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VIEWS: In Africa, foreign support may rob God of his role as sustainer

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.

  • Feedback
    Thank you for your courage in saying it, standing up for it and writing about it. Blessings were never promised to those who receive. Those who receive are robbed of their opportunity give what they have been given by GOD.
    We are now in a position to be encouragers for those we taught. We will continue to encourage. We are looking for opportunity to teach more. If you have positions you believe we could serve in please let us know.
    Sandra Burrows,
    sandra burrows
    church of Christ
    vincent , oh
    August, 21 2012

    Our second experience was in a third world nation. Most of the missionaries there prompted dependence. Some of those missionaries for many years gone from the country send money to which they think is preaching and teaching. Those whom they support are serving Satan with the time, life and resources. We went to preach and teach. We taught and preached. There are 186 graduates of our 3 year advanced Bible Study training program, “Training Toward Maturity” for national workers. They are not sponsored they come at their own cost or the congregation sends them. They have homework, tests and assignments before they graduate from the 3 year 12 courses of advanced studies for church workers. It is their cost for them.
    sandra burrows
    sandra burrows
    church of Christ
    vincent, oh
    August, 21 2012

    Dear Bro. Dennis,
    I so agree and appreciate your comments and the heart of concern that prompted you to write the article. We have experience in two areas working in my husband’s native land where there is today no self-supporting work. Although this country is one of the world’s highest income and industrialized nations they remain dependent for their work. They were taught not to give or give tokens and to this day they do so.
    continued sandra burrows
    sandra burrows
    church of christ
    vincent, oh
    August, 21 2012

    Excellent, practical & real points about the dependency trap, ones the Apostle Paul made for his policy of working for his living rather than taking support.
    He “never” used ministry as” a pretext for greed.” (1Th 2:5) By working, he removed “any obstacle to the gospel” ie, the suspicion of greed. (1Co 9:12) No one could ever accuse Paul of preaching for money. His co-workers followed the same policy, working in order not to be a burden, caring for the people like a father for his children. (1Th 2:9-12 Note the pronouns “we, our, us” of Paul, Silvanus & Timothy.)
    They also did this to give an example to imitate, demonstrating their command to work or go hungry. (2Th 3:6-12) Tentmaking is also powerful! http://globalopps.org/101/index.htm
    David English
    Christ Community Church
    Fort Myers, Florida
    November, 18 2011

    Dear Dennis,
    Your article was uplifting and visionary. Your insights are commendable and God inspired. May the Lord bless you in taking this vital message to the churches of Africa and beyond.
    Many blessings,
    Ari Rocklin
    Glad Tidings
    Victoria, BC
    November, 17 2011

Filed under: Global South Staff Reports

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