellence that it deserves.
My concern is for African Christians who rely completely on foreign donors for their livelihood. Doing so robs God of his role as a loving father who should be fully trusted to provide for all of our needs.
In my years of experience as an educator and counselor, I have come to see clearly that some of my well-meaning brothers and sisters of the faith view God as an instrument of manipulation to meet their daily needs — a cash cow of some sort. They see the Almighty as someone who must be impressed to milk out material gains under the guise of a Christian ministry or project.
Some of my countrymen have started their own business enterprises and tagged them as “Christian ministries” in order to draw foreign financial support. To them, keeping their wallets continuously lined with the dollar is a sure way of making ends meet.
Deserving, needy children in our societies have been used as bait to win foreign sympathy and support in order to earn a healthy living.
Loving the poor truly is inherent to following Jesus Christ. But I have seen the dignity of many African Christians destroyed when they become dependent on foreign support.
The benefactors who collect and coordinate this support often don’t know the consequences of their actions. It sometimes takes years for those who bite the bait to realize that they have been duped. If one tries to wake them up to this reality, they become reluctant to admit their folly. Doing so would require them to acknowledge their error to the supporters who contributed to the work with a sincere desire to help.
To break this vicious cycle, we must train our young and vibrant Christian soldiers that God can meet their needs through the skills he has generously endowed on all his children. We must teach them that hard work pays.
Tentmaking is a noble endeavor that honors God. It also sends a positive message to the younger generation that God blesses hard work.
The devil, who is the enemy of God and his children, would like us to see God differently. This prompts me to ask a question to people in Africa and America: Who is God to you? On a daily basis, we decide whether God’s leadership is better than ours, whether or not he is the source of our joy.
The strongest determiner of how much we enjoy life here on earth is hinged on how we perceive God. If we perceive that God has our best interests in mind, we will follow his leadership in every circumstance. We will leave our survival in his hands — not in the hands of a foreign financial donor.
I believe it is time we say “no” to financial arrangements that could be working against us — both the beneficiaries and the donors. We must stand up for what is right, even if we stand alone. DENNIS M. OKOTH,
a native of Kenya, is principal of Messiah Theological Institute in Mbale, Uganda, and works with a mission team of Americans and Africans. He will serve as a dean at LivingStone International University, a church-supported university under construction in Mbale.