Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Theologians Without Borders Addressing Poverty in Education

Today, October 15 is Blog Action Day when thousands of bloggers around the world are uniting to discuss one single issue—poverty.

When I decided to address the issue of poverty today I thought of my friend Asafa who is a church leader in the country of Zimbabwe.

I caught up with Asafa at a conference in Prague in July. He was there only because he was given a scholarship to attend and he with another delegate from Zimbabwe spoke about the crisis that their country is in when the conference turned its attention to some of the trouble spots of the world.

One morning in the hotel lobby Asafa showed me photos of his family and church people. Then he showed me pictures of supermarkets where the shelves were completely empty of stock.

He had pictures of wells with members of his family queuing up, with scores of others, to get fresh water.

Asafa spoke of the people in his churches who were hungry and experiencing great fear amidst the political turmoil of this country.

Finally, Asafa gave me a gift. He took out his wallet and gave me a $50 billion note (pictured). Initially this was exciting! I have never held a billion dollar note in my hand before, let alone a 50 billion dollar note. Then he told me that this note would only buy a cup of coffee. In July 2008 the annual inflation rate had soared to 231 million percent. This note is worth even less now.

I keep this $50 billion note in my wallet. When I go to make a purchase I am confronted by questions about whether this purchase is absolutely essential. I am reminded that my woes, even the recent global financial crisis that has stripped away my savings for retirement, are nothing in comparison to the grinding poverty faced by Asafa and his countrymen and women every day.

Theologians Without Borders is a matter of justice. It seeks to balance up the resources of the world as they relate to theological education and access to learning. It is a way of enriching the lives of people and finding in our service how rich we become.

Since watching the Dow Jones index plummet to a record low last week I have wondered how this crisis might affect TWB and people’s willingness and capacity to travel to teach in a needy part of the world. I confess to experiencing feelings of paralysis, wanting to play it safe and maintaining the status quo rather than undertaking extra teaching tasks.

Yet, my $50 billion dollar note from Zimbabwe put my life into perspective. I am reminded that the Great Commission stands for all times, not just in times of material affluence.

One positive to come out of the financial crisis is that it makes us stand back and consider those things that are most important for our investment. Our faith, as Harry Fosdick reminded us, was ‘born and bred in a briar patch’. The upside down message that is ours can lead us like those Macedonian churches who were granted the grace of God, “for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” (2 Cor. 8:1-2)

RSVP
As always, I would love you to write to me, filling in the details of your Expression of Interest to serve as a short term theological teacher. This does not commit you or me but it is the first step which then may lead to exploring opportunities, places, dates and teaching subjects.

Extra!
Check out one of the most compelling questions in recent days that came out of such an unlikely arena.

It is posted at my Stories for Speakers and Writers site that offers regular resources for anyone in the communication business.

Do take up my invitation to subscribe to that site my clicking on the Subscribe button.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: $50 billion dollar note from Zimbabwe.

Further to this article is this letter from Asafa received 16 October 2008:

Dear Geoff

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and your thoughts about Zimbabwe especially at this time.

It was refreshing catching up with the memory of our time in Prague and the Z$50 billion dollar bill. When I came back from Prague, there was introduced a new Z$100 billion dollar bill which lasted only for half a month before 10 zeros were slashed off reducing it to new currency Z$10 and the Z$50 billion dollar to new currency Z$5. Since then inflation has skyrocketed to over 400 million percent. Two months ago we could buy a loaf of bread with the new currency Z$10. Today we need new currency Z$15000. I have never seen or heard anything like this in my life or read of it in history.

Your prayers for us are greatly appreciated and I have also enjoyed your articles and I am linking some of the BUZ theologians with Theologians Without Borders website.

The Lord bless

Asafa