An American in Tanzania: Thoughts on National Leadership

I was 23, fresh off the plane, fresh out of language school and fresh with naivete when she approached my office in the upstairs portion of the orphanage. My director came up and told me that the following day, she and the other senior missionary were going to Arusha and would be there the whole day. I was new at the orphanage and was pretty novice about missions in general, but my response was chalk full of implication.

“So I’m in charge then while you’re gone?”

The question mark there is how I said it, but it was more of statement than a honest question. I was ready, or so I thought, to be in charge.

She, smirked and replied, “well you, and Eli, and Baba Pendo.” Meaning, “not really, that’s not needed and there are Tanzanian staff who have been here much longer, are more informed and more invested.”

Despite being the youngest staff, despite having a tenure of weeks, not months or years, despite the integrity and knowledge of local staff, I assumed that I would be in charge. I assumed that authority based on two truths, I was the American missionary at an American-run orphanage. I’m grateful for my director slowing me down. At best, I would say that was a starting point for me on this journey in partnership with national Tanzanian leaders, but at worst it was blatant paternalism.

Who should be in charge? There is a lot of nuance within this subject, but it’s one that we must be willing to look at and engage. You have to take into account the calling of missionaries, that there was something that drove them to be wherever they are serving. You have to take into account equally the locals that have an equal calling on their lives. You have to take into account the authority and insight that locals have over their own culture. You have to take into account the resources (and not only material resources) that westerners might bring to the table. How do we determine who the boss is?

One of the difficult things that I’ve run into with the format of Kingdom Families is this question, how are you going to get parents to adopt children and make that huge sacrifice? How would they do it of their own volition with the best of intentions? How do you know that they’ll treat the kid well? From a western mindset, it’s a lot easier to just do all the work yourself and establish an orphanage of your own or just adopt however many kids you’re able to. This is seen as safer, because then you don’t have to worry about how solid the people are that you work with or you can gloss over that which you don’t understand culturally.

However, the more that I live and work in Tanzania, the more I realize that some of the best people I know are Tanzanian pastors and church goers. They’re just as human as you and me, but they’re good people and worthy of trust. As a now 30 year old missionary, my view of many of the leaders within our network has increased, I’ve realized that they are the heroes that this country needs.

I’ve of course voiced my frustration over the common institutionalization of impoverished kids in Tanzania and other countries. A lot of this is based out of an understanding of what’s the best situation for a kid to grow up in. But a whole other element is that the Tanzanian authority, the Social Welfare office, is opposed to institutionalization. One of the assistant commissioners in Dar-es-Salaam told me face to face that “family based care is the direction we want to go” and the the regional director here in Kilimanjaro told me that the government “wants to abolish the orphanage system.” Now, it is nonetheless common here, the government itself doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure and man power to implement the family-based care that they desire. Orphanages are the system in Tanzania although all but one are privately owned and operated (there’s a government orphanage in Dar-es-Salaam, I hear).

Part of the paternalism comes into play when westerners come over and open orphanages without consulting or submitting to the social welfare office. The idea is that they aren’t coming to the government and the churches and saying “how can we serve you?” Instead they are coming with an idea that is contrary to best practices, contrary to what the government wants and instituting whatever they want completely aside from government oversight. The government is then forced to either try and shut down the orphanage after the fact which can be tough when they’ve already taken in kids, or forced to try and monitor something that they never asked for in the first place. Do you see the problem in this?

In Moshi there was recently several orphanages shut down and only five remain. Does that inform us about the governments desire? Part of Kingdom Families’ positive relationship with social welfare is because we’re able to engage them and just say we want to support their initiatives from the NGO sector. That’s called honoring national leadership and it’s a lot more comfortable than trying to accomplish something against the flow of their office.

There is this other element to the story where we talk about the churches that we partner with. Our view often concerns how do we raise national leaders. I learned something though about leadership, in my view, leaders aren’t raised, they’re recognized. If someone is a leader, that means others will naturally follow. You’ll see their following, their demeanor and talent and recognize that they are a leader.

