About Money Matters

In light of what has occurred in the last few hours I thought I’d write my thoughts on giving online. If there is anything that will pull a person or organisation down is how they handle their finances.

I am sure all of us have received via email or social media a request for money for some need, or we have received a million dollars from some unknown relative. This week I’ve had someone offer our organisation $7,000 if we give $4,000 of it to another African organisation they have nominated. Also, an overzealous family member Facebooked a lot of our friends asking them to give money to help get Pete home to see his dad before he dies, and put the money in their own personal bank account.

So here goes:

1. Always Check the Spelling

It is more than obvious if the spelling, the grammar or their English is incorrect that you should just hit the delete button. If someone is asking for money they should at least have the decency to spell the words right.

 

2. Emotional Blackmail

I hate it when people post up photos from famine areas, use emotion to twist you into giving or give the ‘this is the last ditch effort’ type of ploy. If people feel to give, then let them do it.

 

3. Give Intelligently

Ask yourself ‘Can I afford to do this right this very second or will next week be better when I can give more?’ Find out more about the situation. Make sure your money gets to where it is meant to go and not in someone’s personal pocket (we call it lunch money here). Think about the way you can give that has the most impact.

 

4. Ask Questions

When will this money be spent, by whom, will I see the results, why do they need it right there and then? It’s okay to ask questions and if more people did they would be giving to areas that really bring about change.

 

5. Bank Accounts

Red flags go off if people ask me to give to their personal bank accounts. Where is the accountability and how will I be receipted? For us, we have a personal bank account in New Zealand that friends and family put money into to help keep us in Africa. That’s only because we haven’t set up a Trust there (yet). However, if it’s a business we have a partner trust people can give into and get a tax deductible receipt. In Australia, the US and the UK we have partner organisations who collect donations on our behalf and issue receipts.

Ensure everything is kept above board.

 

6. Ask the Person Involved Themselves

We’ve had some people who out of the kindness of their hearts asked for money on our behalf for personal costs. We became aware of it because a cousin sent me a message on Facebook telling us about it and did we know them. Hence, 3 hours later I am still cleaning up the fallout of that. Thankfully my cousin did that otherwise we would’ve been oblivious to it all and it really could’ve done some damage to our credibility. If you get a request from someone you think you know give them a call and ask them did they send it out or what is the best way they can help.

We want people to keep giving, no question about that one. However, we also don’t want to bring into disrepute the good work that volunteers around the world are doing. We have many friends who work with babies, children, the elderly and the special needs in countries some haven’t even heard of. Let’s keep supporting them because they really do need it. The vision is always bigger than the resources and while money doesn’t bring happiness it does help bring positive change to millions of people on our earth.

Don’t Come and Live in Africa

A year ago we made the crazy move from the beautiful Northern Beaches of Sydney Australia to go and live in Nairobi, Kenya. Why do I say it was crazy (as some of our friends think)? Why would a couple in the most productive and money making years of their lives leave it all behind to go and work with the most poor young people in this part of the world?

There’s no simple answer for that one. I’ve heard people from here say ‘Why don’t people come here long term to serve on the mission field?’ There seems to be a lot of questions on both sides.

So here are my thoughts on the matter.

1. Not everyone is called to move to Africa.

Africa is not a picnic. Sure, there’s some things you only get in this part of the world but not everyone has the tenacity to hack it with all of the negatives, and that’s okay. It takes a certain amount of insanity to live here. There’s a big differences between visiting somewhere for a few weeks and dedicating the rest of your life to a cause on foreign soil with being challenged every day, having to rely on friends for your daily needs or hoping you don’t get really sick because the healthcare is limited.

