Monday, June 29, 2015

Ah...Kenya...

Bishop with the staff of DML, Elly and Caroline
This has been a very busy and fast-moving week in Kenya.  I arrived in Kitale late on Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning we left for Kakamega to meet the Bishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya.  It was a delight to meet with him and he seemed equally delighted in the work of Discipling Marketplace Ministers.  He quickly organized for us to speak to all of the clergy in August from his diocese, and is going to work with us on organizing the first training of the ACK in Kakamega.  [This had been our control group in the research study but we promised them that when the study is over, we would offer them the same services as those in the treatment groups.]

We then had a meeting with Rafiki (which means "friend" in Swahili) bank where we are exploring having our loans flow through.  It was a good meeting and Caroline's history in the banking industry came in very handy!

The DML office also did some "growing up" in the last week.  It received a full paint job with logo on the door and mission statement painted on the walls.  We also bought desks and office chairs!  It feels like we are moving from the baby to toddler stage!  [I had deja vu of doing that in Restorers for the first time...in Liberia...in Ghana...and now here.]

But the focus of the week was on the inspirational event that we planned for Saturday for all Marketplace Ministers, with BAM father and guru, Rev. Dennis Tongoi from Nairobi.  We had hoped that we would get 100 people out for the event but we were surprised to have 177 people show up!  It was a great time (even though we ran out of food and handouts!).  Rev. Tongoi is a great speaker and everyone loved him.  I first met Dennis Tongoi in 2005 at a conference in Nairobi and he inspired me then.  I view him as my father in Business as Mission.  He is now the Executive Director of CMS (Church Mission Society) Africa and they have an active Business as Mission program as well.  He brought his wife as long as two of his staff members and we found great opportunities for collaboration.  God is at work!
Rev. Tongoi in action.
Brainstorming with the CMS and DML staff. 

On Sunday morning, we had a chance to worship at Pastor Moffat Weru's church.  If you remember, he was the pastor who has been very active with us, and his motorcycle shop was looted last December.  We did some advocacy work with the insurance agency and they agreed to pay him for his losses.  I found out that when he informed me that he had received the check, I had taken it to mean that he had received the check from the insurance agency - but he was referring to the check from a few of you who gave gifts to help him cover his losses.  I learned today that the insurance agency changed managers and reversed the decision.  He has spent 90,000 KSH (about $900) pursuing this but has not gotten anywhere.  He continues to work hard in his church and he preached a powerful message on the end of poverty and the holy calling of business.

The afternoon found us at the commissioning service of Marketplace Ministers in Chebarus with the Christian Reformed Church of East Africa.  There were 41 graduates and a great amount of energy in that place!  We drove in to them singing as seen on the video below.

There are currently seven (!!!) DML classes going on simultaneously in Kitale, Eldoret, Kisumu, and Kiminini, with more pending to start in July.  This is where we begin to see exponential growth and it is exciting!

Tomorrow morning I have to speak at an area company on Business as Mission, then we will have our first Advisory Committee Meeting for DML Kenya.  Shortly after that, I leave for Nairobi, flying out to Ghana on Tuesday.

It has been a busy week but so productive and affirming of God's orchestration of events and people.  Thank you for your prayers!  Enjoy this joyful song!

Monday, June 22, 2015

"We are viewed like a cow..."

Venue for Pastors meeting in Menia, on the Nile River
"We are viewed like a cow - [the church] milks us for all we have but they refuse to feed us...spiritually..."

This was a comment from one of the business participants during a workshop held in Egypt in response to the question of how the church views business.  It was clear that the business people are frustrated by how they are perceived by the church.  Another person said, "Fifty percent think we love money; the other fifty percent love our money."  This opinion is not unique to Egypt, unfortunately.

A young entrepreneur summarized the challenge very well when he said, "Because the church does not share the participation in creating the vision and mission of the church with business people, business people don't feel a part of the church.  Because the church doesn't care for the spiritual health of business people (they just care for their money), the business people don't come to church.  But then they are accused of not coming to church because they 'love money' and because they have 'become worldly.'"

