Wednesday, June 30, 2010


How could I resist when Amelia enthusiastically ran home and said, "Mommy, Mrs Kinzer (her teacher) asked me to ask you to teach for her tomorrow morning?" I thought of some great excuses: I don't get 1st grade boys, I'm not sure how to keep the attention of a classroom for 4 hours, my voice won't last that long, I usually leave out a few words (okay a few sentences) when I read out loud, and remember when I tried to home school you and you asked when you could have a real teacher? As I told Amelia I could probably do it she ran for the phone, dialed her teacher and proudly said, "My mom can teach tomorrow." She was so excited I couldn't get her in bed until 8 (usually she's in bed by 7). I only hope this enthusiasm remains as I try to impart some learning on their class. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

9 Ways To Identify A Missionary (Part II)

(I’m trying something different. There are plenty of blogs with political satire, parenthood satire, celebrity satire, but no missionary satire that I’m aware of.  This should be funny.)

6-  All missionaries have a prayer card and we never look that good in real life.  You know what I am talking about those cards with photos of the missionary family smiling, a snappy phrase up above, and always an “if you would like to partner in our ministry” that we all have sent out or given to you.  We really do wonder...,do they make it on anyone’s fridge?     

This is our Prayer Card....

     A more typical picture of our family (minus the giraffe) might look something like the above.  Sara is squeezed out of the picture, Amelia has a pouty face, Meredith is scared, and Malin has his eyes closed.

7- Missionaries have particularly white skin. I mean most western missionaries are white. But after living on the equator in year round sun at 6000 feet we have no excuse in Kenya to be looking like we just spent a winter in Fargo, North Dakota.  If part of being a missionary is blending in with the culture.  Its time to get just a little tan.  We need to go cross-cultural with our epidermis.


8-Missionaries sound different.  If I were to say to my patient,  “How can I help you?  What’s going on with your tooth?” it would elicit a blank stare from my Kenyan patients (I know my Swahili should be better).  But if I were to say, “Tell me where the pain is biting you.  Are your teeth shaking? Do you have potholes in your teeth?  Do you want your tooth upended?” I’d be understood and a nudge to the offending tooth.   We adapt to be understood. 

9-Missionaries have big families.  More Kids means More Money.  It’s true.  Missionaries may be the only occupation I know of who earn an instant raise the moment they have another child.  Almost all mission agencies (appropriately so) set a monthly stipend for their missionaries based upon the size of their family.  Little Johnny is born and Bam... up goes their salary.  I always though the Duggar family with 19 kids and counting (featured on TLC network) would be a great missionary family (I don’t think Jon and Kate and their 8 would still make the cut).   Why would the Duggars be great missionaries?   The Duggars are Christian.  They built their own house.  They homeschool.  Because of their publicity as reality TV stars I think they could easily raise support.  And my rough calculations show that with 19 children the Duggars would be living comfortably at a 200 K plus stipend per year, and their family is just getting started.  And can you imagine sitting between the Duggar kids on a 12 hour plane ride to Amsterdam?

Thursday, June 24, 2010


        The wisest decision I ever made was marrying Sara.  The next smartest decision was marrying Sara in 2000 (easy way to keep track of anniversaries).  I wish I could say this picture goes back to our wedding day; June 24, 2000, but it doesn't (no digital cameras for us back then).  But I thought this snapshot (a little grainy) captures a joy we find in no one but each other; a joy that will extend for many anniversaries to come.

Happy 10th Anniversary!   


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

9 Ways To Identify A Missionary (Part 1)


(I’m trying something different. There are plenty of blogs with political satire, parenthood satire, celebrity satire, but no missionary satire that I’m aware of.  I think its about time.  Let’s be clear.  This should be funny.)

1- Missionaries wear funny clothing. I never intended to where bright-striped Kikoi shirts with tassels. I don’t think Sara imagined herself in Kanga dresses with large shoulder pads. But I’m telling you as my shirts begin to look like I was worked over in a rugby game. And as all of Sara’s dresses have strangely faded to the same shade of gray, those Kikoi shirts and Kanga dresses become really tempting. So at your next church mission conference if you see a missionary dressed like a banana, cut them a little fashion slack. (Regardless, I think Amelia looks pretty cute in Red/Yellow striped Kikoy and seashells.)  