Just today I had some guy yelling out “Mzungu, mzungu” the whole time I was walking up the street. It was so annoying I wanted to give him the royal finger (another reason I don’t call myself a missionary) and yell a few choice words at him. I feel like saying “Oh my goodness, I never knew I was white”.

mzungu

2. You can be of most excellent use in the West.

You can make money and support a missionary or development worker here by remaining at home. You can pay school fees, earn enough to send kids on a camp, pay travel insurance for someone. You can earn and give, it’s a win win situation. One of the best thing you can do is be an advocate/representative of someone you know who is serving in Africa. Most of the time it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and you could be the key to changing that.

africa

3. Missions aren’t what they used to be.

You need to learn another language, a new culture, a new way of doing EVERYTHING. You need to have computer skills as well as practical ones. It’s not about being behind a pulpit but offering a skill to the local community. The developing world needs doctors, nurses, teacher of teachers, people skilled in media and those who are willing to rough it. You have to be prepared to have less than half of the resources you’re used to. Sometimes the power doesn’t work, you have to boil your water and the internet works when it feels like it.

You’ll end up spending much more time in the office than you thought you would’ve.

People will tell you what a noble thing it is you’re doing. It isn’t and it certainly doesn’t feel that way when you’re trudging through sewerage or spending 12 hours straight in front of a computer trying to sort out email and website issues.

sign

It ain’t what you think it is.

4. No guarantees of a holiday.

Forget about a 40 hour week and 21 days annual leave. We’ve been here a year and there’s no holidays in sight. We’ve worked on public holidays and most weekends. The average person on the international field will return to their home country every 3 years, but that’s not a holiday at all. It’s full on speaking in churches, schools, clubs and to supporters all that time. We often work on weekends running different programs. The closest beach is a 9 hour drive away and belonging to a club is way too expensive. Every now and then we take a half day off, or like this week the whole of a Wednesday just to get out of the office and out of town, but that means pulling a couple of 15 hour days beforehand. Of course, the paid staff just don’t get it. They clock off at 4.30pm, while I’m often working till 10pm.

5. The loneliness and challenges can be overwhelming.

Everyone is enthusiastic when you first leave but it doesn’t take too long for the contact to dwindle. It’s normal as people have to get on with their lives. There will only be a few dedicated friends who stay in touch. To make new friends takes a long time. For some, the gap on between is too much to bear. Being apart from family is not for everyone. While Skype is great it isn’t the same as day to day interaction. If you move here you may have to pack your kid off to boarding school and only see them every few months. Are you prepared for that. Our youngest daughter will not see Pete for 3 years – that’s 3 years too long.

Do I think that people should forever stay in the country they call home. Most definitely not!

Every person, and I mean everyone should at least once in their lives visit a developing country to get involved short term with a work that is making a difference in a local community.

Short term volunteers make a tremendous difference to an organisation. For us our volunteers have been able to assist kids who can’t read well, encourage local leaders, teach sport and give kids hope. Short term is anyone who stays under 2 years, with the average person staying just over a month. Even a 2 week stint is huge.

Coming for a few months can give you a glimmer of an idea of what it could be like long term. It will also make you grateful for all of the conveniences of life you have at home and what those on the international field have to go without.

suitacaseSo give it a go. Come for a visit and see what happens. And if you move here, don’t say you weren’t warned!!!

This Might Offend You

Why on earth would anyone in their right mind title their post about offending someone? It’s because what you see below might not go with your theology or world view. I hope it gets you to a point of asking yourself ‘why do I believe what I believe and why do I do what I do?’

1. I try to never to call myself a missionary

The only exception is when I’m getting ripped off by a local and I say “Look I don’t work for the UN, I’m just an Australian missionary” then they understand that I really don’t have much.  As far as I am concerned I’m an ‘international development worker’. I believe everyone of the Christian faith is a missionary. One of the best things I learned under our pastor from Sydney is that we are to be ministers in the marketplace. We are all ‘sent out for a purpose’. Sure it might not be behind a pulpit, it may to be a business person, parent, police officer or office worker. It’s about being the salt and light to the world. It doesn’t matter if I’m hanging with some high member of government or a mama in a slum. We are all in need of a relationship with Jesus. I cringe when people say ‘Oh, you’re a missionary’. It reminds me of the long skirted, bi-spectacled, bun wearing elderly nun that people have in their minds. Me, I wear tight jeans, a lot of black and even sometimes listen to rap music (cue Toby Mac).

