Friday, January 30, 2009

UPDATE - January 22, 2009

For some places NOT to visit:>1=41000

Is it me or is it quite difficult to wear slip slops (flip flops)? Every time I pick up a foot, my toes bend to clench my sandal/flop so it doesn’t come off. Isn’t that a flawed design? Aren’t sandals with a strap around the heel much better because they allow your toes to relax? Does ANYone know what I’m talking about?

Did I tell you that some South African people – when they met Haley (wonderfully loving woman who is doing human rights work in Israel) – told me that they knew I was with a white person. “You could just tell.” “It just seemed quite normal.” I laughed. That was quite hilarious. So if you talk to them about someone in the past they don’t always know and will ask “Was she black?”

So I thought it quite interesting that when I met with one of many mothers who have been in my life (see Mothers section), one white mother took me back in time and told me of a conversation that she had with another white mother. They actually had a conversation about whether or not one would let her daughter date me when older. This second white mother said yes. The first white mother felt the same way about her daughter though there was an age gap. It doesn’t mean that they were/are ok with interracial relationships in general. They definitely feel it’s harder and you must go through much more, but I thought the story (which I never knew) illustrated to me the power of relationship and how knowing someone changes things. Those women knew me and it changed how they thought of me. It was very cool and interesting. I think I have second mothers from all parts of the rainbow. Check out the section.


I am on the job hunt this week and next week. And I’ll probably do research work again in February which will give me about 2-3 weeks before lectures start again in this final semester for me.

This week I counseled a little girl of 5 or 6 who had been sexually abused by a man and kept in a container for 2 years and fed through a hole in the container. You wouldn’t know it by watching her. She was quite joyful, mirthful, and fun-loving. The social worker from the children’s home brought her in to receive HIV/AIDS testing.

We needed two counselors because one had to ask the normal questions to the social worker (you can’t really ask the girl) while the other (me) played with her. Just one problem: she might have a problem with men. And so it seemed for as she grabbed a new toy she always left me and ran back to the other two adult women who were trying to talk in quite tones. They never shooed her away, but talked with her until she came back for another toy. Slowly and slowly, she began to play with me more until she was fine. And then we were bouncing balls off the room and disturbing the other counselor and social worker. Of course, we had to ask her at one point if she knew why she was here. She did: it was to get her blood tested. Why? To make sure I’m ok. That was good enough for us. She was quite brave and was not worried about the pain of the prick (the prick by the way has gotten better over the years, when I was 17, they just jabbed a sharp needle to your finger). She did well, and we prayed we did not have to come back with bad news.

We didn’t have bad news! She was HIV-free, thank God. That would have been horrible. The little girl said she knew a Victor at her children’s home, but she declined to say if he was as handsome as me (the social worker and counselor kept asking her).


This is a dedication to all of my second mothers. I’m one of the most blessed guys I know in terms of second mothers. I do not know why I have them and why I have so many but I do. And I thank God. I have never met a mother that didn’t like me. That’s probably not true, but let’s say most mothers I know like me though I can’t think of any who do not.

Mrs. Karen Showalter – I grew up with Mrs. Showalter. And she felt both close enough and love me enough to meet up with me to tell me things that she was sure I did not want to hear. She did this though she was nervous about it not knowing what I would say. And I appreciate that. Love often will say things when people don’t want to hear it. Thanks.

Mrs. Beth McKim – Mrs. McKim reads every word I write not because she is scoping anything out but simply because she enjoys it. She thinks I update her more than some of her own children. And she has ALWAYS supported me in everything. She’s one of my biggest fans and really encourages me.

Ms. Dorothy Bey – Ms. Bey is one of the coolest people I know. She is my mother not for anything I have done, not for any act, not for any accomplishment. She is just my mother by friend-birth (I’m friends with her son). She exemplifies what I call unconditional love. The relationship would probably be the same if I made tons of life mistakes and was not doing well (and in some eyes/opinions, this is true).

Aunty Emma (white) – In the Nigerian community in Houston, I’m somewhat known just because of a few things I did. So parents my compare their children to me or something. Anyway, Aunty Emma is slightly outside of that. She said something to me about happiness [contrast that with me talking to my friend Leon at a beach farewell party on Monday, the 26th, in which, when I asked him if he was passionate about his first accounting job out of college, he said “It’s not about passion. I’m first-generation college graduate, so I gotta do what I gotta do.”]. She said “I don’t care who are with, if she’s white or not. The question is do you love her. If you love her and she loves you and you’re happy that’s all that matters. I tell my daughters that. If they want to marry a white man, as long as they love each other I support it.” I thought it was very sweet. She’s one of my oldest second mothers and always bickers with my first mother (bickering or negative comments is indicative of a dominant type of our Nigerian cultural humor).

