Impact or Accolades
When we operated in Rwanda, people were chomping at the bit to come and work with us. Why? Rwanda has been a hotbed for conflict (in the past). It’s right next to the DRC, another hot zone. These places are sexy to budding activists. Those that work in these areas are regarded as better, more caring human beings; revolutionaries.
To be a good humanitarian you must sacrifice, suffer and live in a conflict zone.
Or, you could dig a little deeper.
Over the past six years of living in East Africa, I’ve learned that more than anything, Africa wants more business, not more aid. I’ve also learned that attempting to build solid businesses with the poorest of the poor in the middle of a conflict zone is not the most logical path to business development.
Starting with entrepreneurs with the skills, determination and experience to lead thriving businesses has proven to be a much more successful method. As their businesses grow, their “success” tends to trickle down to the poorest of the poor, offering more jobs and infrastructure along the way.
Furthermore, finding these entrepreneurs in the midst of conflict areas is nearly impossible. These people are struggling just to survive, and there’s no infrastructure or resources to support them. Their businesses are sabotaged daily by all sorts of outside forces.
A few years ago we decided to move to Mombasa, Kenya; not necessarily known for conflict. It’s a tourist beach town on the Indian Ocean. It’s beautiful and magical and thousands of tourists flock here annually.
It’s also ripe for business development. The business conditions are far from ideal, but compared to some of the hot zones I’ve lived in, it’s pretty optimal. When we develop a business here, it really has the opportunity to thrive and impact larger communities for the long haul.
But guess what? Many former supporters have turned their attention elsewhere. Interns are not as attracted to our work because life here doesn’t seem sacrificial enough. Nevermind the potential for impact.
When you say you live and work in Africa, people expect you should be dodging hand grenades in order to be effective. Not so. There’s a time and place for that, but it’s not very conducive for business development.
Africa wants business. Business makes the world turn, like it or not. The western/developed world isn’t perfect. But there are a lot fewer people dying of starvation and disease there. And the developed world wasn’t built on aid; it was built on solid businesses.
If you wanted to assemble a football team that would raise up a nation, you’d find the best players in the best area and go for it. Or you could pick the least qualified players in an area with insurmountable obstacles. Doing this may earn you lots of praise, but it’s not likely to produce the desired results.
If the nation is depending on this team, why not put your best foot forward…for the country?
It’s not as likely to earn you accolades, but it might be more impacting. I guess at that point you just have to question your true motivation; impact or accolades?
Just this morning in my Eagles group we had the discussion about whether one needs to suffer more to be more Godly. It’s interesting that the subtle belief is that it’s pretty hard to be mature spiritually without a lot of pain. Thus, it’s not surprising that we associate sacrifice and suffering with being a higher level of service. The unfortunate conclusion to this line of thinking is to then choose something that neither fits us nor brings us joy — and the benefits to everyone are minimized.
I love this: the developed world wasn’t built on aid; it was built on solid businesses. So true – throwing money is much easier than getting involved, though! And our generation craves extremes – it’s all or nothing. If you ARE going to get involved, don’t go to a tourist beach, go to the pits of dysfunction and try to make a miracle happen. I’m sick and tired of everyone seeking out the easy button that will cure humanity. It doesn’t work like that, and the little investments and hard work DO pay off.
Wow brother…what a message. Ashley posted this on Facebook and I caught it. It’s just…brilliant and rings totally true. Got me thinking. Thanks.
Thank you so much. It is time someone said this out loud and clear…The western world was not built on Aid but on Business. You need to write a BOOK…seriously. I am from Kenya..Habari…And I argue with people. How comes all this aid being thrown to Africa has not helped..How come? How come? You know what, human beings are human beings..some people have the good feeling of having helped a starving kid in Africa and they will do it next year and the next..And then those adults if Africa…Kenya to be specific who believe in help cometh from America..They sit with farms not tended, corruption not cured,ideas not developed because somehow help will come. I tell my husband this…This cycle got to be broken..It is getting worse. Please brother write a book, you have been there done that, seen it and earned some experience.
Thanks so much Grace. It means a lot to me to have positive feedback and support from a Kenyan. I truly believe that many of the problems we see here in East Africa are just perpetuated by ignorant aid workers, missionaries and volunteers that are just doing the latest cool thing to do; “helping in Africa”. But their ignorance and misguided reasons for doing so often just exacerbate and perpetuate the issues. That’s not the dynamic we need to be fostering here.
And you’ll be happy to know, I’m literally sitting here co-authoring a book on living a more purposeful, fulfilled life. And much of the content has come from my experience living here. And I don’t mean just BEING here. I mean, truly LIVING here. For us, Kenya is much more representative of where the world should be heading. We’re just here to foster the balance.
What a great family legacy! I have never met Jared and Kevin, but I have had the privilege of meeting Dan, Joanne and Ashley. Your family is making an IMPACT!
Does anyone know the names of those who had an “impact” on Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Abraham Lincoln and many others who we know have had a great impact on the world? Those who impacted these great and well known people will never have the accolades, but they really share in the same reward as those they influenced who became world changers. Most people will never know the names of those behind the great people mentioned above, but they certainly see the results of their calling and success.
Suffering to become more Godly is a twisted message usually spread by those who do not want to take responsibilty for the great achievements they “could” experience. It may be because of past failures or future fears, but regardless of which it is, the results are the same – not fulfilling the great potential God placed in them. It is easier to shoot low and make it than shoot high and miss it – is the thinking that prevails in many of those who espouse this type of message.
In the absence of the conditions which suffering and dying for the faith as a martyr are called for, we serve God and all of humanity better by living life well and achieving all God has placed before us and in us. When asked, many people say they will die for God, but how many are willing to truly live for Him? By living for Him we fully use our talents, passions and personalities to impact lives. If we do this, at the end, we get the honor of hearing, “well done, good and faithful servant.”
Thanks so much Don.
“When asked, many people say they will die for God, but how many are willing to truly live for Him?” Brilliant!
Yes, this is a question I am always thinking about, wondering why people are more prone to “suffering for Jesus” than living the way his Creator designed us to be. Seems a bit ironic, and tragic. And again, it makes me think people are more motivated by gaining sympathy and accolades than they are in believing in themselves and embracing the fact that God created us to love and thrive, not just to suffer. Suffering is part of it, but it only serves it’s purpose if something beautiful comes out the other side.