In the Genesis creation account, there’s a repeated phrase that many people pass over. More than “it was good,” the phrase “according to its kind” is repeated ten times. The trees, the vegetation, the animals were all created according to their kind, meaning that there are species and classifications to be noted. What’s important is not just the repetition of ‘according to its kind,’ but when the repetition stops. The sixth day. There is one aspect of creation that has no such classification: human beings. Not a single one of them is made different from the other, they are the same form, regardless of the way culture imprints itself on them.
Though a basic observation, the implication of this truth is powerful when we consider third world development. If there truly is no difference between “us” and “them,” then the differences we seem to feel were not created by God, but by man—and sadly, by years of oppression and lack of opportunity. In so many of our efforts, we seek to redeem generations of pain and suffering by lifting communities up out of oppression so that equality is restored.
This can be as practical as caring about the food we provide for them. Many people feed children slop—some kind of porridge that fills their bellies but little more. When we fed the kids at St. John’s during Camp Skillz, they were fed rice, beans, fresh greens and pineapple—a much more balanced diet that might actually help them not just escape hunger, but be nourished. On our most recent trip, we cooked burgers, fajita bowls, and breakfast burritos complete with bacon and sausage. While perhaps it cannot be duplicated every day, on that particular day, our African friends are given the chance to experience a different culture just like we do. (And they loved the burger.)
This same lesson is applied to the kind of technology and tools we introduce them to. While being careful not to give them gifts that aren’t practical in their context, we have introduced them to scythes to use instead of the machetes they used to bend over to slash the grass with. We’ve gifted them particular kitchen gadgets that can speed up the cooking process. Most recently, we have given our cooperatives and students another technology boost: computers.
If your image of Africa is still limited to what you saw on the Lion King, you might wonder why in the world they need a Chromebook. But if you’ve been following our journey, you understand that our friends in Africa are our partners in ministry. Because of this, the computers should be understood as a necessary step in efficiency and empowerment.
This last week we delivered 7 computers to Uganda: 5 for our cooperatives to use in their daily tasks of ministry, and 2 to serve as the beginning of our student computer lab. Computers will allow them to easily transfer reports of their receipts and projects, participate in our distance biblical education program and forums, and have regular, ease of communication between Kenya, Uganda and the US. While phones are helpful in this regard, more complicated projects require documentation and spreadsheets that cannot be easily completed via mobile device. The same principle applies: if you consider how much you need a computer for your daily tasks, especially work and ministry responsibilities, why wouldn’t they need the same?
Along with the computers, we brought a TV, DVD player and USB drive in order for our community to enjoy educational documentaries and movies. This will allow them to learn everything from what Ancient Egypt was like to what Coke is doing to their health. Providing this resource helps them to experience a productive and healthy form of leisure, develop their critical understanding of a world that doesn’t always have their best interest in mind, and even be inspired by moments in history where a leveling occurred—where the weak became strong, and the strong were put in their place (think movies like Amistad, The Great Debaters, or The Help).
The term “cooperative” denotes cooperation. This kind of cooperation cannot happen without empowerment. Every measure we take is an effort to not just relieve the suffering people undergo, but to reverse it—to create a world where the poor have a vote in the way their world is made. While this has only happened a select few times throughout history, it can happen every day in the kingdom of God. In that kingdom--the one we are trying to usher into earth--the poor get a vote, they can say whether or not they like the fajitas, and they can write their own story on their computer and share it digitally in a matter of minutes, just like the rest of us.
26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
If you would like to contribute to the Institute for G.O.D. East Africa computer lab—and the empowerment of young people hungry for God’s Word, with the faith that they could play a role in changing the world—contribute here!