Discipling Marketplace Leaders Logo in Arabic
This comment came at the end of five workshops in Egypt: one workshop for fifty pastors in Menia (from many denominations: Coptic, Catholic, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Methodist, and others), one for thirty-two business people in Menia, one for sixty educators and pastors in Cairo, another for twelve pastors in Cairo, and the last for thirty business people in Cairo.  The meetings had all gone very well and the message of Church-based Business as Mission was received with great enthusiasm at all levels.  At the end of one session, a man approached me and said, "What you are presenting is not new.  It is Biblical."  He then followed with, "But I don't know why the church hasn't been doing this all along."
The amazing MELTI team!  They were so great!

I was very excited at the end of the week when the Middle Eastern Leadership Training Institute (MELTI) concluded that the DML program is clearly needed in Egypt, and that MELTI would be happy to partner with DML to facilitate its work.  They are a dynamic, organized, visionary team, and it was fun to work with them this past week.

Not only did the pastors and business people respond favorably, but the schools did as well.  The Academic Dean (who has been trained by both Yale and Princeton) from a seminary told me, "I have so many people that ask me about the relevance of the church in daily life and I often am at a loss for the answer.  Today, you have given me the answer."

Dr. Wahba as my translator
There was definitely a sense that God had gone before us in this, as people indicated that they had been looking for and praying about something like this.  In fact, one of the meetings we had with business people resulted with them forming a group that night.  They weren't going to wait for us to come back!  They wanted to get moving!

We will be back in September to begin training pastors and start a pilot program for business people in a church.  From there, we will then begin to train trainers.  Between now and September, we need to get all materials translated into Arabic.  Lots to do!

I leave on Monday for Kenya, where I will have a busy week as well, and then to Ghana to repeat what we just did in Egypt.  Please keep praying for this work!

Presentation to educators from six different Bible Colleges and Seminaries at the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo.






All work and no play makes Renita a dull girl:  I had one day off while in Egypt, and so Dr. Walker and I took off to see some of the sites, which was a real treat.

Ya gotta see the pyramids while in Egypt.  Very cool.
And of course the Sphinx.
Brief sailboat ride down the Nile River with this father and his two sons.
The scenery from Cairo to Menia.  Maged, a MELTI staff, told me he was our tour guide.  After about twenty minutes, I told him I had learned enough to be a tour guide for the next guest:  "Desert on the right.  Desert on the left."

Monday, June 15, 2015

Contextualization: Egypt

Having worked in primarily Christian, English speaking countries in sub-Saharan Africa for the past ten years, I knew that Egypt would be different in many different ways.  But I didn't expect the difference to become so apparent in the very first meeting that I had.

I arrived at the guest apartment in Cairo at 3:30 am, after a trip that (including a long layover) took around thirty hours.  My first meeting was scheduled for noon with Dr. Wahid Whaba, and his wife, Dr. Laila Risgallah. 

It didn't take long for Dr. Whaba to tell me why he believes the work of Discipling
Marketplace Leaders is important for Egypt at this time.  He said, "Christians are leaving Egypt very rapidly for Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and other places.  Over 100,000 have left so far.  We are between 15-17% of the population as it is, so this is a big exodus.  But I believe our call comes from Jeremiah 29 which reminds us to stay and build houses, and plant gardens, and seek the peace and prosperity of the city.  This relates to business. But we don't know how to do it.  The pressures are immense.  The economy has suffered since the revolution in 2011.  That is why I think the message of DML at this time is so important."

In Christian countries, the work of DML is to help people understand that there is no split between sacred and secular, and that all of our work should be done "as unto the Lord" with the Church being at work from Monday to Saturday in the Marketplace.  In a country where the Christians are by far the minority, where they raise their children to know that just by virtue of their name (if it is Christian instead of Muslim) they will not receive equal treatment, and where jobs are held for Muslims only, it seems that there is already a deep understanding of how faith impacts all of life.  Where the opportunity is here may be in exploring how to stand firm when feeling like you are in captivity, as in Jeremiah 29, and understanding how to do be the Church from Monday-Saturday in a world that doesn't accept your faith.  We can look to examples like Joseph and Daniel, both of whom were in captivity yet rose to be the top government official right next to the pharaoh/king, due to working with excellence and integrity.  Both of these men could have had the attitude of not trying their best as it wasn't their land; of cheating the land, just as they were cheated of freedom.  Yet both men decided to seek the peace and prosperity of the land and work diligently, and through that work, not only they but their God was recognized.

