I’m back! After an intense but good week. And a long flight! Had I known when the lady gave me the upgrade that the trip from Dubai to San Francisco was going to take 16 hours, I would have gone on my knees and thanked her for saving my life! Of course the whole week I was there I was wondering how I’d survive the return trip (Air Force One was committed elsewhere so I couldn’t hitch a ride :-)). God worked it out though so I got on a pretty empty plane back, with a little sleeping pill that knocked me out for 10 hours! (Okay the empty plane was God and the pill may’ve been me). So except for a little jet-lag, I’m not doing too badly.
My main agenda was to speak at Mariners Church, a church that we’re beginning to develop a relationship with. Part of the reason is because Christ’s greatest prayer for His church is that we will be one. I believe God is calling us to work in mutual partnership with others both at home and across the world. That’s not always been the true in the past. Many times the relationship with Christians in the West has mirrored that of our governments’ ~ the West aiding the rest. Click here and here if you’d like to read a couple of older articles on this. In addition to the great pastors at Mariners, I also enjoyed learning from pastors from Peru, Egypt and Sri Lanka who are doing some innovative thinking and work in their own contexts.
Being in the US was sobering. Everywhere I went were signs of the economic crisis. News headlines every day were dark and ominous. I noticed that customer service was almost non-existent in many familiar establishments because so many people have been laid off. On a side note, someone needs to explain the US economy to me. The solution to their bad debt seems to be borrow some more (a lot more in this case – in the trillions!) To put public money in the hands of individuals so they can spend more and kick-start the borrowing machine again. Almost like killing a hangover with another drink! It felt to me like a giant pyramid scheme. Or maybe I’m just ignorant. I did notice though that several TV stations had daily stories targeted to the ordinary person with tips on how to survive in the economic crisis. And it was also great to see the seriousness the national leadership was giving it; there was hardly a day when President Obama wasn’t on the news rallying the nation to take on the challenges.
I was glad last night to see our own finance minister finally begin to address major policy shifts that need to take place in government. I fear it may be too little too late. And of course our parliamentarians lost their moral authority to lead a long time ago when they refused to pay their taxes. Robert Nagila’s list on NTV of ten things the government should do to save money was hilarious! Sad but funny all the same.
I’m not sure we in Kenya are really prepared for or even aware of what’s coming. Our banks did not indulge in the excesses seen elsewhere so we were spared from the first wave of the crisis. But with the big downturns in the global economy, our export-agriculture and tourism dependent economy is bound to take a big hit this year. Add in delayed effects of Jan 07 and the drought and we’re looking at tough times ahead. Multinational jobs will be on the line and local businesses will be hit by reduced demand. Nobody can predict how bad things will get or how long it will last.
The solution is not to panic but to scale back. To start or continue to do what we need to have been doing all along. Which is to avoid debt like the plague and live below our means. This will of course look different for different people. It may range from selling that fuel guzzler, moving the kids to an affordable school, javing to work or carrying packed lunch. It definitely means putting on hold large expenses, especially for items you can afford to wait for. As an aside, we did a great series at Mavuno on money last October. You might want to revisit it and ensure you’re in compliance.
Of course the worst hit in any crisis are the poorest in society. What began with the drought will probably get worse. Our temptation in such times is to scale back on our giving and focus on survival. But the good book teaches that ‘those who give to the poor lend to the Lord’. This is the year when we need to organize more than ever before to set some aside money and time regularly for fellow citizens who are in need. In uncertain times, there is no surer investment.
Pastor Simon preached a great sermon as we began January from Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd, and I will be fine. I want to listen to that again. Because I know that with God on our side, ‘yes we can’.
It’s good to be back home.