Sunday, July 3, 2011
“So—how was Uganda?!”
website and/or this very moving video.
We were incredibly impressed with the organization's understanding and holistic, long-term view of how to truly help those in the vise-grip of poverty. EMI's views and methods were similar to a book, When Helping Hurts, that's been critical in forming John's passion for building up the powerless—though it also points out that we all have poverties of various forms. EMI is working hard to break cycles of poverty rather than perpetuate them. They're seeking to work themselves out of a job in developing these men as skilled workers (and husbands and fathers) who can build a strong, godly Africa—rather than make locals dependent upon mzungus (the Ugandan term that denotes a foreigner, usually a white person). This is a challenge, since Uganda's history as a British colony (ending in only 1962) seemed to communicate that white people were worthy of a higher degree of respect, and were a source of opportunity and wealth that could save them. We were definitely Caucasian head-turners in a crowd there.
according to the CIA. (I can attest to this by having to "choose" with my doctor the most critical vaccines before my system would be overloaded, a problem we attempted to aid with an arsenal of prescription medications just in case.) For decades, world-renowned despots like Idi Amin (I understand he's the dictator portrayed in the movie The Last King of Scotland) took hundreds of thousands of lives; Amin even took all the money in the national bank. Joseph Kony, too, has made world headlines with his horrific, systematic brainwashing of children through forced brutality to their own families in order to create armies of violent child soldiers. Uganda's history is painful and at times crippling.
He responded, "Most Ugandan men have."
I thought back to the photos of my sweet sons I'd just showed him from my camera. In grooming them into godly young men of courage who will lead their families, I am aware of how God wires boys to constantly seek out small competitions and battles that reinforce their ability to conquer and guide and protect. Maybe it's by determining the highest stairstep they can jump off without breaking their heads open, or maybe it's another battle between the Nerf sword and the Nerf battle axe. But these little feats gradually instill a sense of "I can." Yet Ugandan men, in this naïve, Caucasian American female's estimation, are constantly hearing, You can't. You can't provide for your family. You can't protect them. Richard explained to me—no, practically pleaded with me—that he thinks his country's greatest need are for its men to step up and lead their countries and their wives and their children, loving them well.
Poverty has, in my limited understanding from those who work in Uganda, left many of their people with a survivor's mentality—akin to an orphan's personality, especially since so many are in fact orphaned. Most are concerned with short-term problems of how to make it through the next day. They can lack some ability in long-term planning and foresight, whether that's with attention to quality on the job site or whether or not it would be most beneficial to steal a tool that might lose you your job but earn several days' wages if they sold the tool. As you might expect, poverty motivates many to manipulation and deceit, which are commonplace.
Not only that, but I find myself moved to the point of action. I fully trust that God is sovereign and good without me, so I need not be motivated by guilt or by fear for these beautiful people. Yet how can I go away from all that I've seen and do nothing? How should we then live? I found myself returning to that old analogy of the man walking along the beach strewn with starfish who would die unless they were thrown back into the ocean. He comes upon a boy who's picking them up and throwing them back in. The man says to the boy, "Why are you doing this? It doesn't matter; you can't save all of them!" And the boy answers as he pitches one into the surf, "It matters to that one." The question we must answer: Which are the "starfish", so to speak, that God's wanting us to throw back in?