Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
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.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
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
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.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
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
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
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
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
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
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
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
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.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Friday, June 4, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Beauty is found. Life is restored. Hope is renewed.