Sunday, August 12, 2007

Foreign Aid

"Unless we change the system, all the charity in the world won't take us out of poverty." - Elvia Alvarado, Honduran campesino leader. From her biography Don't Be Afraid, Gringo, one of the best books I've ever read.

Compare the above to a quote by Dr. Michael Dyson, "Poverty can be ended world-wide by rich countries doubling their aid to poor nations."

Is more foreign aid really the solution?

Oxford University economist Paul Collier says that foreign aid has not raised growth rates, lessened poverty, or bettered economic policies. "Huge sums of money, accompanied by endless hectoring, lecturing, and setting of conditions, have had, on average, zero impact." - from Development to a Different Drummer

Still drawing lines that divide

“…Professor put my life on the board. He drew a line that angled uphill: ‘Many evangelical students see their life as a progression from the legalism of their youth to a more mature Christianity that stresses issues of lifestyle and justice and explores authentic Christianity. It appears they have moved forward.’ Then he drew a circle and wrote “legalism,” “simple lifestyle,” “freedom to drink,” and “issues of justice” at different points. ‘They move along, but they are not going anywhere. They just change one means of judging themselves as superior for another.’

“I had used the “broadening” of my faith perspective in the same way I used the legalism I was born into: to draw lines between myself and others. I considered myself right in relation to others because my Christianity now included concern for the poor, a realization that those who consumed alcohol could be Christians and a commitment to social justice and a simple lifestyle… I had torn down one house and built another that looked so different I never realized that the foundation of the houses was the same.”

from Religious No More: Building Communities of Grace and Freedom

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The long time-interval

the yearning; Chicago 2006

‘Has any of you been compelled to live through a long time-interval between the consciousness of a desire and its fulfillment?’ - Brave New World

There is a growing conciousness of a desire in me. The mustard seed desire is also sprouting in others. Sarah from Kenya talked about it this week. She told me that her HIA friends who don't consider themselves Christ-followers feel the same hunger too and want to work for human rights and justice to help bring the fulfillment about. Another anonymous someone scratched into the wood of the desk I worked at, "¡Jesus, venga a Honduras!" This too became a growing ache of mine. "Jesus, come to Honduras!" I have never longed for redemption and the accompanying liberation from poverty so strongly as in Honduras. I heard creation groaning.

The "now but not yet" kingdom, Dr. Green says. It's here, but not all the way. Sometimes I have a hard time seeing the reign of Love at all.

Last night I read in Isaiah 25, "On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine - the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain the LORD will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; the LORD will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; the LORD will remove the disgrace of the LORD's people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken."

I imagine God will be somewhat like my grandma, bustling around the kitchen preparing an elaborate curry dinner, excited to have her family there after so long. God will do all this for "all peoples." Isn't the promise beautiful that the death shroud will be destroyed? What rich imagery, a tender God wiping away all our tears. God is love.

Oh, I hope the promise is true. We are the greatest of fools, Paul says, if Christ did not rise from the dead and this hope is false...

Monday, August 6, 2007


I turned 20 midair from Miami to San Francisco. The schoolteacher from Napa sitting next to me, coming from a month spent with her daughter studying in Chile and Peru, woke from sleeping to say happy birthday. My family came to meet me at 1 in the morning in San Fran. My eyelids were heavy with sleep but I felt so happy to see them.

Since I've been back, I have heard a lot about this word "processing." Admittedly, it gets a lot of airtime in my speech as well. It's expected that when one gets back from experiences abroad - HIA, Youth Hostel Ministry, and anything involving time in Africa or Latin America - one must spend a significant amount of time "processing."

I guess I'm not sure what that means.

I imagine this handheld blender, and my experience in Honduras is this thick chunky mixture in a bowl. Now I'm supposed to "process" it. Just flip the switch to liquify, plunge the blender in the bowl, and WHIIIRRRR it up a little. Presto! Experience processed. Next!

So I guess haven't started "processing" yet. It's been pretty tranquilo at the Dirty Dog Ranch. That's what we call our home here. Our two cocker spaniels are still digging out of the fence and tearing through the creek, burrs, and mud. I've been peeling peaches from our garden to freeze for the winter, and going running (for the first time in months) in the morning. We went and saw my grandparents, which was really nice. Grandma suffered a stroke while I was away and had to be hospitalized for a while. This weekend she was on her feet again, moving around the house as usual, clucking over her grandkids and laying out her fine dishes as if we were special guests.

Aside from showing my family some pictures, I haven't thought much about Honduras. I'm not going to force this whole "processing" thing. Ít'll take it's natural course, slowly, I suppose, over dinner conversations with my roommates, memories in the middle of the night, and prayer. I don't want it to be the sort of burden that some HNGR interns come back with... the sort of internally swollen cross-cultural experience that is so deep and profound to the individual that it becomes inaccessible to others. I want to be able to share the things I learned and thought, to expose these things to the light of community understanding. I hope they gain richer meaning as a result.

Help me share and ask questions, challenge me, because I still don't understand a lot of what I was exposed to. I also look forward to hearing what you've been learning and becoming. God teach us to listen and give us grace with each other when we don't know the right questions to ask.