2- Missionaries throw car safety rules out the window. My first week at Kijabe I see 8 MK’s hanging off the roof rack of a Toyota Land Cruiser bumping down the road. The next day I see a baby girl in Mommies lap cupping the steering wheel rounding the corner Britney Spears style. (I think the baby honked at me too?) Last week I see four teenagers perched on the doors of a Landrover like they are windsurfing. I don’t pretend to understand this recklesssness, but on the other hand I think the car seat Nazis back in America have gone too far (8 years old and/or 80 pounds)? By this standard, once my small daughter Amelia reaches 16 years of age she may have to take her drivers test sitting in a Graco Snug Ride.  

3- Missionaries can’t dance. Its a strange thing to live on a continent where tribal dancing is about as natural and common as breast feeding in public; and not be able to dance. Go to a mixed church in Kenya and watch the congregation during the praise time. The Kenyans fall into a comfortable, beautiful, African rhythm. Then look over at the missionary. He wants to dance to fit in, but he’s really terrified inside. But he’s smart; he looks to the left to see how they are dancing. Then he jumps in; Clapping on the offbeat, shuffling his hips a little but not too much, and bouncing his neck like a bobble-head. Then the internal debate begins, do I dance with elbows in pinned to my waist or elbows out like wings. You know the flower firecrackers../that when lit spins wildly and jumps randomly; well that describes it.  

4- Missionaries seem to always be on "Furlough." What is Furlough? It is the time when a missionary leaves the field to come home. According to Webster’s Dictionary Furlough has 3 definitions: 
1) A leave of absence or VACATION. (that doesn’t look good to your sponsors) 
2) A temporary layoff from work. (It's not a good thing to be laid off when the Big Guy is your boss). 
3)A leave of absence from a prison for a prisoner (Did the missionary break-out from the compound or dutifully serve his full sentence?).  

The connotations of furlough proved to be about as positive for the missionary as the the former mascot “The Crusader” was for the Wheaton College student. Just like the Crusader; Furlough has also been discarded. So what is the current preferred term? A missionary now takes a “Home Assignment;” implying a task, a duty, a post or a position. Much more dignified!  

5- Missionaries are longwinded. 
I know when I meet someone and they start talking about their trip to China and all the cultures, towns, language, and people they met. Well, if the story is longer than a few seconds my eyes glaze over as all I can think of is, “But did you get to walk on The Great Wall?”   So if I start talking about the Meru tribe, on the NE slope of Mt. Kenya, in Eastern Africa and their Bantu origin and your eyes glaze over...I’ll understand. You just want to know if I saw a lion on safari?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is there a higher form of charity to the poor?

There are many ways to give to the poor but is one better than the other?  In ancient Jewish culture there exists grades for how best to give to the poor.    

Giving  money to the poor directly when they are aware of who the giver is a lesser desirable form of charity (but sometimes necessary in times of crisis).  If the poor are fully aware of the giver there may be humiliation on the end of the receiver.  (Although, in Africa the opposite is true.  In the West we will do anything (credit cards, pawn shops, maybe even theft) to avoid asking family or friends for money.  It admits failure in some sense and degrades the asker.  In Africa it is normal to ask a friend or family for money.  In fact it is a high complement towards the asked.  It means they should be honored as God as placed them in a position of blessing in which they are able to give.)

To send money to the poor anonymously is slightly better than publicly.  That way the recipient feels no shame when encountering the donor.  This would be like tossing some change in the tin at the back of church to run the soup kitchen.  

Of even more virtue is creating jobs for someone in need.  Even when the job has been created directly for the worker, not for the work.  Most of us have benefited from this kind of charity. Maybe you had a father arrange a summer front-office job, or an uncle create a  maintenance position at a plant, or a friend take you on in house-painting project.  The job automatically opened the moment you needed it.  Most adults know that in the real world a job search is not that clean.  In Western culture there is far less shame in going to a friend or relative seeking employment than asking for money.  

