Posts tagged ‘Africa’

February 22, 2011

Change is inevitable

Recently, change has been on my mind. Not the change that Barack Obama promised, but something a lot more personal to each of us. There is the time worn cliche that; “change is a good thing” yet I find that most people are afraid of change. Why is that? I think it’s because change for us represents something new, an X-factor of some sorts, an unknown. And fear of the unknown is one of the more common fears out there.

However, change should not be an unknown. Change is a reality and is consistent and a constant. Almost nothing is permanent but we like to pretend that our favorite things are and we make our decisions accordingly. Let’s apply this to the recent financial meltdown. It has been blamed on greed and rightfully so, but it is much more than that. A majority of the population did not imagine a world where things could be different. Tragically, we believed that the economy would always boom but the truth is where there is a boom a bust soon follows. What goes up will eventually come down. Had we been cognizant of this lesson, I believe we might have acted differently.

The world is changing. Democracy is spreading in places where we traditionally believed that it was impossible. The most amazing thing is that it is happening without direct American influence. We didn’t invade Tunisia or Egypt to set up democracy. Instead, these people are choosing it for themselves. In turn, this is sending shock waves throughout Africa and the Middle East. It is also forcing countries in the West to re-evaluate their foreign policies.

This is of course an oversimplification of a much more complex situation but remains a valid point. We need to embrace change and include it in our planning. Relationships evolve, the Stock Market goes up and down, jobs are gained and lost, and above all opinions change. Approach life with an open mind, challenge your assumptions constantly and do not be afraid to stretch yourself. Change is inevitable, and that is a good thing.

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February 17, 2011

Learning to Listen

xcd.com via Google

One of the best things you can do for anyone is to listen to them. By so doing, you are affirming them, confirming that they are alive and that they do exist. Think about it. Without a voice, you do not leave a mark or a dent. Our voices are the ripples that we make in the pond of humanity. And with no one listening, these ripples go unseen. Yet, we do not listen to others. Taking things a step further, we do not know how to listen. There is a lot of vitriol, angst and pain around the world today and I believe that what we need are more ears.

It begins by asking the right questions and then doing more than just hearing an answer. You see, listening is more than just hearing what someone has to say. Listening is active while hearing is passive. To hear what a person says, all you have to do is receive the sound waves out of their mouth. Listening on the other hand, involves dropping all of your preconceived notions and ideas, and engaging a person with the goal of understanding them. Dropping our own perceptions, notions and ideas is the hardest part. Every time we talk to people, their voice is distorted by the soundtrack we have playing in our heads. To listen we have to turn off our music or take off our headphones and then we can hear the speaker’s song. When we do this, then they feel like they exist and are understood.This is most important when the person doing the talking is underrepresented in society. These are the people whose voices are the faintest. To continue with the analogy of music, their songs are almost inaudible and we need to turn up the volume.

But the underrepresented are not the only ones that should be listened to. Everyone should be listened to. Questions like; “How do you feel about…….?” or “Why did you do what you did…..” are very powerful. They give the person a chance to respond and be heard. We don’t have to agree with them, consensus can almost never be reached, but compromise can be achieved and that is more than enough. For example, I was in favor of the Health Care Bill that President Barack Obama’s administration passed. To me it was a no brainer that we needed a way to stop “pre-existing conditions” from being a part of Health Care conditions. But then I heard a parent of one of my students talk about the issue. He was losing a lot of work because of the new law and his family was being negatively impacted. I listened to him, not so I could formulate a response but to understand his story. He didn’t exactly cause me to change my stance but he did force me to re-examine how I saw things. Now when I meet someone who is anti Obamacare, I don’t automatically get defensive. I just wonder where they are coming from because of my new understanding. I probably won’t ever reach a consensus with them but I can definitely strike a compromise.

The current protests in Tunisia, Egypt, etc., present a wonderful opportunity for those of us in the United States. The people there want to be free from tyranny and we can definitely relate to that. But we haven’t always done that. According to Nicholas Kristoff in this article, American Foreign Policy has always seemed to revolve around our own selfish interests. We’ve made alliances with dictators in exchange for stability in the Middle East. This has caused us to appear to be anti democracy in the region. It was also responsible for the current Administration’s hesitancy to jump into the fray during the protest in Egypt. However, we can learn from this experience by listening to the people. Some of the Egyptian demonstrators kept saying that they wanted “freedom like there was in America”. This is great news for American interests and I think the Egyptians will work with us as long as we allow them to direct their country’s future. People will always tell you what they want and sometimes what they need if you’re listening.

