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News for End of October 2007


'No-one else will come to this class Jim. It's just me. I will come though. You can just teach me, even if no-one else is interested.'

Not the kind of words that a teacher likes to hear. But they came to my ears a few days ago in one of our Bible classes. Why??!.?! Because I do not hand out money, and people have learned that it is foolish to do anything without being paid for it. Including learning the Bible.

In many ways I can hardly blame them. Almost every activity around here, if it is not basic survival or on behalf of the dead, is a 'project'. The first thing someone does if they want to do something is to write a project proposal. If the proposal does not turn up any money, (from Westerners) then the project doesn't happen. Full stop.

This means that anyone who does not get foreigners to fund what they are doing, is a fool! So what do I do? Do I get foreigners (Western donors) to fund what I am doing? But I am one of them (a Westerner)! I can't just have them fund things, and then not take notice over 'what actually happens' (what the West calls 'misappropriation of funds'). For people here writing project proposals is like a'spiritual activity'. It is like prayer to God, you send the proposal into the blue, and wait for the goodies to come. So then should I write such a proposal to me? Or should I pretend that I am a 'real African' and write the proposal using an African name? . In practice, it is OK to be a Western donor as long as you are far away. Being a donor and being 'around' will result in isolation from the local community.

Attending my Bible class is setting an 'unhelpful' precedent. If the Westerners were to learn that churches here can do their theological education for themselves without outside funds, then a lot of potential income could be at risk. As it is, every church has a project that says 'we need theological education', and it is quite an attractive bait to a Western donor audience. Why loose such a lucrative source of income by doing something for yourself?

If I can't make this work, unfortunately neither can a 'local'. Then the only way theology can formally be taught in Africa, is through a foreign funded / run programme. That then means that it is the foreign theology that has to be taught. Hence theology, as other disciplines in Africa, continues to move away from local relevancy. This leaves ancient traditions unchallenged and God relatively unknown.