Monday, July 27, 2020

The Gifts That Keep On Giving!

This last week was a great week for me - I hope it was for you too!

You may remember that during March and April, Discipling Marketplace Leaders raised funds to respond to the COVID-19 crisis for Africa and many of you gave.  There was a sense of urgency about it as people needed to shelter in place in a society that lives hand to mouth, and day to day.  Some people questioned our approach as we are about development, not aid.

But the beautiful thing is that when you work with a ministry and with people who have a development mindset, it will still have that approach even in the middle of a crisis.  

This past week, we heard more stories from many of our partners across Africa of the continued testimony of how those donations are still working today and continue to open doors for God's work through Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  I want to share one of those stories with you today - it's just difficult to pick only one!

I will tell you about what we heard from our partner HUTSEED in Cameroon.  Director Joy shared with us that during the time of distribution of donated funds, they were very intentional to work through the local government and partner with them to get resources where it was most needed.  As not many come to local governments to give instead of receive, they were received very well.  Since that time, the local government has come to HUTSEED to ask them to help distribute birth certificates for children as well as land certificates for widows.  You see, this is supposed to be a free service but many that the government works through end up charging the poorest of the poor for this free service.  But because of HUTSEED's generosity in response to COVID-19, this opportunity has opened for them.
As many people are turning to farming due to the loss of employment, HUTSEED turned to the Ministry of Agriculture to partner in getting quality seedlings out to the members of the three denominations that they are working with through DML:  Full Gospel, CMFI, and the Baptist Church.  The Ministry of Agriculture is going to do follow-ups with technicians as many of those who received the seedlings are new to farming.  They will also be trained in food storage.

They also started a piggery program for widows and put one of the DML pastors as the head of that committee.  Through the piggery program, each widow will give two piglets back to HUTSEED from the first litter (usually a litter has about 8 piglets).  HUTSEED is tithing some of these piglets to missionaries as a form of support for them.  

Lastly, Cameroon has experienced instability (on the brink of civil war) for the last number of years, causing many people to be internally displaced, living in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps.  HUTSEED took some of the funds to the IDP camps to help with food relief, and have also helped them start some businesses, including the creation of hand sanitizers, which is helping them to continue to feed themselves.  

What an amazing partnership!  We are so blessed by Joy and the HUTSEED team (Jessica and Kenneth).

The difference between a program and a ministry is relationship.  Programs have stopped in many places around the world because of COVID-19 but relationships do not stop.  Rather they find a way to continue to flourish in spite of challenges. 

HUTSEED is building relationships in unique ways because of the COVID crisis that will last into the future.  

Thank you for your gifts that continue to be a blessing!  Please pray for the work of HUTSEED and DML in Cameroon!

Monday, July 20, 2020

COVID-19 DML Africa Update!

Ever feel overwhelmed by the "latest" number for everything?  I know I am.  But I also want to stay informed as COVID-19 intensifies in Africa.  So here is a quick virus update on what I am following:
  1. Almost 700,000 reported cases
  2. Nearly 14,400 reported deaths
  3. Equals 3% mortality rate.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the coronavirus pandemic on the continent is reaching "full speed."  

What we are hearing from our partners in Africa:
  1. Proven infections require adequate testing tools.  Africa does not have enough.
  2. The death rate, according to our sources, is much higher.  This is because governments do not want to be seen as "hot spots" and many people die without ever being tested due to costs.
    1. The medical personnel to handle the influx of COVID patients is inadequate in most countries (2.2 per 1000 people).
    2. Social distancing is virtually impossible in the slums of major cities, as only the wealthy can afford to shelter in place.
    And they are reporting on new issues as well as a result of the virus:
    1. Teenage pregnancy is on the increase.
    2. Domestic violence is on the increase.
    3. Insecurity is also on the increase due to so many jobs being lost.  All schools are closed, teachers are not being paid, pastors are not being paid, as well as many other adults who have families to support.

    Economic Lockdown and Poverty Growth

    I recently received a blog from Dr. Jeffrey Bloem (PhD in Applied Economics), who helped me with the research I did in Kenya for DML (and his wife just helped me with the second research in Ghana!).

