Friday, March 23, 2012

To God be the Glory

Thank You Andrea Couch for your great testimony and worship of our Great God and Creator!  I love this song!

How can I say thanks for the things
You have done for me?
Things so undeserved yet You gave
To prove Your love for me
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude
All that I am, and ever hope to be
I owe it all to Thee

To God be the glory, to God be the glory
To God be the glory for the things He has done
With His blood He has saved me
With His power He has raised me
To God be the glory for the things He has done
Just let me live my life and
Let it be pleasing Lord to Thee
And if I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary
With His blood He has saved me
With His power He has rasied me
To God be the glory for the things He has done

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fixing it American style!

Posted on March 4, 2012 by Tom Walsh writing for Six Seeds

I recently returned from a work trip to Africa. It was an excellent trip and one that provided me a great
deal of food for thought. I’ve also been in discussions with friends about projects they are undertaking
in developing countries in Latin America. I’m using the trip and conversations as a launching pad for a
series of posts here, on topics both heavy and light.

To start:  I’ve been confronted quite a bit lately by the challenges faced by people in developing countries,
and the role we as outsiders – and Americans in particular — have in supporting them.

Part of our American birthright is a baseline expectation of things working, people trying hard,
corruption being a rarity. Certainly, things fail, but we see those cases as exceptions, and expect them
to be fixed – in fact, we often take it on ourselves (as individuals or communities) to rectify perceived failures.

If you spend your whole life learning the opposite lessons, you see the world in a very different way. In many countries, even if they know competence/honesty exists, people have also internalized that ‘these are qualities
we don’t have.’ It is, tragically, part of their birthright. It’s easy to underestimate the gulf between these
two perspectives, and thus to be surprised when they come into conflict.

So when we go in and ‘fix things,’ the good news is that people are benefiting – which in the case of HIV/AIDS,
for example, means they are staying alive rather than dying. Staying alive is rather fundamental for any
success in development! Yet our efforts can reinforce the deeply-held understanding in the recipient population
that outsiders are capable, while they themselves are helpless.

One expression of the difference between the outsider perspective and that of people inside a community is
the following:  as outsiders, we have the ability to define the scope of our engagement. We can choose to
focus in our ‘can do’ way on this development issue or disease, and define metrics of success in terms of
that alone, and describe other concerns as ‘not our issue.’ And finally, we outsiders always have the ability
to leave, perhaps when we feel we’ve met our goals, or have despaired of meeting them, or simply because
things changed at home and we lost our funding.

Defining the scope of engagement is a luxury that a recipient community (or country, or person) doesn’t have.
They have to deal with the entire range of issues at play in the place – they don’t have a choice. It’s
their world.

Every society has its dysfunctions. But when the context is a place where most people are living in poverty,
disease, and despair, we can’t simply shrug off incompetence and corruption that preserve the status quo.  
But going in and ‘fixing it’ American-style can do little to change the unhappy dynamics in a lasting way.

Friends from one of these countries described the pervasive corruption of public life there, the expectation
that anyone who obtains a government job will steal for the benefit of their family, home village, tribe, etc.
This theft from public health programs literally costs lives. Yet the norm of corruption is so widely accepted
that my friends said that for the foreseeable future, they believe that only programs run by outsiders should be funded. What a tragic commentary.

In our engagement with such situations – as individuals or communities who want to help, or even as a nation –
it is so difficult to truly understand the dynamics at play. Deep relationships are part of the solution,
as is a commitment to build capacity and an understanding that it will take a lot longer than we think it
should. But even with a lot of experience, strong relationships, and every other advantage, it will never
be easy to overcome norms and perceptions that are often held at a subconscious level. It took a long time
for things to get this way, and it will take a long time to reverse the situation.

A good starting point for engagement is a spirit of humility. That starts with admitting that we don’t
even know how much we don’t know.