But the highest form of charity in ancient Jewish tradition is creating jobs for those in need without them knowing what was done.  I think God is more pleased when the poor find dignity and provision from a days labor than receiving a hand-out.  

Christian Missions hospitals are at there best when they are full of national staff at every level; including laboratory technicians, sweepers, nurses, security guards, doctors, and scrub technicians.  Kijabe hospital employs over 600 kenyan workers.  That is 600 people who because of a job at Kijabe can provide food for their family.  They have a meager pension.  They have an identity and expertise as a nurse, cook, or x-ray tech.  They are able to afford school tuition for their children.  They have health insurance when they get sick.  Best of all they are an integral part of a team that impacts the world for Christ in a health-care setting.  Its hard to even call this charity.  But whatever it is called... I know God would be pleased all over the world to  1) see people working for His glory and 2) see employers creating jobs for his glory.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dental Gazing

13 year old patient came to us with this contraption in his mouth (obviously wanting it removed).  This device (not fun) is intended to stop thumbsucking.  The four prongs prevent the patient from comfortably placing his thumb in that snug vaulted hard palate.  It also prevents the tongue from thrusting against the upper incisors.   It should prevent further class II tendencies and open bite.   For all you thumb-suckers (Meredith included) please stop by age 5.   

       Antique dentistry.  Silver points are an old, old, old fill material used for completing endodontic therapy.  I read about these materials.  I've seen them on x-rays (know they are nearly impossible to remove if facing a retreat) in elderly patients.  But have never seen them in real life.  I ran across these size 25 unigauge silver points.  

       Bling...bling.  Even if Africa we see some extra style.   On closer inspection at this rock.  I deducted that I was looking at not a 2 K diamond, but high grade cubic zirconia.  We haven't yet implemented this treatment at Kijabe Dental Clinic. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Shackled Continent (Part VI)...My Take and Charter Cities

My Take

The Shackled Continent did exactly what it promised; it unraveled Africa’s web of complicated problems.  This book was readable, descriptive, pragmatic, and genuinely sympathetic.  

What I liked.  Guest is a passionate hard-nosed capitalist; so many of his ideas resonated with my understanding of Africa.   He believes that “thugocracies” of many African countries have restrained the entrepreneurial talents of Africans.  And that Africans have largely been impoverished by their own leaders.  Guest goes on to say in regards to colonialism, 

Foreigners sometimes really are to blame. Africans have suffered, and its only natural that many should bear grudges for the wrongs of the colonial period....but railing against outsiders may be cathartic, but it dose not achieve much.  Wiser Africans do not wish to be seen as victims.  

Guest squarely puts the responsibility for Africa to succeed upon its leaders.      

What I didn’t like.  Guest doesn’t give much advice in regards to solutions for African leaders to adopt.  After reading the conclusion “One Step At A TIme,” I was left wanting more than Africa should look to the country of South Africa as a model of success and follow its lead little by little.  Why should we believe anything will change when it has always been this way.   

I also disagreed with Guest’s negative opinion of foreign aid to Africa. I think he fails to make a differentiation between government aid (which is largely inefficient...The value of “dead capital” in poor countries--that is, property which cannot be capitalized because of the lack of a title deed - is roughly forty times the foreign aid received by the world since 1945) and aid privately directed to NGO’s or mission agencies.  I’m biased and of course believe in what we are doing here at Kijabe.  And I see how the lives of people and communities are changed not just by the physical care they are given, but also by the transforming power of the Gospel.  Guest is wrong to denounce all aid as counterproductive.

What are the best minds saying?  Are there any other solutions?

Charter Cities; A Creative Solution

Paul Romer an economist from Stanford is trying to help the poorest countries become rich.  His ideas (written by Sebastian Mallaby) whether you agree or disagree are worth reading.  


Romer is peddling a radical vision: that dysfunctional nations can kick-start their own development by creating new cities with new rules...centers of progress that Romer calls “charter cities.” By building urban oases of technocratic sanity, struggling nations could attract investment and jobs; private capital would flood in and foreign aid would not be needed. And since Henry the Lion is not on hand to establish these new cities, Romer looks to the chief source of legitimate coercion that exists today—the governments that preside over the world’s more successful countries. To launch new charter cities, he says, poor countries should lease chunks of territory to enlightened foreign powers, which would take charge as though presiding over some imperial protectorate.

