Monday, February 27, 2023

Elections in Nigeria

On Saturday, February 25, Nigeria had their presidential elections.  Our global team has been praying about this for the past two weeks, as it is a very important election.  

Here are some brief facts about Nigeria:  

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with more than 214 million people.  Half of the population is under the age of 18.  It is also the country with the highest number of people in extreme poverty, with 70% living below the poverty line. There are more than 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria and more than 500 languages.  There is an almost even split between Muslims and Christians in the country (with Muslims mostly in the north and Christians in the south). 

Nigeria has significant safety concerns, with Boko Haram in north and central Nigeria.  Kidnappings, muggings, and theft are widespread, with ongoing challenges of corruption and high unemployment. Inflation in 2022 was 19%.  National debt has doubled in the last ten years, while the amount of oil production has halved.

Add to that a rush to change currency notes in the last six weeks, created a shortage of cash, leaving people no cash to make their purchases.  People were unable to withdraw cash and electronic payments also stopped as they were unable to cash out these transactions.  People were not able to get medical help, food, and basic needs met if they didn't have cash, despite what they might have in a bank.  This has caused desperation and a lot of angst going into an election.

It's a lot for any leader to tackle.  

We continue to say that "people are not the problem, they are the solution." Nigeria has a TON of potential that can be unleashed to help Nigerians and all of Africa to flourish. 

But figuring out how to unlock that potential is a challenge.  

Saturday's election could mean a significant change, or it could be "same-old, same-old."  There are two candidates who look like "same-old" while one candidate has captured the attention of the youth and seems to be drawing out record number of voters.  This candidate is younger than the other two (61 years of age), a Christian, and from a political party that is not one of the main two, which is unusual.  Should he win, it could bring significant opportunity for positive change.

And so we pray.  Results are not expected before Tuesday and we continue to pray for honest and transparent results.

I left on Sunday for one month in South Asia and covet your prayers.  I will not be able to provide a lot of details on this trip while I am gone, but it will be busy and full.  I thank God for the opportunity to join Him in what He is doing!  Enjoy the sunset view from the plane - what an amazing sight!

Monday, February 20, 2023

Dog 'n Cat Theology and the Glory of God

Maybe you've heard of Cat 'n Dog Theology.  I'm not sure where it originates from but I've heard it quoted from a number of different people over the years.  It says:

 A dog may look at you and think, "You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me - You must be God!

But a cat looks at you and things, "You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me - I must be God!

The theology explains the way many of us behave.  We think that God, the world, our prayers, our work, and everything else, revolves around us.  We are like cats.

In every workshop we teach for DML, we ask people why Jesus came to earth.  99% of the time, the response is "to die for our sins."  Cat theology.  John 12:27-28 tells us that Jesus' primary purpose was to glorify the Father.  Dying for our sins was one way in which He did that.  It's not about us.  It's about God.  Jesus came to restore the glory of God that was lost in the Garden of Eden.

Over the years, we have asked many people why they work. The most common answers are:  to put food on the table, to stay busy, and for identity/self-esteem.  Cat theology.  These answers are all about me and what work does for me.  Yet we have been created to work to bring glory to God.  As image bearers, we are part of the work of restoring the glory of God which was lost in the Garden of Eden.  We are to participate in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven (Shalom) on earth.

When we pray, we focus on what we need and want.  We present our requests and move on before God has a chance to get a word in edgewise.  Cat theology.  

We get so caught up in naval gazing.  Our flesh quickly wants to put ourselves at the center of the story.  

Sometimes I feel like I'm a cat in dog's clothing.  I want to pretend that it's all about God but really, under the surface, it's all about me.  I start the day wanting to act like a dog, but time and again, by the end of the day, I look back and seen that I've behaved like a cat.

Yet there is such joy, freedom, peace, and contentment when God is the center.  And that's the irony.  When it's all about me, I am petty, small, egocentric, impatient, easily annoyed and frustrated.  When I lift my eyes from my naval, I am more content with a deeper joy.  I am willing to suffer frustrations and annoyances because there is something bigger going on.

Because of this, I need daily reminders, even hourly, that it is all about the glory of God.  Every day, I get to worship God by doing my work for His glory.

So I have a "work as worship" sticker on my phone.  And on my laptop.  And in my office.  As with everything, we start to not see something that is familiar after a while, so I will need to change it up.  I have been receiving some requests for these stickers and want to make the offer that if you would like me to mail some to you, please write me at  We will do our best to get them to you (provided you are in a country where DML has a team!).  We have them in English, French, and Spanish.

May we all continue to strive to be like dogs - understanding that this world exists, and we exist, for the glory of God.  And that is a very good thing.

On Sunday, February 26, I leave for South Asia, where I will be working with six partners over the course of four weeks, returning at the end of March.  Please pray for those who will be listening and learning on this trip, that it may be to the glory of God!

