10 October 2007

Self-Sustaining?

I'm still recovering from vacation... and that post will have to wait a few more days until the internet is fast enough to publish a few pictures...

So for now...

Self-sustaining… is a current catch-phrase in missions… self-sustaining is the 10 year 100,000 mile warranty for churches looking into starting an oversea project. If I want to sell a project to a missions pastor or committee all I have to due is mention that the project will be self-sustaining in 5 years… SOLD!

The problem is that “self-sustaining” is a contradictory term that plays to the weaknesses in the relationship between the western world and Africa.

Why is self-sustaining” contradictory?

1) As soon as an outside party steps in a project stops being self-sustaining because it is now dependent on aide, resources and counsel from that outside party.

2) Ministries started by nationals exist without aide, resources and counsel from outside parties but for some reason these are not seen as self-sustaining ministries but as local or indigenous ministries… it seems weird to me that you have to receive aide and then stop receiving aide to become self-sustaining.

How does this play to the weaknesses between the western world and Africa?

1) Receiving aide is addicting… as long as the check keeps coming most Africans won’t look for other funds or can’t find them… because saving and planning for the future is not the same over here. For most they know that as soon as a new dictator (of their country or ministry) takes power, a natural disaster hits, or a famine takes place their money is taken or becomes useless. This is a continent that truly prays “give us TODAY our daily bread”… so expecting them to plan for the future like a westerner is expecting them to adopt western culture without understanding the African context in which they live.

2) Giving aide is addicting… you’ve invested years into this project and the people and more likely than not they aren’t ready to maintain the same standards after they stop receiving aide… so in most cases the westerns continue to support the project because they don’t want to see it fail. It’s like pouring oil into an engine that leaks and expecting the leak just to plug itself. There needs to be a plan and markers along the way to aide the ministry in preparing for the future. Finances are part of helping a self-sustaining ministry but helping them develop a plan for becoming self-sustaining can be just as valuable.

3) Expecting a ministry to function the same after it stops receiving aide might be expecting too much. Africans are so grateful and gracious that they can make me feel shameful for not giving more… but another part of this gratefulness and gracious response to our support is that they won’t tell me NO… because they can’t. To say “no” or “this way would work better here in Africa” is to be ungrateful… so as long as you and I are giving they will do their best to run things exactly how they think you want it to be run. So when we stop giving aide… things might change. But there are also many other reasons why things won’t function the same… but that will have to wait until tomorrow…

1 comment:

Teenietinyt said...

I TOTALY agree...that is another way that clear communication is so difficult