When the Rich from the West Don’t Know They’re Acting Like It

rich from west don't know they're acting like it

Today Go. Serve. Love is stoked to welcome Rachel Pieh Jones–a marathon runner, a camel rider, a cookbook author of Djiboutilicious, and a general all-out lover of Djibouti. This post originally appeared on her blog, Djibouti Jones.

From Rachel’s blog, Djibouti Jones: I have been wrestling with how to write about this for months. Starts and stops, lots of unfinished first sentences and barely coherent lists. Then I read this essay after the Rick Warren and race conversation flared up. When White People Don’t Know They Are Being White by Jody Louise on Between Worlds. She is humble yet forthright in the piece, a balance which is incredibly challenging to achieve around such a sensitive and potentially volatile topic. She spurred me on, inspired me, and clearly, informed the title of this post.

I’m giving you loads of links here that will lead to other links and I encourage you to take the time to read this stuff. I have been and don’t think I’ll ever be the same. It is hard, challenging, might make you angry. That’s okay, wrestle with it. Join me as I wrestle with it.

I am not surprised by, but continue to be disappointed in, the western attitude toward the developing world. It is an attitude I see often, though not exclusively, among Christians. It is an attitude of superiority, a god-complex. An attitude that communicates an underlying assumption, intentionally or not, that the rich westerner is the one with power and authority and agency. As this is communicated, of course the opposite is communicated as well. The local person is weak, a victim, and helpless. The rich westerner must charge in to fix things, build things, challenge the status quo.

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My Story: Memos from a Wreck–and Our Longing for True Safety

I’d taken my mom out for her birthday: falafel and jasmine rice at this great new Mediterranean place with only a handful of tables. We headed out, Barnes & Noble-bound to spend a birthday gift card for her, chatting and laughing. At a stoplight I glanced at the clock on the bank across the street, marveling at how fast time passed when she and I were together. Green light: my trusty minivan gathered its strength for the uphill left turn.

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Does International Development Need God?

We’re stoked to welcome Laurence Knoop, formerly of the British armed forces and now a construction manager in East Africa with Engineering Ministries International (EMI). Working mostly in Uganda, Laurence not only builds buildings but develops the men and women on his construction site, who are regularly discipled (don’t miss this video about EMI’s incredible program). Among his many projects, Laurence has helped construct the secondary school campus of Katie Davis Majors’ Amazima ministries, of Kisses from Katie fame. He and his wife Jane just welcomed their first son. You can catch their engaging stories on Instagram (@laurence.p.k) or their blog.

I recently came across two opinion pieces – one old, one new – both written by atheists and both promoting the value of churches and religious organisations in international development.

Matthew Parris – columnist for The Times and “a confirmed atheist” – is convinced “Africa needs God,” and that Christian evangelism makes an “enormous contribution” to tackling poverty in developing countries. Duncan Green – strategic adviser for Oxfam and “a lifelong atheist” – asks “are grassroots faith organizations better at advocacy/making change happen? and, after reviewing Tearfund’s report on their faith-based advocacy partnership with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Uganda, concludes that it is “powerful and convincing stuff.

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My Story: Ordinary World-Changing

We’re tickled pink today to welcome Jaimee Sekanjako. Jaimee has spend the past year and a bit living in the crazy-beautiful chaos of Uganda, East Africa. She spends her days designing water systems, toilets, and–as a civil engineer with Engineering Ministries International–having meetings on the controversial topic of urine diversion (her words, not ours!). She loves dark chocolate, rescuing dogs, and her husband Paul (not in that order). She’s proud of Paul surviving his first trip to Canada’s -42 degree winter, after meeting and marrying him in a story that could have only been written by God himself.  

I was bent over the stove stirring a pot of something when my husband brought me the phone. The voice on the other end was musical, full of life and joy. I heard a sweet young woman say, “Auntie, I love you so much. I miss you and I can’t wait to see you. I want to hear all about your life.”

On this particular day, I needed those words. Needed them more than I even knew.

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Does Christianity destroy culture?

If you’ve ever stood in the middle of African worship, it’s…well, it’s pretty hard to stand still.

Gotta admit. At a refugee center staff retreat, I started as a mild observer. I marveled at the literal full-bodied movement and vocalization: music that took over my heart, my body. I was, um, really dancing (don’t necessarily try to picture it…) to worship for the first time. Moisture leaked from the corners of my eyes. Perhaps you can see what I’m talking about:

After a rousing snippet of this kind of worship in staff devotions the week before, I’d told the teachers, this is just a sliver of what the African church offers the world. Every culture has its own strengths, its own vibrant display of the image of God.

And when Jesus comes, I will have watched so many cultures become the truest version of themselves.

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