To drive home the importance of good rules to economic growth, Romer sometimes shows a photograph of Guinean teenagers doing their homework under streetlights. The line of hunched, concentrating figures presents a mystery, Romer says; from the photo it is clear that the teens are not dirt poor, and youths like these generally own cell phones. Yet they evidently have no electric light at home, or they would not be studying by the curbside. “So here is the puzzle,” Romer declares: Why do these kids have access to a cutting-edge technology like the cell phone, but not to a 100-year-old technology for generating electric light in the home? The answer, in a word, is rules. Because of misguided price controls in the teenagers’ country, the local electricity utility has no incentive to connect their houses to the power grid. Their society lacks the rules that make technological advance meaningful.

The standard response to this obstacle is to advocate democracy and hope that voters will force change: the minority that has electric light will be outvoted by the much larger number of people who have been denied it. But Romer argues that this way forward is too slow. People don’t always vote their economic interests, and elites with tentacles all over the ministry of energy may keep price controls in place for decades. So rather than wait in vain for electricity rules to change, we are better off starting a new experiment with brand-new rules—a charter city that stands outside the ministry’s authority.

Reviewing this book on one hand was discouraging and overwhelming, but also kept me mindful of  the world's utter dependence upon God in the face of Africa's mighty obstacles.  

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Shackled Continent (Part V)

The Conclusion

Robert Guest believes the bottom line is that “if Africa were better governed, it would be richer.” He makes the comparison of a good government (South Korea), and a bad government (North Korea).  One lives with scarcity the other with plenty.   One with dark homes the other with electricity.  One with fear of government and threats of being thrown in a labor camp, and the other with freedom of the press and capitalism.  

He goes on to compare Zambia with North Korea.  Zambia in the 1960’s had rich copper mines, that a well intentioned president with plenty of foreign aid quickly nationalized.  The mining industry became bloated and corrupt.  When the price of copper fell the industry could no longer be profitable. The copper mines were shut and now Zambia is poorer than it was 50 years ago.

Contrast Zambia with Botswana, which he compares with South Korea.  Botswana has one of the deepest supply of diamonds. Botswana used this resource wisely and plunged money into infrastructure, health care, and education.  Private business was encouraged.  Government was one of integrity.  The budget was in surplus.  Income grew from subsistence to well over $3000 per person in 35 years.  

But Botswana is a small country of million people.  The size of perhaps one of the larger slums (Kibera) in Nairobi.  Africa needs more Botswana’s, and saner politics could make that happen.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Shackled Continent (Part IV)

 If you made it though the litany of thorny problems Africa faces, surprisingly we are only to page 28 in Guest’s "The Shackled Continent".  We have finished the Introduction: Why is Africa so Poor? The next 9 chapters include titles like, “No Title”,  “Sex And Death”, “The Vampire State,” and “Wiring the Wilderness.”  They are equally discouraging including explanations of Trucker Prostitution in South Africa, the demoralizing fall of a once great nation of Zaire into the  Democratic Republic of Congo, & the horrors of the genocide in Rwanda.  You can read the book to see what Guest has experienced.  

Let me share two experiences here in Kenya (not nearly as dramatic), but similarly revealing. I don’t share this to be mean-spirited, but rather to show that Kenya is still developing and I often don’t understand why it functions as it does.

A dental NGO (with Christian roots) contacted me about coming to Kenya last year.  Their NGO had success working with Rotary to set up portable dental clinics in Latin American schools.  Their clinics are staffed by national dental graduates who are required to give one year of service.  They have over 8 clinics and treat hundreds of kids each year. Two members of this NGO flew out to Kenya to see if this idea would fly here in Africa.  I was able to arrange a meaning with the Ministry of Health.  The NGO (myself in attendance) graciously presented their idea to the Minister and offered to donate the first two portable dental chairs.  What seems like a no-brainer in a country with big need (ratio of dentists to people is 1/378,000 in the public sector).  Why decline donations at the cost of your nation’s own children? It was met with silence.  And as far as I know despite several more requests to help in Kenya, the NGO never head back from the health minister. 