February 14, 2011

The World’s newest Country facing new problems

On January 9, 3.8 million Sudanese turned out to vote on a referendum. The issue at stake was the fate of the people to the South of the country. Much of the nation’s resources, with oil being king, is found in the South. In spite of this, the region has largely remained poor and underdeveloped as the government in the North diverted most of the benefits to their own ends.  In 2003, this friction between the Northern based administration and the Southerners boiled over into war in Darfur. This war has been very controversial with much of the casualty unclear and Human Rights Groups calling it a genocide.  It ended with a cease fire in 2010, about seven years after it had begun.

The aforementioned referendum was to determine whether Southern Sudan should secede from the rest of Sudan. According to the results, 99% of the voters were in favor of the South being its own country. Surprisingly, the Sudanese government accepted the results and Southern Sudan was born. However, the Global Post reports that this new nation is facing some health issues. Hopefully, the United Nations and the rest of the West can come to their aid.

August 13, 2010

Rio 2010 Homeless World Cup

Jacked from Homeless World Cup site

I love soccer. It is one of my favorite things to watch and I thoroughly enjoy watching the World Cup. The idea that every four years, people around the world get together, plop down in front of a television set and watch the same spectacle always amazes me. There is truly nothing like the World Cup. Battles have actually come to a stand still as warring factions agree to take a break to go watch a match or two. That’s how powerful soccer can be and that power is now being turned towards fighting homelessness?

Yes, you read that right. Doing some reading, I stumbled upon this article on former College soccer star Lisa Wrightsman, who is now homeless. She had succumbed to addiction and ended up finding herself in a very bad place. She checked into a shelter to find a job and get her life back together but was also recruited to play for the soccer team there.

While I was excited to read about the positive changes she was making, what caught my attention was the tournament she was playing in; The Street Soccer USA Cup.

This was not the style of free-form street soccer played in many places around the world. Instead, it was an Americanized version, a fast-paced four-on-four game with referees ensuring adherence to rules and walls confining play on a 52-by-72-foot field, the goals being 12 feet wide and 4 feet high.

Apparently, “About 200 players came from teen shelters, refugee resource centers and recovery houses from across the country, as well as one team from St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian team won the title, beating a team from San Francisco in the final, 6-1.” I also couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw there was indeed a World Cup which would be going down in September in Rio. 64 nations will be participating and I for one will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings. More to come but for now I’ll leave you with this….

February 28, 2008

The “Twoness”

W.E.B. Dubois once said that the african american or black man or you can input woman if you so choose had to deal with a concept of “twoness”. His point was that not only does he have to be American but he also had to maintain his blackness or his African side if you will.

Over the years, more intelligent people than me have tackled this, hefted it and come out with different results. Some have called it a blessing to have two sides or be multidimensional while others think it’s a curse because it is very confusing and is hard to come up with an identity.

Here is my take: “Twoness” isn’t something that pertains to African Americans. It is something every immigrant minority has to face. Blacks who migrate from Africa or another country might have to deal with it but African Americans or Blacks who have lived here all their lives do not even have that luxury. To illustrate my point, I’ll tell a story:

I was at work the other day when a black man came in. He started to chat me up and while we were talking he notices the slightest hint of an accent on me so he asked where I was from. When I responded, he asked my name and then asked what it meant and from there we started talking about Africa. I asked his name and he told me. Then he wanted to know if I could tell what part of Africa his slave ancestors had come from when they were brought here just by looking at him. Of course I couldn’t. I saw how disappointed that made him so I told him to figure out his ancestor’s names and we could go from there and trace. He couldn’t do this as his ancestors had been given what he called “slave names”. So he stood there visibly disappointed that he couldn’t even point to what part of Africa he would have been from. In other words, he had no clue of his heritage because it had been totally wiped out. He didn’t even have a real name that was African. As he left he would turn around and ask me more questions about Africa and I’d gently and patiently answer. He was amazed. He told me he was going to buy some African music because he liked and enjoyed it.