Monday, February 13, 2023

The Bad and Good News: Less Economic Freedom Globally

I have received numerous emails regarding the recent Economic Freedom of the World Report, which indicates that global economic freedom has declined, wiping out about ten years of economic progress. This particular report scores economic freedom relating to five areas:  

  1. Size of government (relative to the size of the economy)
  2. Legal system and property rights
  3. Sound money
  4. Freedom to trade internationally
  5. Size and scope of regulation
When government is big and regulatory burdens are oppressive, innovation suffers.  When legal systems are not egalitarian and property rights are difficult to secure, entrepreneurship suffers.  When currencies are not stable, international trade suffers.  And when the size and scope of regulation and ability to trade is costly and onerous, business suffers.

On the other hand, when economic freedom is high, people are able to exchange in trust. When freedom and property rights are secure, innovation and entrepreneurship are able to flourish.  When innovation and creativity are encouraged, people are able to permanently escape poverty.  Society then flourishes and a country's economy can grow.

The top ten countries for economic freedom are (in order): Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, New Zealand, Denmark, Australia, United States, Estonia, Mauritius, and Ireland.

The bottom ten countries for economic freedom are (in order):  Democratic Republic of Congo, Algeria, Republic of Congo, Iran, Libya, Argentina, Syria, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and lastly, Venezuela.

Economist Anne Bradley says, "Because economic growth is the only way to permanently escape poverty, the freedoms that engender it are moral imperatives." 

Economic growth as a moral imperative.  It doesn't always fit our way of thinking, but there is truth in that statement.  Deuteronomy 8:18 says, 
But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
Wealth creation is part of God's covenant.  He gives us the ability to produce wealth.  Wealth is a means to an end - it is the working, productivity, flourishing, and subsequent generosity that was part of God's original design in Genesis 1 and 2.  But we are not to forget him in the process.  We are not to hoard.  We are not to work for selfish gain.  We work for the glory of God in the system that He designed and created.

That is why DML believes that the church must be engaged in helping people to have economic freedom, with a solid theology of work, leading to the flourishing of all.  We need to be engaged as contributing members in these systems, not remaining outside and being only critical.

Anne Bradley continues by saying this, "If we want to help the poorest in society, whether that's in the US or anywhere in the world, we must advance economic growth by fostering more economic freedom.  We've been heading backward, but the good news is that we can reverse course."  (Anne Bradley, writing in the Common Good magazine - 

For the sake of our brothers and sisters living in countries with less economic freedom and more poverty, we continue to pray for economic freedom, as if it depends on God, but we also work for economic freedom, as if it depends on us.  As the hands and feet of Jesus in a world with great potential to be good for ALL people, reflecting the Glory of God in ALL places, we need to be about both faith and action in our participation towards a flourishing world.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Faith Declarations for the Marketplace

I returned safely from West Africa this past Friday, but unfortunately picked up a COVID bug along the way.  It's not unusual for me to get sick after a very busy and stressful trip, so I'm not too surprised.  And as I sit with a cloudy head, I smile at the forced rest that I am given, knowing that the Father knows that I am not always wise about rest and may need to be forced.

In going through some papers on my desk, I found one entitled, "Five Faith Declarations for the Marketplace" that I picked up from one of our partners.  This document had been created before they knew about DML and I again smile that God is bringing His people together, in His time, and in His way, and we simply get to join in what He is already doing in and through His bride, the Church.

These five declarations, written in a language I do not speak, are translated as follows:

  1. I am important to the Kingdom of God; therefore, I will be an ambassador for him.
  2. My business is my ministry; therefore, my work is a form of worship to him.
  3. My business is my mission field; therefore, I will shine the light of Jesus Christ.
  4. God's Kingdom is my priority; therefore, I'm blessed to be a blessing.
  5. God's anointing is my competitive advantage; therefore, I will seek His presence in my business.
There are two things that strike me as I reflect on the words on this page:

One, I am struck by the theme of "therefore" in each declaration.  God has called us to action, blessing us to be a blessing; calling us to be His hands and feet to the world around us in whatever sphere of influence He has allowed us to be.  Every day is an opportunity to do my work as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

Two, I am struck by the use of the words "Kingdom of God" rather than the term "church."  This is where we are to perform the "therefore(s)..." mentioned above.  I have been reading a book called, The Kingdom of God in Working Clothes, by R. Paul Stevens, who reinforces the Biblical emphasis on the Kingdom of God, which unifies everything we do in every space, in every sphere of culture.  He states that Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God 129 times but only three times about the church.  God intended to exercise His sovereignty through His entire creation and commissioned His God-imaging creatures to bring in that Kingdom.  

And so as I sit in my quarantined room, reflecting on what God is doing, I find myself humming a familiar tune:

What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms...
Oh how sweet to walk, in this pilgrim's way, leaning on the everlasting arms
Oh how bright the path grows from day to day, leaning on the everlasting arms!