When I think about a couple like my friends Clint and Esther, who are bravely adopting from Tanzania currently, I see leaders. They aren’t pastors, they don’t work for my ministry or any other, but their character and drive causes me to recognize that they are leaders. Undoubtedly, there have been people that have fed into them over the years, just as with anyone else, but God puts that flame in them. For those others, we just sit and recognize the leadership anointing on them. I could say this about a lot of Tanzanians that I know, within the clergy, within the congregation and within the government.

When it comes down to it, if Tanzania or any nation is going to change for the better, there’s only one entity that can cause that change: the local church empowered by the Holy Spirit. Our role as immigrants to this country is to support the leaders within this movement that God has anointed. Just as Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses, that’s what we need to be doing as guests in our nations.

“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 14:11

Honored to serve the leaders of Tanzania

“Go run an orphanage in Africa” :: Revisited

I live inside a paradox.

Earlier this week, Melissa and I met with a lady that is visiting from California. In a nutshell, her job is to help organizations focus their mission, deliver their message and be an organization that is, well, organized. I went into the meeting fairly confident in where Kingdom Families stood and I was prepared to blow her away with our vision and current operations. Nine o’clock came and I walked into the meeting with sheer confidence.

Six hours later, as the meeting concluded, I had anything but confidence. Not by anyone’s doing other than my own. Among the proceedings, our foremost exercise was writing down our operations on a big white board. In blue, our current operations and in green, future operations. As I took in the white board, I realized that the blue was the overwhelming minority and apparently I moved here nearly seven years ago and have yet to accomplish anything meaningful from a vocational standpoint.

This was all supposed to be different somehow.

On Father’s Day 2007, I was 21 and felt a very clear message from God during worship at my church in Orange County. That Sunday was a culmination of three consecutive Sundays where I felt God say “Go run an orphanage in Africa.” That word became my guiding light for the next five years as I entered adulthood. I eventually did a short trip to an orphanage in 2008, revisited it as an intern in 2009 and was hired and began work there in January 2010. All was moving forward on the path God gave me to “go run an orphanage in Africa.”

As I write this, I confess, that I don’t understand the mind of God or how all of this works when we feel God say something and give us direction. Without that word of God, I would not be sitting in my office in Moshi right now writing this. Nonetheless, the whole “go run an orphanage in Africa” calling got a bit derailed on it’s way to the station. In May 2012, with my newlywed wife pregnant with Promise we left the orphanage.

During that time in the states, something began to change in me. I had wrapped my identity around this call that I felt from God and all of a sudden I was out of work and trying to make a living for my family in California. Not Africa. Not an orphanage.

The biggest change came on September 21st, not even five months after having left the orphanage in Moshi. On that day, I became a father. As I held my daughter in my arms, I realized that life would never be the same and that no one could take away from me my role as a father. I had romanticized about being a father to the kids at the orphanage, but now I actually understood the difference.

When we returned to Moshi in 2014, thereafter got Kingdom Families going, I had evolved a different mindset towards orphan care. The tone and content of my message changed, and I often wonder if it’s for better or worse. I could no longer pretend that running an orphanage, even with the heart of a father, is the same as actually being a father. I’ve since remembered that the confirming word that the preacher spoke on Father’s Day 2007 was “the AIDS epidemic in Africa is huge, but it’s led to an even worse epidemic and that’s children growing up without fathers.”


What’s the best solution for the fatherless? Fathers.
What’s the best solution for the motherless? Mothers.
What’s the best solution for orphans? Families.

I caught up with a friend last night that had been on a team working to get the railroad back up and running in Tanzania. Their venture had recently disbanded and she is looking for new work. She shared a little about her boss who had invested years, finances and heart into this venture. He had received prophetic words concerning the railroad and was working on what I assume to be the crown jewel of his vocation. When they were essentially stonewalled by the new Tanzanian administration, they were forced to disband and she said it’s been pretty tough on him. Then she shared something that I’m claiming in my own life.