I have used the example of Joseph and Daniel many times, but it now jumps to the top of the list of Biblical characters when examining the business people God used throughout the Bible.  Another message that finds its way into the DML teaching is being both a light and a covenant (which comes from Isaiah 42: 5-7) in the midst of darkness.  As you know, when you turn a light off, it doesn't take any time for darkness to take over.  When Christians leave Egypt, they take their light with them.  To stay takes courage and prayer; it is not an easy decision, based on many factors.  But for those who stay, knowing the Church's affirmation of their work in the Marketplace, intentionally praying for each other as they work and bear witness through their actions, and having a place to talk through the frustrations and challenges of working in such an environment, can become a primary role of the church.  The reason that the Muslim religion was so successful in Indonesia was because the Muslims went in and worked in business, and through commerce won people.  The Christians had arrived at the same time but set up churches and tried to win people through revivals.  There is an opportunity here for Egypt.  Dr. Wahid believes that this is a crucial and important time for Christians in Egypt and that the ministry of DML can be instrumental in it.

Other differences that I have observed, maybe you are wondering?  Dangerous at this time as they may be gross generalizations based on very little knowledge, but here are some:
View from my window
  • It is obvious that in order to drive in Cairo, you have to be an INCREDIBLE parallel parker and be very comfortable with very narrow spaces as cars are parked everywhere.  
  • Egyptian men seem very hospitable and helpful as several men around me in the ninety-minute customs line checked in with me several times afterward to make sure that I got all my luggage, that I had a ride, or just to see if there was anything else I needed.  Very polite, very hospitable.
  • Cairo is very dry and dusty - they say you can dust your house and two hours later have to dust it again.  The country receives between 0-7 inches of rain per year, depending on the location.  Contrast this to Liberia which receives 220 inches of rain per year, or Michigan which receives 32 inches of rain per year.  This dust causes lung problems as well.
  • I learned that most widows do not remarry here - it is considered disloyal to your late husband. 
  • There is a heaviness here - a stress that is almost palpable. I feel it emotionally and physically.
It is interesting to me that my initial reaction to being in Egypt is similar to my initial reaction to Liberia - both love and fear at the same time.  For Liberia, it was post-war with ex-combatants all around, causing some fear, but a love for the people and compassion for the hardships they were experiencing.   For Egypt, there is fear in the possibility of persecution, of terrorism, of IS, and yet so quickly a love for the people and a compassion for the hardships they are experiencing.

Monday, June 8, 2015

And I'm off...

On Wednesday, June 10, I leave on a trip that I have been preparing for for some time. The goal of this trip will be twofold: 1. to launch the Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) Ministry in two new countries, Egypt and Ghana and 2. to check in on the work in Kenya with the two new staff persons for the DML Kenya office, help with a DML event and various meetings/trainings.

The work in Egypt and Ghana will involve introducing the idea of Discipling Marketplace Leaders to three different groups:  pastors, seminaries/Bible colleges, and business people.

The first leg of the trip will be to Egypt, where we (Dr. Phil Walker, President and co-founder of ICM and I) will be guests of the Middle East Leadership Training Institute who have organized these meetings for us.  These meetings will all be translated into Arabic.  We will be primarily in Cairo, but will also have meetings in Menia. I will be in Egypt until June 22.

Dennis Tongoi
From there, I will fly to Nairobi, Kenya and then to Kitale, where I will be with the Discipling Marketplace Leaders Kenya team for a week.  On Saturday, June 27, we will be having an event in Kitale for all Marketplace Ministers and people interested in this ministry, with Dennis Tongoi as our main speaker.  Dennis Tongoi is a Kenyan who has been involved in Business as Mission for a number of years; I first heard him speak at a Partners Worldwide event, probably ten years ago.  I met up with him in Thailand two years ago and we hope to work together as he is passionate about getting this work into the Church.  Dennis is the Executive Director of CMS Africa and has connections in many African countries.  He will be bringing several of his staff with him to learn more about DML, and how this has worked through the church in Western Kenya.

On June 30, I will fly to Accra, Ghana where I will spend nine days with ICM Ghana Country Director, Rev. Philip Tutu, as well as long-time friend Fanny Atta-Peters, the Executive Director of Hopeline Institute.  My previous work in Ghana was with Hopeline Institute, who does an excellent job in business training, mentoring, and access to capital.  We will now work on bringing this into the church though the DML program.  Rev. Tutu, and ICM Ghana, is very active and networked through the churches in Ghana, so the two will work together to make this fit.
Rev. Tutu, ICM Ghana Country Director (left) and Rev. Mairori, ICM Kenya Country Director (right)
Lord willing, if these trips go well, we will start training in both Egypt and Ghana in September.

