Kenya: Four Kids and $25

One particular day while in Kenya, a few of us had the privilege of sneaking off the campus with Peter Odanga, the Word of Life Director, and driving up into the village in the hills. He would simply yell “candy” in Swahili as we passed by people’s huts and the kids would come running. We didn’t preach to them, all we did was give them candy, for which they were unbelievably grateful. From what I gathered, Peter does these runs about once a month, and I think it is his way of being a familiar face to those in that village.

We drove further along and then eventually parked, got out and begin walking through a field of high grass. On the other end of the field we came right into the middle of a families dwelling. Everyone was barefoot, a man was working hard on a piece of furniture I believe, and we were greeted very graciously by the women and children. They brought chairs out for us to sit down and by the time we were sitting the men had come over as well. Peter translated Swahili and English both ways as we spoke back and forth with this family.

During our discussion we eventually found out that four of the kids there were no longer able to attend school because they could not afford the school fees.  We asked how much it would cost to put them all back in school for the rest of the year. The answer was devastating. $25! The cost to put all four of them back in school again for the year was only $25. I don’t think my heart sank any lower my whole time there as it did at that point. We obviously offered to pay the fee and Peter said that it would be fine to do so. The family was so grateful, but I knew that we were only giving out of our excess, and we did not deserve the appreciation they gave. The head of the family actually climbed up a coconut tree and cut down several coconuts for us, chopped the tops off and served us. This was a humbling experience. It was one of those humbling and formational moments that a person can never forget.

Trickle Down – Part 3 “The Sound of Wealth”

Have you ever heard the sound of wealth? Listen carefully to the sound of wealth… Remember, wealth is not your income it is all your assets minus all your debt. This includes your house, your car, money in the bank, etc. Listen…

After “hearing” that, how might that affect how we understand our society, if it does at all? What might a Christ shaped response look like? How might the covenant community (aka the church) respond collectively? Flow with me…

Trickle Down

There has been a lot of discussion around the distribution of wealth and of government taxes recently in the U.S. Some have even argued that the raising of taxes on the wealthy is unfair and is moving our country towards socialism. Rather than “sharing the wealth” as some suggest, they prefer a more pure capitalism, in which the wealth of the rich trickles down to the rest of society.

As a Christian who takes serious both the prophets of the Old Testament as well as Jesus Christ of the New Testament, I cannot support an economic policy that desires to trickle down wealth. The very language and rhetoric of this economic theory exposes its intentions… to merely trickle down. The word trickle is not only passive (giving the image of one trying to hold on to and contain as much as possible, yet a little trickling down anyway) but the word definitely does not assume pursuit of justice, equality, nor any compassion for the poor, marginalized, and most vulnerable in our society.  When will this trickle down begin to kick in… generation after generation awaits the crumbs from the masters table!

On the contrary, wealth has actually not been trickling down much at all, rather the rich have been getting richer and hoarding wealth, while the gap between rich and poor increases (and the middle class shrinks). In the U.S., “the top 10% of Americans hold 71% of all wealth, while the top 1% alone holds up to 33% of all the nation’s wealth.” What happens when the rich hoard the wealth at the top, and refuse to increase the wages of their workers as their profit grows?

In 1960 CEO’s made an average of 41 times more than their workers and in 2004 that number had grown to CEO’s making an average of 431 times more than their workers. In 1980, the average CEO pay was $1.4 million (in 2004 dollars) and the average worker pay/hour was $15.68 (in 2004 dollars). In 2004, the average CEO salary rose to $11.8 million while worker pay/hour remained steady at $15.67. Not even a trickle…

In response to letting wealth trickle down, the Bible says “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”  I know this is a touchy subject… but chime in and share your thoughts on this… freestyle with me.

(My statistics are widely availabe, I got mine from Census stats as well from United for a Fair Economy)