“It’s never about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

My marching orders at age 21 may not be something that I ever fulfill. Is that disobedience? Perhaps. I have come to grips with my shortcomings. Without those words though, I would not be where I am right now. Devoting myself to a work that is slower than molasses and leads to seven years in and not much to show for it in a lot of ways. Yet, I believe in family-based care.

It’s about the journey. Yes, I trust even still that that was God’s Spirit beckoning in 2007. I did what I could to pursue that in my journey and Tanzania got threaded into my life and family in the process. Pursuing that calling led me to marrying Melissa, having Promise and Shepherd join through birth and Moses through adoption. That journey even led to me not pursuing orphanage work even when it was available, because I believe there’s a lot of work to be done to help kids get into families. The only destination I’m assured of is Heaven and the journey could take me anywhere in the meantime.

Let us not get so caught up with where we think we’re going or where we think God is taking us, that we forget who God is. God didn’t not leave us as orphans, God is a Father.


“If you build it, they will come.”

My director Ryan and I were meeting at a local restaurant recently just talking and catching up on life. As we sat there, a guy that Ryan knows approached us. He asked if we would be there for a little while as he wanted to go get his boss to come speak with Ryan. The boss was visiting Moshi and was staying in one of the rooms in the adjoining hotel. We weren’t going anywhere just yet, so ten minutes later the man came up with his American boss. He was eager to speak with Ryan about a plot of land Global-Effect owns in a village about a hour away. He asked Ryan about title deeds, working with government offices and the like. He asked what Global-Effect is going to use the land for and so on. He’s interested because he has also bought land in the same village. Ryan, in turn, asked them what they plan to do with their land.

“We’re going to build an orphanage.”

My heart sank. Ryan swallowed deep and smiled at him then gave me a concerning look. In an area where Global-Effect has begun empowering the community and an orphanage-less village can quickly capture a biblical model for orphan care, another American wants to establish another orphanage in another African village.

You want to hear something offensive? Kids shouldn’t grow up in orphanages. >>tweet this<<

Does that offend you? One of the hardest things for me to bear in my ministry is living out that statement alongside SO MANY people, friends of mine, that have started or run orphanages in Kilimanjaro. It can be very uncomfortable at times. I am not writing this to put anyone on blast, because these are great people, people that I look up to. As I followed up and emailed that American gentleman, I made sure he knew that I appreciate his heart in wanting to help. I really do.

The difficult thing is that we’ve run out of imagination. We’ve been establishing orphanages for so long, we don’t know what else to do. I’ve spoken with government officials in Tanzania that have told me placing children in families instead of orphanages is a new approach. Granted, it’s not actually new, kids have been raised in families since the dawn of time. But as a response to the modern poverty and AIDS-induced orphan crisis, this is a new approach.

I’d be lying if I said that paternalism doesn’t plays a role in all of this. Tanzania was previously a German, then a British colony. Over the last 55 years since independence, Tanzanians have been sovereign, but many of the perspectives between Tanzanians and westerners have changed very little. We have westerners that say, “oh, I should take care of that child” and Tanzanians that say “oh, they should take care of my child.” That happens. That happens often.


Remember that movie, Field of Dreams? It has that classic line “If you build it, he will come.”Kevin Costner gets this divine calling and knows that he must begin the irrational task of building a baseball field in a cornfield. In so doing, ‘he’ will come. Thereafter Shoeless Joe Jackson, a bunch of Hall of Famers and ultimately his dad show up as ghosts and play on the field. I think of that line, when it comes to orphanages.

If you build an orphanage, you will be able to fill it up with children. You can get that institution up to capacity in no time. I’m not saying the kids should be there, I’m just saying they would come. The welfare office might send some, the community will send some, relatives of a child will send some. You’ll fill it up in no time.

Let me share a story that’s close to home for me. It’s about Moses.