Between our short drive from Kijabe to Nairobi there are at least three police roadblocks in our way.  Spikes on the left and right, a few policeman with batons, and traffic funneled to one lane signify an upcoming roadblock.  If you are fortunate (which we have been so far) you are waved on through to Nairobi.  If the policeman feels so inclined he can direct you to the side of the road.  Apparently the police force is underpaid and it is understood that they supplement their salaries in “creative ways.”  Our good friend was riding as a passenger when stopped at a roadblock.  She was threatened to be thrown in jail for not wearing her seatbelt if she did not pay the officer a fine.  I know of another large  missionary family who was stopped at a roadblock for no apparent reason.  They were given a citation for having a tire that was partially deflated.  The driver (Dad) refused to pay.  The officer began to to arrest and detain the father. “OK, but you will have to take our whole family to jail.” Mom, Dad, and four children embarrassed the officer by spreading their legs, placing their faces against the windows, and raising their hands behind the head (even the four year old).    The humiliated police officer pleaded them to stop and quickly reneged his bribe attempt.

I could go on but with more examples but I don’t wish to tread on Kenya: a good country with great people.  Let's move on to possible solutions?  Next posts will look at what Robert Guest believes Africa needs to progress, a creative solution by Romer called “Charter Cities”, and my final take on this book.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Shackled Continent (Part III)

5)Africa can hardly be prosperous because of the advance of AIDS.  Thirty million Africans are infected with AIDS.  Three quarters of the world’s AIDS deaths occur in Africa. Life expectancy while rising in the West has fallen in Africa due to HIV. Poverty accelerates the spread of HIV.  Without antibiotics open sores are not treated, and the virus is transmitted more readily.   Poverty of education has also speeded the spread of AIDS.  Some African women believe that without regular infusions of sperm, they will not grow up to be beautiful.  Some African men believe that by having sex with a virgin  they can cleanse themselves of the virus.  The disease strikes people in their prime years (not a disease of the elderly like alzheimers).  Fathers lose jobs, families lose homes, and children are orphaned.  

6) African countries are chronically unstable.  Most  Africans feel more loyalty to their tribe than their nation.   Nepotism is rampant among “elected officials.”   Corrupt politicians use tribal-alliances  to their advantage.  The genocide in in Rwanda of the Tutsis was carefully planned by the Hutu politicians.  Hutu politicians to keep themselves in power coordinated a mindset to hate and kill Tutsis.  Using tribal alliances approximately 800,000 Tutsis were murdered in six weeks; the swiftest genocide in history. 


7) Wealthy countries have too many trade barriers that prevent African countries from selling their exports at reasonable prices.  Africa has fertile land, plenty of sun, and cheap labor. But wealthy countries through quotas, tariffs, and national farm subsidies create an environment where African producers cannot compete.   

8) Civil wars set back countries in Africa and prevent success.  In 1999 1/5 Africans lived in a country currently in civil war.  90% of casualties in civil wars in Africa are civilians.  19 million Africans have been force to flee their homes.   The poorest 1/6th of humanity endures four fifths of the civil wars. What are the risk factors for a civil war: poverty and stagnation.  As the saying goes, “it is easy to give a poor man a cause.” In a vicious cycle of poverty-war-more poverty, it has been shown that a civil war reduces average income by 2.2 percent each year. 


9) Africa needs more successful business but doing business in Africa is risky.  Bad roads and “hungry policeman” at roadblocks makes it costly to move goods even a short distance.  Imported business to Africa say BYOI (Bring your own infrastructure). 

10)Term limits for presidents before the 1980’s in Africa were almost non-existent.  Without term limits bad presidents are never voted out of office.  And without constitutions rogue governments cannot be kept in check.   


11) Most countries in Africa have underdeveloped property rights.  For example in Malawi a person cannot buy or sell land without agreement from the village chief.  If he is able to buy the land but leaves it unattended for a short time the land can be taken .  We take property rights for granted.  In a country with strong property rights you have incentive to improve your land, you can use your land as collateral for a loan, you can divide your land and share assets.  Furthermore, owning land gives you an address. This allows you the ability to develop a credit record, identifiable assets, an incentive to pay off your loans, ability to get electricity, a phone line, the ability to business with strangers.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Shackled Continent (Part II)

Continuing the review of “The Shackled Continent” by Robert Guest, we look at what prevents Africa from finding prosperity.  As you can imagine the problems are complex, multifactorial, and inter-related.  Guest does a superb job laying out the difficulties Africa faces; one problem after another, after another, after another.  