Just as I built a team of DML trainers in Western Kenya, I hope to build a team of trainers in the US to help serve in new countries.  The goal will be to develop a DML team of trainers in each country, but it will require a three month training period with outside trainers to start.  If you are interested in being a DML trainer, with business experience, and able to teach on subjects like marketing, simple book-keeping, or  management, and would be willing to volunteer to go for ten days trips, please email me at renitar@icmusa.org. I will be looking specifically for trainers to go to Egypt this fall. [Ghana should be covered with the trainers through Hopeline Institute.] 

Please pray with me for this trip.  There are lots of flights, with lots of potentials for challenges.  Additionally, this is the first time to try to launch such a ministry without actually living there for some time. There are challenges in each context as it relates to language - Egypt and Arabic; Kenya and Swahili; and Ghana and Twi.  Please pray for clear communication and understanding.  And please pray for the right pastors, business people, and seminaries or Bible schools to show up to the meetings to move this ministry forward, for the sake of reclaiming the redeemed marketplace.

Thank you for your partnership and prayers!  This trip couldn't happen without the support of so many of you!

Monday, June 1, 2015

I went out naked again this morning...and I got caught

It's true.  I did.  And yes, it was "again."

I'd like to say that it's because of age or being forgetful.  I'm only forty-six years old but it can happen.  I'd like to say that it's because I'm stressed, which I am.  Or maybe because I'm busy, which I always am.  But the truth is that I think I just didn't care.  I think that I'm getting hardened, weathered, or calloused, and I just didn't notice.

But the uncomfortable part is getting caught.  Realizing that you are naked.  That you are exposed.  Vulnerable.  Unprepared.  That awkward moment when you look in the other person's eyes and see them seeing you naked.  That is very uncomfortable and embarrassing.  And shameful.

Okay, Renita - what are you talking about?

I'm talking about Colossians 3:12 which says, "Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."  Unfortunately, when we give our lives to Christ, these characteristics do not become part of our skin.  They do not become part of us.  We are told to clothe ourselves - that means intentionally putting it on.

That also means that these clothes can get dirty and stained - either by us spilling on ourselves, in our human ways, or by others spilling on us, in their human ways.  That means the clothes need to be cleaned.  It also means that these clothes can get holes, can wear out in certain areas, and/or suffer rips and tears.  They need to be sewn, patched, or even replaced.  They need to be checked.

Sometimes it's not that I forget to put them on, but if there's a certain portion of this type of clothing that receives a lot of friction, it can wear out before I've even realized it - and I am exposed, revealed, and embarrassed.


I think I used to be a kinder, gentler, patient, and compassionate person.  I think years of ministry have hardened me in some ways, and I have lost portions of these items of clothing.  I have become cynical and judgmental in some ways.  I want to be clothed again.  I don't want to stay naked.  Not just because of my own embarrassment, but because if I am dead and my life is now with Christ, in God, then I need to represent Him well.

And so I try to remember to put these clothes on daily.  And I try to check for holes.

Next week I leave for Egypt, Kenya, and Ghana.  I'm excited to meet the people from the Middle East Leadership Training Initiative in Egypt and see what God has been doing in and through them.  I look forward to being back in Kenya with the Discipling Marketplace Leaders Kenya team and spend a week in meetings and trainings.  And then I get to go to Ghana and be with old and dear friends, with ICM Ghana and Hopeline Institute.  Please pray that the time in Egypt and Ghana may find people and places that are ready to receive this new concept of Church-based Business as Mission.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Wonder of a Pencil

I love this quote:  G. K. Chesterton observed, "We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders." 

Since starting my MBA in Sustainable Development two years ago, I have run across the essay called, "I, Pencil" a number of times and have grown to appreciate it more and more.  It is the story of the family tree of a Pencil and points to the creativity and complexity of a simple pencil.  Have you ever wondered about a pencil?  Have you ever seen it as a complex thing?  If you are like me, probably not.  Yet, this pencil claims that not a single person on this earth is able to make it.  If you are lacking wonder today, I encourage you to watch the brief video or read the essay, both of which can be found below.  What is exciting to me is that it points to God - and the essayist, Leonard Read (who wrote this in 1958) also saw that.  He says, "Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me (referring to the pencil). Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree." 