Note on above pictures:  I was privileged to meet parents on this past trip, who helped to inform, lead, teach, and guide their children to be men and women of God!  The first picture is Dr. Sublime's father from the DRC and the second picture are Pastor Theo's parents from Burkina Faso.  What an honor to meet these parents!

Uganda Financial Freedom class, small group work.  Note the caption on the t-shirt of the woman sitting in this DML discussion group.  We are seeing people making and wearing these messages on t-shirts across Africa!

Monday, January 30, 2023

From Joy to Lament...Hearing to doing...

From Burkina Faso to Cote d'Ivoire, we are now on the last leg of this four-country journey in Francophone West Africa.  

We have heard joyful testimonies of work turning into worship.

We have heard the surprise and amazement from those realizing for the first time that they have been called to work and that it is a good thing!

We have heard the lament and pain from those working in positions where there is little joy to be found, surrounded by ethical challenges with pressure from all sides.

We have received affirmation from new ministries and denominations who feel that God is calling them to join in this work.

We have heard the frustration of those who are trying to get the paradigm of the "church as building" to shift to the "church as people," but realizing that it can be a long and sometimes slow process.  We are creatures of habit.  We like to do activities.  We don't necessarily like discipleship. 

We continue to be convinced that God is doing something in His Church.  People are longing to know that their lives and their work have relevance and meaning beyond a paycheck.  They desire to know that the God they are serving sees them as part of His solution - not part of a problem.

Ecole Biblique de Koubri, Burkina Faso

Discussing integrity with the shareholders of the Avodah (Work as Worship) Poultry Farm in Burkina Faso.  Most of the shareholders are professionals who are diversifying their income streams.  It was great to be outside of the city, teaching in the open air.

Great discussion with these professionals working in many different sectors.  The challenges of doing work as worship in difficult environments is real, and we continue to pray for strength!  We hold on to the knowledge that greater is He that is in me, than He that is in the world!

Monday, January 23, 2023

What is in your hand?

We are now in Cameroon, teaching the DML Economics of Hope course to some key DML leaders from both Anglophone and Francophone areas.  Cameroon is in its sixth year of civil war between the Anglophone and Francophone regions.  The government refuses to negotiate, calling the Anglophones "terrorists" and the citizens on the Anglophone region (20% of the population) continue to have significant struggles.  Hundreds of thousands are in Internally Displace Persons camps, or have fled to neighboring countries, or shelter in place in fear.  The weariness of a six-year conflict can be seen in the faces.  Those I met in 2017 from that area are fatigued, stressed, and losing hope. 

[The only "good" thing that I have heard come out of this so far is that the Ambazonian fighters (as they are called) are requiring everyone in that area to "strike" on Monday in protest of the situation.  If one dared to open their business, it would be torched.  No one dares to go outside on Mondays, and parents have said that the whole family is under the same roof for an entire day which has caused them to grow closer!]

It's a good time to teach the Economics of Hope.  Hope is critical to finding a way forward for everyone.  We get up, we work, we take action because we have hope that there can be a result from our efforts.  My experience in working with people in poverty for 25 years is that there is often a significant loss of hope in the heart.  Our goal is first to affirm everyone's primary calling, including that of Jesus (John 12:27-28), which is to glorify God.  By affirming this, we begin to lift our eyes from our current situation to something much bigger.  Then we move to how to glorify God - we understand God to be a working, creative God who has given us the call as image bearers to work and be creative as well (Genesis 1:28 and 2:15).  We study how economics works - government, education, and the church are there to support those in business, but primarily wealth creation (which is the opposite of poverty alleviation) are going to come from businesses.  

We need to ask, "What is in our hand?"  We find this type of question many times in the Bible.

It is the question that Elisha asked the poor widow.  In 2 Kings 4:1-7, Elisha asks, "What do you have in your house?"  Then he tells her to go and leverage her relationships with neighbors for jars. He started with her oil and her relationships. 

In Mark 6, we read the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 with a few loaves and fishes.  But his first statements to the disciples, when they raised the issue of people being hungry, was, "You give them something to eat."  They protested.  Then Jesus said, "How many loaves do you have?  Go and see."  He didn't try to solve the problem FOR them.  He tried to solve the problem WITH them.

The difference between "for" and "with" is where we spend a lot of time.  "Shut up and listen" is what we need to do!

Much of poverty alleviation is building capacity.  Breaking down poverty relating not just economics, but relational poverty, educational poverty, spiritual poverty, social poverty, and more.  Social poverty is a very large factor of poverty in Africa, as entire genders, tribes, or people groups are not given equal/fair access to the very things that will allow them to develop their own capacity.  

And so, we emphasize that the opposite of poverty is NOT wealth.  It is justice.  As justice is being sought, we need to work on helping every person see their own capacity, as image bearers of a working, creative God.  

On Tuesday, we leave for Burkina Faso.  We ask for your prayers for both Cameroon and Burkina Faso, where so many people are dealing with conflicts in these countries.  May God heal our lands!