My son was fatherless at birth. Whoever his biological father was, he never stood up. Tragically, Moses’ biological mother passed away from meningitis when he was only a month old. His family of origin, three days after his mother’s passing, brought Moses to the social welfare department. The social welfare department signed off and boom, he was in an orphanage. The relatives signed that they would come and take Moses on his third birthday to return to his family. But eight years after he was dropped off, Moses remained at the orphanage and experienced all the heartbreak of being an orphan left in an institution.

All of a sudden, God puts it on Melissa’s heart and subsequently mine that Moses is to be our son. He should no longer be an orphan. We got the process started with the orphanage directors who had faithfully prayed that Moses would get into a family. We’re so thankful for them. After that, we contacted a lawyer and we were on our way. One of the important pieces we needed was the consent of the family of origin. I thank God that we have a good relationship with the majority of Moses’ biological family, but that part of the process was the most maddening.

In the process of adopting Moses, we visited with various family members in four different homes in the area. Of those homes and the people that resided in each, I would say that three of those homes would have been more than suitable for an elementary boy to be raised. In fact, there were already kids there, relatives of Moses.

It was Moses’ destiny to be a part of our family and I would never have it any other way. But on a systemic level, this is very upsetting. Moses is not the only one either. I know other children that live in orphanages that have biological family that are able to care for them. And yet it doesn’t happen. That sin, unless confessed and repented of, is on those families. But it comes back to us as well, if we are feeding into a system that exacerbates fatherlessness.

From an American standpoint, this orphanage building is rather mind-blowing. Don’t you find it ironic that we go overseas and build and run orphanages, when in our own country we don’t allow them anymore? There was a time in our country’s history when there were American orphanages, but people realized it wasn’t a good system and did away with it. Wouldn’t it, then, make more sense to promote fostering and adoption in the majority world?

In wrapping up a blog like this, I feel as though I’m obligated to give some sort of disclaimer or caveat about all this, but it’s my unapologetic view that no child should grow up in an orphanage. There is foster care, adoption, kinship care and other alternatives that are not only more natural, but they are better in every way. Instead, of celebrating every time an orphanage is built, we should celebrate when an orphanage is shut down because all the kids got into families.*

Keep building.


*Further reading: I highly, highly recommend Orphan Justice by Johnny Carr, specifically his chapter on orphanages. I definitely pulled from his work in this post, specifically the last line and the final two paragraphs. It is my favorite book on orphan care and will alter unbiblical and unhealthy attitudes and behaviors we have concerning orphans.

The Epidemic of Fatherlessness

“The AIDS epidemic in Africa is huge, but it’s led to an even worse epidemic and that’s children growing up without fathers.”

The words left his mouth and immediately found their home in my heart. With that single sentence a purpose for my life was birthed and a series of profound events in my life were initiated.

Can you imagine a world without AIDS? Can you imagine all the families and communities that have been devastated by this terrible disease becoming fully restored? Can you imagine every person ever infected with HIV being completely healed? I have loved ones that are HIV+ and know people that have passed away from AIDS-related issues. I can tell you the world would be a far better place without HIV/AIDS, immeasurably so.

Yet, if that opening quote is true, there is actually something worse than even a ravaging disease like AIDS. There’s a devastation more horrendous. There’s something that doesn’t just kill the body, but something that kills the soul.



Perhaps it wouldn’t take much imagination, but consider a child that grows up fatherless. A father speaks identity over his children. A fatherless child grows up not knowing who he is or what purpose he is to serve on earth. A father protects his children. A fatherless child is susceptible to all types of danger and threats. She is insecure, because there is no father there to secure her. A father delights in and takes pride in his children. A fatherless child is pining for attention and to know their value and to know that they are desirable. A father guides, corrects and lays down his life for his children. Without a father, children are inherently meandering around lost; sheep without a shepherd.

Part of our human condition is to get so wrapped up in our own lives that we stop recognizing the needs of others around us. Days, weeks and years go by and we’re consumed with the everyday demands of life; paying the bills, getting the kids to school and having dinner on the table by 5:30. Any moment of pause gets focused on our own needs or those of our closest family. Stopping the grind and considering someone else’s needs or lending a hand is often out of sight, out of mind and hence left undone.

