Thursday, July 07, 2005

live8 vs Hidden Riches...

I haven’t been following the Live8 thing closely. Given the little I know of it however, I think I’d be hard pressed not to agree with Mark Steyn* in his opinion column of the U.K. Telegraph: He says, in part:

Africa is a hard place to help. I had a letter from a reader the other day who works with a small Canadian charity in West Africa. They bought a 14-year-old SUV for 1,500 Canadian dollars to ferry food and supplies to the school they run in a rural village. Customs officials are demanding a payment of $8,000 before they'll release it.

There are thousands of incidents like that all over Africa every day of the week.... [the entire article]

(*Toque tip: Proud to be Canadian)

The whole Africa poverty vs. western wealth thing reminds me of a book I read by John Charles Kerr - Hidden Riches Among the Poor. It addresses the issues Live8 attempts to remedy, but from the viewpoint of a westerner who actually lives and works there. Here’s a review I wrote of it after it was newly out in 2003:

Hidden Riches Among the Poor - Reflections on the Vibrant Faith of Africa
- by John Charles Kerr
ISBN 1-55306-659-6;
Essence Publishing, Belleville ON, Canada © 2003
Perfect bound, soft cover, 256 pages.

Want to experience Africa? John Kerr’s book Hidden Riches Among the Poor will take you there!

You will jog with Kerr through Kitwe (Zambia) on back paths, drive down its potholed streets, visit its hospital, cemetery and shanty-town. You will face an all-African cuisine (caterpillars included), interview perspective college students, be lifted by the exuberant worship of an African service and finally collapse with a book on your favorite bench under the guava tree, only to find you’re being watched – by a lizard.

But missionary and Trans-Africa Theological College (Kitwe, Zambia) teacher Kerr does much more than spin a good yarn. With elegant and efficient prose, Kerr uses vignettes and quotes (from sources as varied as Augustine’s The City of God to the Zambia Daily Mail), as jumping off points to illustrate his thesis - that in Africa’s apparent poverty is found her greatest spiritual wealth.

Based on the scripture, "Blessed are you poor," he unwraps the blessings of Africa’s poverty under twelve main headings (each contains three to four chapters). He begins with a probe of "Could Poverty Be a Blessing?" Included are sections on "The Blessing of Family," "The Childlike Blessing of Dependency" "Living Close to Nature" and others. He ends with a section that explores the question "Could Affluence Be a Burden?"

Kerr succeeds in creating layers of take-away. We feel sympathy toward and admiration of the African people. We discover that, as hurried, harried westerners, we may well have lost our way when it comes to reveling in warm relationships and seizing the serendipitous moment. I, frankly, did some squirming as I faced the uncomfortable question Kerr poses in various guises: what is our responsibility as citizens of fat western nations toward these brothers and sisters - and others like them around the world.

If you love Africa, if you love missions, if you love a thought-provoking read, you will love this book!


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