by Mark

Why I won’t be tipping cold water over my head

August 22, 2014 in Mark, Culture, Justice, Mission by Mark

Anyone who has been on social media in North America or Europe over the past few days cannot help but have seen the phenomenon that involves people filming themselves tipping ice-cold water over their heads, apparently to raise awareness and/or money for charity. Although the details vary, the first step is generally that someone is challenged by a friend, to either give $100 to charity, or to tip a bucket of ice-cold water over their head to be released from the obligation to donate (or in some cases to give a lesser amount). This person then challenges several more people, and the cycle continues…

While the idea has become hugely popular (as my Facebook and Twitter feeds testify), and apparently successful in terms of raising money (with this report suggesting $41 million has been raised for A.L.S. research up until August 21st), I have to say it makes me feel uncomfortable. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

What’s wrong with Tanzania?

May 31, 2013 in Mark, Africa, Culture, Front, Justice, Tanzania by Mark

On the train from Mbeya to Dar es Salaam this week it was fun to bump in to some of the backpackers for whom the TAZARA train seems to be an essential part of their African adventures. I was interested to hear their perspectives of Tanzania, as well as Zambia, Malawi and South Africa that they had travelled through.

However, it seemed that the travelers all came trying sub-consciously to answer the question: What is wrong with Africa? Whether it was in complaining about the train being a couple of hours late (not really a big deal when it travels thousands of miles, and there is no strict schedule anyway), or frustration at not understanding how the process works to buy tickets (yes there is an orderly queue even if you don’t see it, and no you can’t just push everyone until you get to the front), or thinking that workers digging a road are lazy because the majority are standing around (if you do manual work from dawn until dusk every day near the equator, you’d better pace yourself in the middle of the day or you’re not going to survive…), there seemed to always be the unspoken assumption that Tanzania is broken. The worst thing is that I can see all their same attitudes in myself when I first visited Kenya twelve years ago. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

First World Problems

February 6, 2013 in Mark, Justice, Mission by Mark

The following video, made by Everyone Matters, is entitled “First World Problems read by Third World People”. Personally I don’t like the terms First and Third World, but I think the video does a good job of juxtaposing the very different realities of day to day life in different parts of our world. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Good News for the Poor?

November 13, 2012 in Life, Mark, Africa, Bible, Church, Front, Justice, Mission, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19)

This was the Scripture that Jesus read in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth, asserting that the Scripture was being fulfilled through himself, and giving an early indication as to how he saw his ministry. But how did Jesus fulfill this prophecy of good news to the poor? And what does that mean for today?

Last month we were in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, which caused me to ponder these questions. What is the good news for the poor of today? Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Economic Crisis?

June 14, 2012 in Mark, Africa, Justice, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

News of economic bailouts and financial crises in Europe seem a little strange to me here in rural Tanzania. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something incongruous about extremely rich people dressed in nice clothes discussing how to preserve the banking system and stave off financial collapse, when our friends around us here in Mpanda are blissfully unaware as they work hard to harvest their crops and earn money to buy a plot of land and build a small house for their family.

So what exactly is the crisis? Is it that people are starving, or being persecuted, or being denied access to basic healthcare? Not generally, no. Maybe it is the shock of individuals losing their jobs, and families having to adapt to a different way of life. I think this is a big part of the crisis.

And yet these kinds of issues are faced by people around the world every day, with no talk of a crisis. A couple of days ago Zitto Kabwe blogged about The bottom 30 million, a reference to the majority of Tanzanians who rely mainly on agriculture and are not benefiting from the overall economic growth in the country. Many of these 30 million have limited access to healthcare and have no formal employment, so could be said to be in a much worse economic situation than many of those struggling in Europe. And yet there is no talk of an economic crisis in rural Tanzania. In fact, if anything there is often an unspoken acceptance that this is the natural way of things, that European countries have a right to be wealthier than African countries, as evidenced by the Spanish Prime Minister’s comment that “Spain is not Uganda”. Read the rest of this entry →