Thus is the dilemma of the African American. He or she supposedly comes from Africa but Africa is a continent with thousands of tribes. What part? Which tribe? All of that history is gone and it was removed on purpose by other people. So they are cut off and floating. There isn’t much of a history here for them and there isn’t any history elsewhere. No other ethnicity has to deal with this loss of history and identity. The brief history they do have here is not even focused on properly and celebrated but continue to be distorted by other people’s agendas. For instance, we celebrate Martin Luther King (and he deserves it) and Rosa Parks (so does she) but our kids aren’t taught of Marcus Garvey or Malcolm X. I mean even Hitler gets a history lesson but we won’t even mention Paul Robeson?

I wish I could have told that man the great stories of his tribe. About the brave African Kings, the wonderful sculptures in Igbo Ukwu, how democracy and civilization really started in Africa (and Mesopotamia) but the Greeks get the credit, of the beauty of the land he sprouted from, the love his tribe would have for him even after all these years and so on. But I couldn’t. He couldn’t even give me a name.

February 5, 2008

Interview with a man bringing change

In light of what our theme was for this week; which is highlighting the positive news and positive events that are going on around the world.

So I talked to one of those people who is a living example. Compassion Dave is a volunteer advocate for Compassion International. Now, for those of you who do not know, Compassion is an international organization that is focused on providing for the “spiritual, physical, economic and social needs of children”

I met Dave via myspace as he was campaigning to win the Myspace Impact Award for Compassion International (he did win and earned a cool 10,000 big ones for their cause). He graciously agreed to answer some questions that I have for his motivation. Here it is, completely unedited and in his own words;
1. Tell us a little bit about what it is that you do?

I am married and am a stay-at home dad. As far as the ministry of Compassion International goes, I am a volunteer advocate for children living in the worst kind of poverty around the world. I am also a volunteer ‘area coordinator’ for Compassion. All that means is that I facilitate a team of other like-minded volunteers in my area (essentially the top 1/2 of New Jersey and New York City.

2. How did you come to be doing it?

I started out as just a child sponsor about 9 years ago. About 6 years ago our family was up to about 4 sponsorships and I wanted to sponsor more children, but thought we could not afford to, so I looked into becoming a volunteer. Ironically, as soon as I became a volunteer my wife announced that she had sponsored another child.

Obviously the Lord was leading us and enabling us to do these thing. Today my wife and I have 11 sponsorships, although not all of them are with Compassion International.

3. What drives you to do it?

The Lord is the driving force. I confess that perhaps ‘initially’ I was driven by the flesh to, “do something good” for these kids, but soon after, the Lord and His mandates for the poor took over. About 4 years ago I was on a mission trip to India and while there, the Lord truly broke my heart for the ‘least of these’ and He focused the ministry He has given me.

4. Why do you think that causes like yours do not get appropriate coverage in our media today?

I think there are several reasons. I believe the bottom line is that the god of the world, satan, has his fingers in much of what we know as the ‘media’, and all of the ‘other’ reasons stems from that basic one. Frankly, the media industry is a business, and they aren’t very quick to give cut-rate airtime to anybody, let alone non-profit ministries.

This is precisely the reason we focus on bringing our message directly to the church and we rely very much on the Body of Christ to yield to the moving’s of the Holy Spirit so that His will (will) be done on earth.

Sadly, I really cannot blast the media to much when so many churches are dropping the ball in the area of world missions as well. The church NEEDS to be more obedient, plain and simple.

5. How do you think that we can improve that?

I kind of touched on it in the last response. The media is ‘the media’, and the church is ‘the church’–I think we should focus on our individually responsibility as Christians to the Body of Christ, the Church. That can be summed up in one word: obedience.

Now I am not suggesting that our Lord is telling every Christian to sponsor a Compassion child; that would be ridiculous, but I am saying that the Lord is guiding each of us to do SOMETHING. Imagine for one moment what a blessed place this planet would be if every person who identifies himself or herself with Christ was determined to do what the Lord was asking of them.

6. What advice would you give someone on how best they can change the world?

Listen to the Holy Spirit and obey.

For those who have read that last sentence and thought, “But God isn’t talking to me, ” I would respond, “Yes He is, but maybe you’re doing things that block His voice.” In order to hear God’s voice clearly, we need to be obedient to the last thing He said to us. What is that last thing? I’d suggest to you, “You know exactly what it is.”

But still, some may not hear God and are looking for a ‘starting point’ in order to know God’s will in their life. That starting point is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Start here, and after a ‘season’ of obedience, the Lord’s voice will become clear to you. I guarentee if your heart is in it, the Lord’s voice will get clearer and clearer.

God bless.

If you are interested in helping Compassion International out, check out our blogroll for the link to their site.