    He wrote his blog on the effect of COVID-19 on Low and Middle Income Countries and it caught my attention for what he and other experts are seeing relating to Africa.  (He gave me permission to quote him in this blog - he is quoting some others as well.)

    Researchers are looking at three potential scenarios:  containment by July 2020 (not likely), prolonged exposure through 2021, or a "worst-case" scenario with continued border closures in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The last two will lead to devastating outcomes for countries in Africa.
    1. Economic growth rate, measured by GDP will go negative, from -5.7% to -7.65%.
    2. Household income is expected to plummet, prices increase, and employment fall.  The poor are expected to be disproportionately affected.  
    3. Africa has experienced great economic growth over the past few decades.  But much of this gain could be lost over the next two years.
    4. Estimates show that nearly 70,000,000 (seventy million) people will fall back below the poverty line.  What took decades to achieve could be wiped out in a matter of a few years.  Africa will see more devastation than other geographical areas.  See chart at end of blog.
    So what can be done?  Aside from continuing to encourage social distancing, it is difficult to say.  There needs to be coordinated efforts from organizations working in these countries.

    Our partners have been helping to get various businesses started to help fight COVID-19, from farming to soap and hand sanitizer production, and beyond.  We have begun to move much of our training online.  This has helped prepare trainers to build their capacity to help businesses be more effective and efficient.  

    The DML teams sees this as an opportunity.  With government approval and encouragement, they are setting up hand washing stations, delivering needed supplies to the poor, and working with both Christian and Muslim communities.  From Burkina Faso to Tanzania, this has led to greater openness of previously closed communities (more on this exciting development later). 

    Let us keep praying for our brothers and sisters in Africa.  For more information on what DML is doing to respond to this crisis, please go to  

    Click Here to donate.

    Sunday, July 12, 2020

    Tzedakah and Mishpat: Righteousness and Justice

    Last week I sent in the rough draft of my dissertation for my PhD in Sustainable Development.  It is entitled, "Justice and Righteousness for Creation." 

    I've been thinking about the words justice and righteousness a lot in the past two years as I worked on this document.  I have to admit that while I've heard those words most of my life, I wasn't really able to define or understand the difference.  Like many things, I had some level of head knowledge but it hadn't settled into my heart.  That changed for me about two years ago, as I began to have a deeper understanding of these important words.  

    In Hebrew, the words are mishpat and tzedakah (although many say the words cannot be directly translate into English - but for the sake of this blog we will go with mishpat as justice and tzedakah as righteousness).  

    We see the reference to these two words in a number of Bible passages:
    • Amos 5:24 says, "But let justice roll down like water, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
    • Psalm 33:5 says, "He loves righteousness and justice..."
    • Psalm 106:3 says, "Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!"
    These two words have a depth of meaning that are beautiful to think through.  Rabbi Jonathan Sachs says that both are forms of justice, but are very different in their logic.  Mishpat is retributive justice, referring to the rule of law accepted by society and binding for all members.  He says justice is the most basic institution of a free society.  

    But by itself, mishpat or justice, does not create a society in which all can flourish.  Tzedakah or righteousness is needed.  This is distributive justice.  This looks at equality as it relates to wealth, employment, environment, housing, and so on.  The Bible is full of  tzedakah, the forgiving of debts (Jubilee), the gleaning of fields, the tithes for the poor, and so on.  Tzedakah goes beyond physical needs to psychological needs as well.  Poverty humiliates and a good society does not allow for humiliation.

    It's aim is to restore dignity and independence, not just meeting needs.

    There is an African proverb says that the hand that gives is always uppermost to the hand that receives.  Tzedakah strives to remove those levels.  

    My thoughts about justice and righteousness as it relates to creation has to do with economic and environmental issues, but it can be applied to so many situations that face us in the news today (COVID-19, social justice, and racial equality).  

    If we accept this from the Lord, our aim is to restore dignity AND independence.  We commit to doing justice, to upholding the laws of God and the laws of the land.  But we go further, to seek the flourishing of all people.  

    Distributive Justice.

    Justice and Righteousness are the two virtues that DML has identified in working towards a world in which all can flourish.  We are committed to both, and we challenge ourselves to be sure that we are working on both levels with our partners.  

    But we can do this in our homes and in daily relationships.

    I thank God for His rich word which is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path!