1) Because Africa has the worst diseases, it prevents the population from working at full capacity consistently.  Malaria, yellow fever, Ebola, meter-long tape worms are just a few of the ailments that plaque Africa’s work force.  Any of these sickness if not causing death can make the patient too sick to work for months.  It’s hard to be prosperous and efficient when you can’t get out of bed due to illness.

2) Centuries ago millions of Africans were kidnapped, chained to boats, and forced into slavery.  Those who were not captured lived in fear and hiding.  While the rest of the world was advancing into the industrial age, Africa remained unchanged or perhaps digressed.  How can a continent succeed when its workforce has been shackled?  Of course slavery is the worst kind of evil possible, but it can’t be blamed for all of Africa’s problems.  And one can be angry, and place blame...but ultimately it hampers not helps with looking forward to possible solutions. If todays problems are that of the West; then all you can do is demand the West solve them.  The West is mostly not feeling guilty anymore from what great-great-great grandfathers did and also has not been at times incredibly unsuccessful with solutions.


3)Colonialism remained into the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Colonialism demoralized countries by conquering with ease, drawing arbitrary borders, and crippling African minds with a belief that Africans could not rule themselves.   Colonialism left deep scars and it is a good thing African countries gained their independence.   But it also left a lot of good things like roads, hospitals, and education systems.  70 percent of Africans today were born after independence.  Other countries have experienced colonialism and recovered.  Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910 and today is a modern, productive economy and incidently sending more missionaries to Africa than any other nation expect the United States.

4) Africa has suffered from a failure of leadership. The character of the people is hard-working, the climate is right for agriculture, the land is ripe for growth, and the diverse geography is prime for tourism.  But African leaders have failed to rise to the challenge of personal responsibility. Governments have failed the African people.  Property rights are not upheld, freedoms are not insured, and created private wealth is preyed upon.  Look at Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, where a portrait of their president hangs in every shop and everyone fears to take it down.  He seizes private property.  He sets fix prices for gas and corn causing artificial price spikes or national shortages. His wife goes on expensive shopping weekends in London until she is kicked out of the country, while Zimbabwe residents live on less than $400 per year.   And he prints money at will, causing hyperinflation (a wheelbarrow full of cash is required to pay for a sandwich).  

  (To be continued)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Coppelia - A Ballet in three Acts (by Meredith)

After reading and writing about the problems Africa is shackled with, I honestly got a little depressed and decided I needed a brief interlude (I'll be back with the second and third parts later this week).  

So with no further ado I present something that is gratuitous, has nothing to do with Africa or missions, yet is completely enjoyable; Meredith (on the right) in Coppelia.  (Just click on the play button in the bottom left hand corner of the screen.)

A Shackled Continent (Part 1)

If you were to take the 50 km drive from Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi up to the West Highlands and then down the s-curved, washed-out entrance leading to Kijabe Mission Hospital you would find a peculiar sight.  Groups of boys ranging from 6 years old up to 15 with dirt in their palms and a facial expression of surprise, as if to say,  “look what I have done” approaching and tapping on your window.   It doesn’t seem like they are doing anything, until you look at the road (if you can call it that) a little closer.   And you will begin to see that what the boys are doing.   They are scooping dirt from hills and plugging the pot-holes on the road one-by-one.  By doing such they give the driver a softer ride, and hopefully elicit a donation of few Kenyan Schillings.  Of course, this road repair-job is a hopeless act, and only lasts until the next rainfall splashes the soil out of the pothole and back into the ditch; causing the potholes to widen and deepen. 

After living in Africa through seven seasons the big problems Africa faces can become a little discouraging.   And it can seem that youth filling potholes with dirt can epitomize the plight of Sub-Sahara Africa; plugging problems  (joblessness, AIDS, woeful infrastructure, war, lack of healthcare, and government corruption) not with lasting solutions, but quick fixes that simply insure further deterioration.