It’s no wonder that over and over in scripture God had to break through and tell his people directly that caring for the fatherless (and widows) was something that they are mandated to do.

“Take up the cause of the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:17)
“Acceptable religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27 paraphrase)
“Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan” (Exodus 22:22)
“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless” (Psalm 82:3)
“The aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied” (Deuteronomy 14:29)

What do these scriptures really mean to you though? If you ever have an “orphan care guy” roll through your church, they always make sure everyone knows the biblical basis for orphan care. My fear is that they just get glossed over though. We understand that the cause of the orphan is important to God, but typically have no tangible work among them. Nor do we desire to begin one, or adopt a child in need. But if we are merely hearers of the word and do nothing with it, what do we profit?

What if the orphan care guy instead walks in with an actual orphan? What if in a Sunday service, he’s able to show the child’s heart to the congregation? He shows the insecurity, the fear, the directionless. He shows that the child, just wants to be wanted. He shows that the child is needing a name, needing an identity. Would our hearts then be moved?

The thing about epidemics is that they spread organically. Someone coughs, spits or bleeds and those around them are now at risk. One person’s sickness leads to another person’s sickness. That’s how it works among the fatherless as well.

Fatherlessness begets fatherlessness. It spreads and can devastate entire populations. tweet this

That’s what’s happened in Africa and in complete honesty has happened through the entire world.

What is it that ends an epidemic? Intent. Caring people draw a line and say it ends here and from that point, they push back the tide. Such intent is indeed costly. It may cost you everything you have. You might have to throw out all the plans that you had for your life. You might have to empty your bank account. You might have to take that perfect little family picture that you had and go to great lengths just to wreck it.

But in so doing, we stamp out this devastating epidemic that has claimed far too many lives already.

Can you imagine a world without fatherlessness? Can you imagine every child in the world with a last name that means something to them? Can you imagine every boy and girl being secured within the love of a father that went to great lengths to claim them as his own? Can you imagine children off the streets, out of orphanages and into homes where the head of the family loves, guides, corrects and trains the children up in the way that they should go? Can you imagine a world without fatherlessness?


Keep building.



*The opening quote was from the preacher Mike Pilavachi in a sermon he gave at my church on Father’s Day 2007. This was the day that I first felt called to work among orphans in Africa.

Designs for Orphan Care (Part 1)

752038128_78eae2f64d_zI was reading in the book of Ezra the other day and though I’ve read the book several times, I came across a story in chapter 3 that really struck me like never before. The Persian king Cyrus had commissioned a large group of Israelites to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians a few generations prior. As the captives that returned to Israel established the foundation of the new temple, a time of worship broke out in the community.

“And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: ‘For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.’ Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout and the sound was heard afar off.”

I had to get out my commentary to confirm why I thought the old men were weeping over the foundation. Mr. Halley agreed, the old men in remembering God’s design for Solomon’s temple, wept that the temple they were now building would not match the grandeur of God’s design for the house of worship. Many people shouted for joy as formal worship of the LORD was being restored and there was all kinds of hoopla, yet still there were those that remembered the superiority of God’s design and in some ways were disappointed that the community was no longer at that level.

As I’ve journeyed with caring for orphans in Tanzania, I feel as though I’ve aged. It’s been five years now since I accepted the job at Treasures of Africa. When I first started I exuberantly told everyone, “this is my dream job.” I was one of those worshipers that when the foundation was laid, I rejoiced and shouted and worshiped. I was in love with working there and knew that it was where God had called me. It absolutely was where God had called me for the three years I was committed there. I grew in faith and I grew in love. I’m so grateful for the leaders that gave me such an opportunity. I was given an insightful look into these kids’ lives, their backgrounds and their specific needs as they came out of traumatic experiences. By welcoming them to the children’s home they were shown love, they were provided for and were able to rest and recover from the blows that orphan life had left them.

