03 December 2007

Ugandan reflections: part 2

After the second day of the conference, I knew I had a target on my back because of Worldlink’s mission. One of the men who worked in the housekeeping department of the hotel stopped me, asked for my card, and told me briefly about the ministry he is involved with to street children in Kampala. I had not even spoken about Worldlink to an audience of more than two or three people at that point!

It was very hard to hear about the needs and know that neither I nor Worldlink had the resources to meet them. Even harder was not being able to meet them when I had the resources, as in the case of Timothy, a brother from Kenya, near the Western Ugandan border. He is a police officer from a rural (poor) area who also pastors a church. He asked for a laptop. I was unwilling to leave him mine – and since it was Worldlink’s, I could not do that with integrity even if I so chose. He did not know I had six other donated laptops in a suitcase in my room that I was delivering to ministry partners later in the week. I am glad he did not, because my polite brush off would have become an insult.

I encountered three types of people at the conference. The first type was there trolling for funds, despite the admonition of the organizer not to seek short term benefit at the expense of a long term relationship. It is hard if you see this as your only opportunity to get your message out and make your request. I probably saw more of this than anyone once word got around about what I did.

The second type was also interested in partnerships (funding), but came from a less desperate place. It is hard to describe what I mean by that, but these people were genuinely interested in conversation with me, not simply selling me something. The ones that I was most impressed by also seemed to be the ones who did not ask or only did so in a peripheral way. These people came with honest questions above their needs and interests (Paul Vivire, Jessy Togba-Doya, Ronald Nalera).

The third type primarily came from outside the region or from larger churches in the area. They came for the conversation, perhaps seeking partnerships, but primarily driven by the desire to be there, hear the questions, and hopefully some answers. Of course, many more questions were raised than answered.

I had been asked by the organizer to lead a discussion on International Partnerships. The workshop was Thursday, near the end of the conference. It was well received, though it ran long because of the good discussions. Even though I kept telling people they should leave and have tea (Africans love their tea time – every morning and afternoon), most stayed until the end, and 12 or so asked for copies of the presentation.

I think the most helpful part of the discussion was the concluding section which covered how to write a proposal for funding. This came out of a conversation I had the day before with a great minister from rural Uganda, Paul Vivire. I talked about what to include, why to include it, and what types of pictures to use. (DO include photos of yourself or the staff. DON’T wear a suit and tie when you get your photo taken or subconsciously I will think you are on the same level I am. And smile! Most of the world does not smile when having their picture taken.) A lot of this came out of what I have learned from trying to effectively promote Worldlink.

It was a little disappointing to see only about 5 Westerners in the workshop, especially since the only other option was on “funding your ministry.” I know some folks from North America who wanted to come but were engaged in deep discussion with Africans at the time. I suspect others were just plain tired by that time – I know I was. Still, I was hoping to promote Worldlink to them, so it was disappointing to not have them in attendance. I pray it means they were busy creating partnerships and not dismissing the notion.


Hi. My name is Alanna. said...

Peter - I guess I'm left with a big ? What do I pray for? What do they need most? How are you praying? What do I need to know that I don't know?

Any thoughts?

Peter said...

Alanna (and everyone),

This is a great question. I won't claim to have the answers but here are what I see to be biggest needs for Africa.

1. Integrity - The unfortunate reality is that there is an enormous amount of corruption across the continent. The reasons for this are varied, but poverty is a big one my African friends bring up when I ask their opinion. Consequently, people who have opportunities to gain, even at the expense of their countrymen, do. Leaders at all levels need to model and preach the overall benefits of cooperation and integrity rather than selfishness.

2. Forgiveness - So many places have experienced conflict in struggles for power after the colonial powers left or due to ethnic tensions (thanks in large part to colonial policies). People need to forgive and stop seeking to dominate or punish their neighbors.

3. The presence of God's Holy Spirit - This is the biggie and without it the first two won't happen. The continent of Africa is a spiritual battlefield. Islam is making a huge push and is backed by Arab oil money. Traditional tribal religious practices are still alive and well in many parts of the continent.

4. Find out what is going on now, and pray for that. Maybe I can post more on this topic, but for now check out www.irinnews.org. for daily news reports from Africa and Asia.