2. Lying is still lying

People call it a ‘white lie’, ‘making it easier to go down’ or ‘that’s the culture of the place’. If it’s not the truth, it’s a lie. If you say you’re going to do it, then do it. I learned this the hard way a very long time ago. Their was a friend who when I said I must come for a visit replied ‘you always say that but it never happens’. She was right and I felt gutted. I don’t care what country you’re in, if you say ‘yes’ then let it mean yes. Sure, theres cultural things like turning up on time, which can be relevant  SEE HERE but let’s get honest about honesty.

3. I refuse to think small or backwards

I’ve lived a lot of my life with feelings of insignificance and not in a small way either. I remember when I was much younger in the early days of marriage. Pete and I would go to pastors conferences and I was so overwhelmed by insecurity that I would say to him “Don’t you dare let go of my hand”, simply because I didn’t know anyone. Sure, getting up in front of hundreds of people was no problem, but in a one on one situation I was so uncomfortable. Mind you, walking into a pub was so foreign to me and I felt so uncomfortable that I couldn’t wait to get out of there. While I still abhor pubs (with the stench of beer which I hate) I am now very comfortable meeting total strangers. I would hate to go backwards and to what I was.

I also despise thinking small. I’m always trying to find more innovative ways of doing things. It makes people who’ve ‘always done it this way’ very uncomfortable.

To do the same thing over and over and expect a different result is a sign of insanity (Albert Einstein).

In the words of the Matrix ‘there is no box’.

Instead of limiting ourselves by our personal skills, resources and money, why don’t we think like God and ‘do it anyway’. Quite frankly, there will always be people who are better than you, have more degrees than you and way more money. So what? Does that mean we sit in a corner sucking our thumbs and going ‘woe is me’. Forget what you don’t have and look at what you do have.

I have enough regrets in my life, I’m trying to add as few as possible to that list.

4.  I’m not the handbag type

Someone in the office asked me the other day if I actually owned a handbag. You might think that was a random question, but a valid one. That’s because I normally have an orange bag made by Jeep, one that slings over your shoulder. It is really handy because it has some good hidden pockets (much needed in Kenya), is washable and I can wear it over my shoulder and in the front of me. I originally bought it for our 2011 trip to Africa. It has been my constant companion wherever I go.

A close friend of mine, Ros told me once that I had the ‘classic look’. I’m not into flowery dresses but plain colours, wear Converse more than heels and shock the office staff when I wear dangly earrings. Sure, I can dress up with the best of them when I have to but mostly wear jeans and a hoody, simply because it’s comfortable. Right now I’m sitting in an office with my feet up on a drawer with my headphones on. There’s no rhyme or reason, just that it’s good for working in.

What it comes down to is be who you are created to be. Stop trying to be a people pleaser. You can only please some of the people some of the time.

bag

My bag is a burnt orange and not pink – I dislike pink.

5. I believe in an even playing field

Out of everything written this is probably the one that will offend people the most. I don’t care what colour, gender, age, nationality, tribe or at what income level someone is. We all label people. In Australia you would say ‘You can’t trust a P plater’, that was someone on a provisional driving license. Here, it is said “That’s because they’re a (fill in the tribe)”. Sure, certain ethnicities exhibit predominant behaviours, but why do we label a whole people group with the same paintbrush? There’s a generation gap because we formed it. There are divisions, racial hatred and animosity between rich and poor. I’ve had the privilege of sitting with a homeless person in Sydney right in Martin Place and ask them their story. Sure it was great to buy them some sandwiches and drink, but it was more important to sit and just talk with them. I’ve also had a cup of tea at the Governor General’s house in Kirribilli. It makes no difference to me if I’m working with locals in Hawaii or Kenya. I don’t distrust someone because of their skin colour or the language they speak. Over the past 8 months I’ve met some incredible people and others I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw them. And there are lots of different nationalities here.

At the end of the day we all bleed red.