Beyond learning about the needs of the kids, I also had an insiders view of how the best orphanage in Moshi was run. I say it’s the best not only because the physical needs of the children are met and they have a clean, safe environment in which to grow up, but because the leaders of the orphanage were very godly people. The kids heard and received the gospel, which to me is most important.

From that insiders view, I have also learned the downsides to the orphanage system. It would be easy for me to look at government orphanages in Eastern Europe or the poorly funded, poorly supervised orphanages here in East Africa, but I’ve actually seen the downsides to the very best orphanages around. I’ve aged. I’ve become one of those old men that weeps as the foundation is laid and remember that God’s design was and is far superior.

As I’ve been working through all these things in my head over the last year since we’ve returned, I find myself needing to temper what I say. I personally invested so much in the orphanage system and even more so because I have close friends that are currently ministering in orphanages and most importantly I have a group of twenty-six kids that I love a whole lot that live at a children’s home. The difficulty in navigating what I write and hence other people read is that in critiquing the orphanage system of orphan care, I am critiquing the most common form of orphan care in the world. In many contexts, it’s the only form of care for these kids. Because of all this, it tends to be the type of ministry that you, me and everyone else has supported if you’ve been involved in the biblical mandate to care for orphaned children.

There are two designs here that I’m looking at and I in no way want to come across as heavy-handed, pugnacious or cold. I feel the exact opposite towards the orphanage system. I think that it can have it’s role in caring for orphans, but we often see it as the end all in millions of instances and I don’t think that’s good. So the two designs, I humbly submit, is God’s design (Solomon’s temple) and man’s design (the temple in Ezra 3).

So, in a nutshell, what are those two designs? As Johnny Carr says “man made orphanages for children, but God made the family for children.” Now that is a pretty strong opinion, I confess. What I’d like to do today is just look at a few themes that we see in the Bible concerning this conversation.

The first thing that we must understand is the fact that the Bible, both testaments, speak a lot to caring for orphans. In the giving of the Law to God’s people in the Old Testament, caring for orphans was something that was expected of each and every individual. In Deuteronomy, God hammers a group of people into the minds of the Israelite community: the widow, the stranger and the fatherless. It was God’s chosen people that were expected to care for the needs of these people. If you read chapter 24 in particular, you’ll see God commanding Israel to preserve justice for the fatherless and also provide them with food from the people’s own crops. It was a commandment, not an option.

God demanded that of His people, because they are to be His reflection and hence maintain His own character. They were to administer justice for the fatherless, because He administers justice for the fatherless (Deut. 10:18). They were to help the orphan, because He is the helper of the orphan (Psalm 10:14). And in keeping in step with who He is, God’s people are to father the fatherless, because that’s who He is (Psalm 68:5).

In the New Testament, we see a core spiritual truth about who we are in Christ applied in these same terms. Jesus teaches us to pray to God as ‘our Father’ and in Romans 8, Paul teaches us that we have been adopted as children of God. If we were adopted by God, that means that there was a point when we ourselves were orphans too. God was gracious and brought us into His family.

In Christian practice, just as I spoke to a moment ago, what we see God do, we ought to do ourselves. We love because He first loved us. We are commanded to be holy just as the Lord is holy. We give, because He gave it all for us. So if God in his generosity, compassion and righteousness, adopted us orphans into His family, what does that mean for us when we consider these kids that also need a family?

In the beginning, God established the family. He put Adam and Eve in the garden and told them to be fruitful and multiply (read, have lots of kids). This was God’s first design, He had a family in mind as the ones that would take care of the earth and expand the garden.

This is just a really quick overview of what the Bible says in regards to orphan care and God’s design for adoption and family. Nonetheless, we can gather a few things from just understanding this text. If you were to read the Bible, then be presented with the plight of millions of orphaned children, would you gather that all you need to do is establish an orphanage? The Jews of the Old Testament didn’t do that and it wasn’t until the legalization of Christianity a few centuries after Christ, that Christians started to do it.

I propose that there is a better way. God’s original design was for children to be in families. By the power of the Holy Spirit we can get back to that design and see orphans receive what they need most of all, the love of a godly father and mother.