    Over the next few posts I want to take a look at the book “The Shackled Continent; Power, Corruption, and African Lives” by Robert Guest.  Not an encouraging read at all, but necessary; as sometimes you can’t but help but ask, “Why Africa, do you have so many seemingly intractable problems?”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More Missionaries or More Millionaires?

Arthur S. DeMoss began his life working as a bookie. He owned three Cadillacs by age 24. A year later, DeMoss turned his life over to God and said, "'I'm gonna give my life to full-time Christian service." 

It was asked of De Moss if he was going to be a missionary and leave the life of business. He said, "Oh, no. We have enough missionaries. We need people who will make a huge amount of money to support missionaries.'" DeMoss then proceeded to turn a home based company into one of the largest health insurance companies in the country.  At the time of his death at age 53, his estate was estimated at 350 million dollars.  DeMoss stayed true to his word to support missionaries (His politics aside). Over half of his estate was used to support ministries like Prison Fellowship, Samaritan's Purse, Bibles for Little Ones, and Africa Ministries.   I guess he became what he wanted to be; a Christian Millionaire.  

      It's common in developing world missions for presenters to use pictures like the one below in blogs (I've done it), newsletters, powerpoint presentations, etc to make a point.   

But I wonder what is that point?  Is it that we live in a sinful and often corrupt world where too many people are stricken by poverty, sickness, despair, and hunger?  Or is the point that poverty, sickness, despair, and hunger exist because there is an income discrepancy between you (the reader) and those you are gazing upon? 

I think guilt as a motivation to giving for missions is probably highly effective in the short term.  We are all swayed by our emotions after seeing breathtaking photos of little ones in dirty clothes, no shoes, and sad faces.  And it produces tremendous responses to disasters the likes of Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake in Haiti.  And there is probably something to righteous guilt...something inside you (Holy Spirit) pressing you that there are wrongs that need to change and you have the financial wherewithal to do something.  
But in the long term using guilt and emotive pictures is a questionable tactic for many reasons.  First, God desires of us a generous, happy, and content giver; not a grumpy, reluctant, skeptical giver.  Second, we can never give away enough to make the poor rich (we can't and shouldn't try to make African groups in to middle class Americans).  Third, earning legitimate money should not bring about guilt.      

So, while I would disagree with De Moss that we have enough missionaries (there are still far too many sick, unreached, and poor). I wholeheartedly agree that we need more people "who make a huge amount of money to support missionaries."  And people who are talented, content, driven, and lead to do as such.  

Thursday, June 10, 2010


      As Amelia (almost 7) and Meredith (getting closer to 4 than 3) grow up, I wonder if these moments will become even more rare?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kicked By A Goat

        Most of my patients are fairly Westernized as far as language (English or Swahilli), dress (blue jeans, and collar shirts), food (white bread and coca-cola), and culture (mobile phones).  But we do have some Masaai patients.  They have held true to their language (Masaai), dress (colorful beads, red blankets draped over their shoulder toga style, heavy earrings that distort their earlobes, and often carrying a staff), food (all meat and milk diet....the original Atkins), and culture (mostly nomadic cattle herders).  

     This boy was kicked by a goat.  Three of his teeth were intruded and are no longer visible.  They are hidden up under the nose into the soft tissue wound.  

    Practicing "deep breaths" as the sedative gasses are coming soon to go off to sleep.  

  Family together (Dad must be about 6 and 1/2 feet tall and weigh about 150 lbs).  I imagine he could walk in the Bush for days with little to drink or eat and be just fine.  Their son is a little less swollen and the teeth repositioned and splinted.  

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More Than Crumbs

      In an old missionary autobiography, the author describes how the only support his family received was the left over crumbs.  When back visiting their home church on furlough, first the regular offering plate would go around.  Then the second plate would go around and his family would watch, just hoping their was enough for his family to survive.  All the time seeing the offering plate not as an act of generosity, but more akin to panhandling.  He claimed that while in Africa they received such donations as used tea bags (Does a teabag still have flavor after 6 months?).  Living off a crumbs reminded me of these 3 warthogs balanced on their knees scrambling to snort up the left-overs.  Fighting over crumbs.  