This is one of the reasons that I love doing what I do.  I get to see the creativity of man across nations using the resources that God has give to create goods and services that allow individuals and communities to flourish! And it is an amazing thing. 

I, Pencil
My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read

R
I am a lead pencil—the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.  Writing is both my vocation and my avocation; that's all I do. You may wonder why I should write a genealogy.  Well, to begin with, my story is interesting.  And, next, I am a mystery - more so that a tree or a sunset or even a flash of lightning.  But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere incident and without background.  This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the commonplace.  This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril.  For the wise G.K. Chesterton observed, "We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders."  I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove.  In fact, if you can understand me - no, that's too much to ask of anyone - if you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing.  I have a profound lesson to teach.  And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because - well, because I am seemingly so simple.

Simple?  Yet, not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.  This sounds fantastic, doesn't it?  Especially when it is realized that there are about one and one-half billion of my kind produced in the USA each year.

Pick me up and look me over.  What do you see?  Not much meets the eye - there's some wood, lacquer, the printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal, and an eraser.

Innumerable Antecedents
Just as you cannot trace your family tree back very far, so is it impossible for me to name and explain all my antecedents. But I would like to suggest enough of them to impress upon you the richness and complexity of my background.  My family tree begins with what in fact is a tree, a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon. Now contemplate all the saws and trucks and rope and the countless other gear used in harvesting and carting the cedar logs to the railroad siding. Think of all the persons and the numberless skills that went into their fabrication: the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors; the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to heavy and strong rope; the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, the cookery and the raising of all the foods. Why, untold thousands of persons had a hand in every cup of coffee the loggers drink! The logs are shipped to a mill in San Leandro, California. Can you imagine the individuals who make flat cars and rails and railroad engines and who construct and install the communication systems incidental thereto? These legions are among my antecedents. 

Consider the millwork in San Leandro. The cedar logs are cut into small, pencil-length slats less than one-fourth of an inch in thickness. These are kiln dried and then tinted for the same reason women put rouge on their faces. People prefer that I look pretty, not a pallid white. The slats are waxed and kiln dried again. How many skills went into the making of the tint and the kilns, into supplying the heat, the light and power, the belts, motors, and all the other things a mill requires? Sweepers in the mill among my ancestors? Yes, and included are the men who poured the concrete for the dam of a Pacific Gas & Electric Company hydroplant which supplies the mill's power! Don't overlook the ancestors present and distant who have a hand in transporting sixty carloads of slats across the nation.

Once in the pencil factory—$4,000,000 in machinery and building, all capital accumulated by thrifty and saving parents of mine—each slat is given eight grooves by a complex machine, after which another machine lays leads in every other slat, applies glue, and places another slat atop—a lead sandwich, so to speak. Seven brothers and I are mechanically carved from this "wood-clinched" sandwich.

My "lead" itself—it contains no lead at all—is complex. The graphite is mined in Ceylon. Consider these miners and those who make their many tools and the makers of the paper sacks in which the graphite is shipped and those who make the string that ties the sacks and those who put them aboard ships and those who make the ships. Even the lighthouse keepers along the way assisted in my birth—and the harbor pilots. The graphite is mixed with clay from Mississippi in which ammonium hydroxide is used in the refining process. Then wetting agents are added such as sulfonated tallow—animal fats chemically reacted with sulfuric acid. After passing through numerous machines, the mixture finally appears as endless extrusions—as from a sausage grinder-cut to size, dried, and baked for several hours at 1,850 degrees Fahrenheit. To increase their strength and smoothness the leads are then treated with a hot mixture which includes candelilla wax from Mexico, paraffin wax, and hydrogenated natural fats.

My cedar receives six coats of lacquer. Do you know all the ingredients of lacquer? Who would think that the growers of castor beans and the refiners of castor oil are a part of it? They are. Why, even the processes by which the lacquer is made a beautiful yellow involve the skills of more persons than one can enumerate.  Observe the labeling. That's a film formed by applying heat to carbon black mixed with resins. How do you make resins and what, pray, is carbon black?

My bit of metal—the ferrule—is brass. Think of all the persons who mine zinc and copper and those who have the skills to make shiny sheet brass from these products of nature. Those black rings on my ferrule are black nickel. What is black nickel and how is it applied? The complete story of why the center of my ferrule has no black nickel on it would take pages to explain.