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Click here to read Part 2 where we’ll talk about some of the practicalities and difficulties that are presented through both the orphanage system and the families model. If you found this post interesting and something to be considered, then I’d appreciate you sharing it. These are conversations within the church that need to take place and every single one of us has a role to play. Not all are called to adopt, but all are called to do something.

Examining Short Term Missions – Part 2

Yesterday I opened up a conversation about short term missions and some of our blind spots and shortcomings in this popular system. Thanks to those that have shared the article or commented on Facebook. Share your thoughts in the comment section of this blog that way when people read my thoughts, they can read yours too. Lets keep it going.

I wanted to continue that conversation today and look at a couple other areas that I see as being a bit off. If you didn’t see the post yesterday (Part 1), I definitely suggest it before you continue with this one. The topics of discipleship and effectiveness are fundamental to what we’ll look at today and in my estimation are more important.

Today we’re going to look at a couple other elements and I want to re-iterate what I said yesterday that this not about tearing down what we do or who we are, but building up. We must be aware of our problems, if we are going minister and grow effectively.

This is something that I talked about yesterday, but wanted to beat the drum once more. How the trip is funded matters, what money goes towards on the trip matters. The money shouldn’t come in just any way and it shouldn’t be spent flippantly. This gets back to the sacrifice question that I raised yesterday.

I had a team leader on one of my past teams advise us that we could put our tithe into our own individual fundraising account. Now, that is truly between a person and the Lord, but it does make me think. If my offering, which would be going towards my church or another Kingdom work, is now going to fund my short term trip, what does that mean for the others that I was supporting with that money? Sure it kind of kills two birds with one stone; I don’t have to be guilty about not giving an offering to the Lord, and at the same time I get myself that much closer to the plane ride across the globe. But is that best? Is that exhibiting trust in the Lord with my finances? Is there something more that I ought to be giving? Something that really costs me something?

Speaking of pictures with cute orphans, here’s my India 2010 team.

Furthermore, one has to ask if the short term trip is worthy of someone else’s regular offering. I want to raise these questions, because they really matter and too often aren’t addressed. When I went to India in 2010, I had already moved to Tanzania and was living off the support of others in the US. When I felt God lead me to go to India, I didn’t have much opportunity to fundraise for that (which had to be done completely aside from my own organization). Subsequently I had only three people give towards the trip and I paid for nearly 90% of the trip myself. Of the three ladies that supported me, one was a good friend who already supported me at TOA. After reading my blogs from Asia, she told me that she herself often wonders about supporting short termers, because it seems in many cases to be “missionary tourism” as she said. She said that she still supports them, because its not on her to determine their hearts, but the concern is nonetheless there. Especially when the missionaries often stay in the nicest hotel in the city, get a couple days for sightseeing and come back with a bunch of pictures of cute, little orphans.

Furthermore, many of the projects that are done on short term teams ought to be done by nationals. All this money is spent to come across the sea and the team paints houses for a few days. That sounds admirable and I don’t mean to belittle anyone, because I believe their heart is almost always in the right place. Not to mention, this is right up my alley as I’ve had teams help paint my house, friends’ houses and the halls at TOA. But think about the alternative, while you spend that money in getting there and take time to do an unprofessional job, your church could have given a fraction of that money directly to the ministry and they could have hired a national to do it professionally. Hence the short termers spent a lot of money to come over and put a national out of a potential job.

I took this from a book that I’ll recommend later, but play this scenario out: A team from France contacts your church and wants to come over and do a VBS. They have twelve people on their team that would come, they’d put on skits (in French), talk about Jesus through a translator, have crafts and songs, probably do some things that seem a bit odd (I mean it’s a very different culture over there) and after they spend the week at your church, they’ll ask if you could take them to the nearest tourist attractions. They’d then head back to their own country after about a week and a half. The airfare for their team cost nearly $20,000 to travel during the summer and they spent another $10,000 on supplies, food, lodging and sightseeing.