Our experience has been just the opposite.   Rather than scrambling for crumbs, your support for our family and the medical/dental ministry in Kenya has been abundant, thoughtful, and creative.  

A class of Sunday school students sending cards and pictures to Amelia and Meredith and adopting them into their class.  The girls read and reread every card.   

A seller on Amazon refunding my purchase fee on a used Christian book after accidentally finding out we were missionaries with Samaritan's Purse.  He insisted he send the book at no cost.  Thanks, I will probably never know who you are.

Faithful family, friends, and churches who month after month give generously to our project account.  Seeing your name every month provides encouragement and accountability.

A women's group who knits warm hats for premature babies in the NICU.  Little heads are warm.

The care packages of things we can't get in Kenya (chocolate chips, stickers, home-made t-shirts for the girls, Starbucks coffee, Poptarts, Crystal Light).  A taste of home is appreciated.  

The one time donations at times from strangers that comes just at the right time to support a project in need.  We are often surprised.

A waitress nearly 2 years ago who was at church the same day of our missions conference and paid our dinner tab. I'm sure out of her own salary, not the restaurant.  Thank-you.  

And all the other unspoken prayers and encouragement we may never know about.  I assure you it has all been exceedingly More Than Crumbs.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Your Generosity Has Done This...Part V

This Chappell grand piano was donated to AIC church in Kijabe in 1963.   When we arrived this grand piano had missing strings, was sitting cattywampus because of a broken front leg, and was sorely out of tune.  Apparently, some children forced their way into the church and started  jumping on the piano for several days until someone realized what had happened.  Consequently the lid has been shut on this fine grand piano for the past year; silenced and dysfunctional.  

 Well, that didn't sit right.  It says in Psalm 33, 

Sing to him a new song, 
Play skillfully and shout for Joy.   

Thanks to many of your generous donations the piano is making music once again.   Because of your donations, funds were available to repair the broken leg, replace the missing strings and tune the piano (not an easy thing in Kenya to find a piano tuner) to pitch.   God is glorified through music.  And God is also glorified in your giving.  Thank-you!   

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Something beautiful

It started as a way to memorialize what I've lost. A way to help me grieve and exteriorize some of the pain I've carried. Pain and grief from the frequent, recurrent pregnancy losses as well as from being with those dying, who have lost babies, who were entrusted into my care and things didn't go as expected and from seeing some things hard to even describe. 

Having never quilted before a simple log cabin pattern was recommended to me. This pattern also contains a central hearth or heart to it and I liked the idea that what came out from the center arose and centered around the heart. 
I did find comfort in the hours of stitching and hours of removing stitches. It metaphorical spoke for the ways God acts in our lives putting things in and pulling other things out. Trying to piece my imperfectly square pieces reminded me that flaws can be overcome as in life by God's grace. Someone offered to quilt the top and took away something I was incapable of doing. Just as Christ made us right with God something we are completely incapable of.  So that somehow when all is said and done it comes together. 

Beauty is found. Life is restored. Hope is renewed. 

Snowsuits and Sundresses

        Amelia and Meredith's friend Jane came over last night wearing the following neck to ankle zip-up/button-up snowsuit and baclava hat.  It was dark and slightly windy , yet the temperature at Kijabe was probably a mild 55 degrees F.   I think the last time I wore a Snow Jumpsuit I was snowmobiling in Yellowstone Park in -23 F conditions.  

Jane's Mom came over to borrow our bunny rabbit for a week.  I asked why, and she said they needed it to breed (their four bunnies are female and our Flower is male).   What is the breeding for?  The meat.   We will see what Flower can do in a week.   

        Meredith dresses herself in a sundress everyday whether it is windy, foggy, sunny, or rainy outside.   Meredith says she gets too hot when her shoulders are covered.   We as parents get some strange looks from others parents as they think, how could a parent let a child go outside with such little clothing..she will be sure to get sick.   
        But the interesting think about cultural differences is that although Meredith wears a sundress and Jane wears a Snow Jumpsuit...they don't even notice or bat an eye.  They are too busy playing together.