Then there's my crowning glory, inelegantly referred to in the trade as "the plug," the part man uses to erase the errors he makes with me. An ingredient called "factice" is what does the erasing. It is a rubber-like product made by reacting rape-seed oil from the Dutch East Indies with sulfur chloride. Rubber, contrary to the common notion, is only for binding purposes. Then, too, there are numerous vulcanizing and accelerating agents. The pumice comes from Italy; and the pigment which gives "the plug" its color is cadmium sulfide.

No-One Knows
Does anyone wish to challenge my earlier assertion that no single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me?

Actually, millions of human beings have had a hand in my creation, no one of whom even knows more than a very few of the others. Now, you may say that I go too far in relating the picker of a coffee berry in far off Brazil and food growers elsewhere to my creation; that this is an extreme position. I shall stand by my claim. There isn't a single person in all these millions, including the president of the pencil company, who contributes more than a tiny, infinitesimal bit of know-how. From the standpoint of know-how the only difference between the miner of graphite in Ceylon and the logger in Oregon is in the type of know-how. Neither the miner nor the logger can be dispensed with, any more than can the chemist at the factory or the worker in the oil field—paraffin being a by-product of petroleum.

Here is an astounding fact: Neither the worker in the oil field nor the chemist nor the digger of graphite or clay nor any who mans or makes the ships or trains or trucks nor the one who runs the machine that does the knurling on my bit of metal nor the president of the company performs his singular task because he wants me. Each one wants me less, perhaps, than does a child in the first grade. Indeed, there are some among this vast multitude who never saw a pencil nor would they know how to use one. Their motivation is other than me. Perhaps it is something like this: Each of these millions sees that he can thus exchange his tiny know-how for the goods and services he needs or wants. I may or may not be among these items. 

No Master Mind
There is a fact still more astounding: the absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work. This is the mystery to which I earlier referred. It has been said that "only God can make a tree." Why do we agree with this? Isn't it because we realize that we ourselves could not make one? Indeed, can we even describe a tree? We cannot, except in superficial terms. We can say, for instance, that a certain molecular configuration manifests itself as a tree. But what mind is there among men that could even record, let alone direct, the constant changes in molecules that transpire in the life span of a tree? Such a feat is utterly unthinkable!

I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding! Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.

The above is what I meant when writing, "If you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing." For, if one is aware that these know-hows will naturally, yes, automatically, arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns in response to human necessity and demand—that is, in the absence of governmental or any other coercive masterminding—then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people. Freedom is impossible without this faith.

Once government has had a monopoly of a creative activity such, for instance, as the delivery of the mails, most individuals will believe that the mails could not be efficiently delivered by men acting freely. And here is the reason: Each one acknowledges that he himself doesn't know how to do all the things incident to mail delivery. He also recognizes that no other individual could do it. These assumptions are correct. No individual possesses enough know-how to perform a nation's mail delivery any more than any individual possesses enough know-how to make a pencil. Now, in the absence of faith in free people—in the unawareness that millions of tiny know-hows would naturally and miraculously form and cooperate to satisfy this necessity—the individual cannot help but reach the erroneous conclusion that mail can be delivered only by governmental "master-minding."

Testimony Galore
If I, Pencil, were the only item that could offer testimony on what men and women can accomplish when free to try, then those with little faith would have a fair case. However, there is testimony galore; it's all about us and on every hand. Mail delivery is exceedingly simple when compared, for instance, to the making of an automobile or a calculating machine or a grain combine or a milling machine or to tens of thousands of other things. Delivery? Why, in this area where men have been left free to try, they deliver the human voice around the world in less than one second; they deliver an event visually and in motion to any person's home when it is happening; they deliver 150 passengers from Seattle to Baltimore in less than four hours; they deliver gas from Texas to one's range or furnace in New York at unbelievably low rates and without subsidy; they deliver each four pounds of oil from the Persian Gulf to our Eastern Seaboard—halfway around the world—for less money than the government charges for delivering a one-ounce letter across the street!

The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed. I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth.

Leonard E. Read (1898-1983) founded FEE in 1946 and served as its president until his death.

"I, Pencil," his most famous essay, was first published in the December 1958 issue of The Freeman. Although a few of the manufacturing details and place names have changed over the past forty years, the principles are unchanged.

[I have two more classes left in my MBA in Sustainable Development, then my thesis.  I won't be done by June as I had hoped but I continue to make progress!]