Now, let’s say they’re a forward thinking group and they say “or we could just give you $30,000 to do your own VBS and whatever other ministry the money could help.” What would you do? You’d take the money! And you know what? You’d be way more effective with it than them!

I’m not saying we just throws gobs of money around (because it only works if its strategic… and we do that often enough anyway), but I think you catch my drift that maybe the way we often spend isn’t the best, nor the way that we fundraise.

Africa. Pause for a second and tell me, what comes to mind when I say that?

Source: The Times Atlas

I’ve called Moshi, Tanzania my home for the last two and a half years. Moshi is merely a small town on a massive continent. Check the photo inset that I think is ingenious. And its not just land mass, but the population of Africa is over 1 billion. Nonetheless, I constantly hear people make these bold claims after only a couple days in Moshi about “Africa is this” or “Africans do that.” I’ll tell you that it bugs me and people, even other missionaries, have told me that it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but I truly think that we are walking on thin ice with these broad generalizations.

First off, they very often aren’t accurate. Certainly not of the entire continent which is so incredibly populous and diverse. But often coming to any conclusion of a totally new culture after only a couple days or couple weeks is just unfair. There are so many layers to culture and teams hardly scratch the surface. There are friends of mine that have been there for so much longer than me and even they haven’t plunged the furthest depths. After fifteen, twenty years, they’re still learning. Furthermore, when we come up with these generalizations, we not only miss the point, but we miss the heart of the people who behave in a way that we don’t understand at the surface.

For example, Tanzanians, especially the Masai people, practice very long greetings for one another. I kid you not that in a normal conversation, people will just greet one another for a couple minutes. Americans say, hi, how are you, and then cut to the chase. Tanzanians often ask not only how are you, but they’ll ask how their family is doing, what’s the news at their home, and all sorts of other greetings that wouldn’t even make sense to you if I translated them into this post. To an American, they could conclude that Africans waste time in conversation and aren’t straightforward. They then post some broad generalization on their Facebook.

In reality, Tanzanians are very relationship-based more so than Americans in many ways. They greet one another, because they enjoy talking with one another, they want to see how they’re friend is doing and be polite, cover all their bases even. It makes the utmost sense in their own cultural setting.

Beyond that, I’m willing to bet that people in Tanzania (Africans) are a lot different from Algerians (Africans), Namibians (Africans), Egyptians (Africans) or even the neighboring people of Mozambique (Africans). Cultures are different, languages are different, customs, religions and standard of living are all very different.

Imagine if I took four Tanzanians and sent one of them to Idaho for a couple weeks, then another to Guatemala, another to Quebec and still another to Cuba. I then ask each of them to tell me what North America is like. What would their responses be? “Its cold there,” “Its hot there,” “They speak English,” “They speak Spanish,” “They speak French,” “They’re rich,” They’re poor,” “They’re capitalist,” “They’re communist,” “They’re welcoming,” “They’re snobby” and so on.

Aside from being insulting and belittling to those to whom we ought to be serving, false perceptions end up perpetuating poor development practices.

When I told you to think of Africa, did the word “poor” come to mind? It probably did. The truth is many Africans, across country lines live off far less then Americans do. The majority are indeed impoverished. However, when the main perception becomes strictly “poor,” we typically jump to some form of relief (which I discussed yesterday), not realizing that many African countries are rich. They’re rich in natural resources and in man power. They have the ability to become a thriving 21st-century country, but won’t do so if everyone just thinks “poor” then sends relief. Furthermore what’s needed in Cameroon will probably differ a lot from Libya or Madagascar.


As you can easily gather, so much of these false perceptions are remedied by a humble approach to relationship which gets us back to the discipleship that I discussed yesterday. Discipleship is the hinge on which effective global outreach hangs. I hope you’ll come back and check the blog in a couple days to hear some ideas that I believe would get us to more effective discipleship in missions. I believe in the work of the Holy Spirit stirring up compassion and justice in our hearts. So check back in on Monday to hear more.