Mrs. Allen – I went to the same school as Mrs. Allen so we have always had a lot in common. She likes me, I mean really likes me and she talks about me when I am not there. She thinks I am amazing, and it’s hard to hear her talk about me when I am in her presence. She is a bit outside of mainstream thought and action so she gets it when I might do something outside of myself for others. I appreciate that.

I thought it was so interesting as I was meeting with one of my second mothers and I heard her talk about another second mother and how they no longer communicate because of a fight many years ago involving husbands who they stuck by. I was so proud of the fact that she could say today that it was nonsense or foolishness, that none of it mattered, but that she didn’t know that then. I try to know that as I go through those types of events. I try to learn as much as I can from my second mothers. It’s just not important. Very few things here (in this life) are.

There are many more second mothers. These just came to mind since they showed me unconditional love when I was home recently.


When I saw home I usually mean my house here. When I say it twice I mean the States. When I say it three times it means Nigeria. Sometimes when I say it once it means Nigeria. But usually when in the States, twice means Nigeria. I’m confused.

Being Home was a funny time. At my father’s church it is a bit lay-led, similar to how the synagogues were led during Jesus’s time. I was there for four Sundays, and one Sunday a man who had preached sermons on why God is a Republican preached a sermon in my presence apologizing for stepping on people’s toes about implying negative things about Obama. But he felt the truth must reign. He also talked about Israel’s actions being right and good and justified.

Now, growing up in Texas, you are used to people equating RIGHT (very dangerous) with themselves and the Republican party and God. They are all the same, all one. So I don’t flinch, I don’t startle. That’s just how it is. I do the think the phenomenon of the Religious Right is on the decline in the administration of Obama which is more unifying (I see the Religious Right as polarizing or segregating, same with a newer group I’ve seen labeled the Religious Left).

So I was quite shocked when I saw people, Africans on the news, in some countries praying for the Republican party not to win. I had just never heard that before. That’s not normal. I’m used to Republicans openly showing their political party connection to God, but Democrats being the ones who understand you can be a Christian and be either (they, after all, went to churches/work/school/lived with mostly Republican people; there are Democrats who think you must be a Democrat if you are a Christian). So when I saw that it made me laugh. I spent time over the time at home with people who thought God put Obama in place. When I asked if Bush was ordained by God and mandated by God to run the country, they said no. I asked about two Christian boxers who get in the ring both praying to God and one wins and the other loses. Did God favor the one who won? They said no, but that “this is our time. Finally, it is our time.” It’s funny. Religion.


I had brunch a week ago with a black South African friend and a white South African friend. They are from different socio-economic backgrounds, and the white girl began to talk about Jesus. “Oh Jesus, he’s so good to me.” “I just prayed ‘Jesus, I need your help. Can you help me out, please?’” I actually have a relationship with Jesus, yet, I felt myself wishing I was more like her. It sounded like Jesus was a friend who did anything she wanted for her, the friend she first goes to and aids her.

So she was talking about Jesus blessing her with one international trip every 6 months (semester) or so. She’s been blessed with fun international trips that she otherwise could not afford. “Jesus is so good to me!” On top of all that, she was blessed with another one and she was going to take off this Friday (today—30th of Jan) to Switzerland. Her father was going on a skiing trip and decided to pay for both daughters to go. At this point I started getting disgusted a bit. Didn’t Jesus have better things to do in this country?

And she told how her father was going to pay for the airfare, but she didn’t have money for the trip, but she was given a job to house-sit for someone in a nice part of town for 3 weeks. They just paid her and they gave her thousands of South African rand for house sitting (she still went to work each day). “Thank you, Jesus!” So I asked why she needed that money. Was her father only paying for the airline ticket and not lodging, for instance. “No, he’s paying for lodging, food, transportation—everything. I needed this money for buying things, for spending money. And Jesus gave it to me.” This began to get interesting.

“Now I just need new ski pants.” What’s wrong with the ones you have? “They are old. My mom gave me a pair but they are really ugly.” Oh, ok. You would not use pants because they’re ugly and don’t match? “No, I would but besides being ugly they actually are not adequate.” And she gave me the reason: they aren’t thick enough. “I didn’t have the money for it and I didn’t think I would be able to afford it or ski, and then my dad called me up and said that he was going to buy ski pants for my sister, and that he would do the same for me! Thank you, Jesus!” At this point Jesus was doing a lot of extra work for this privileged girl to aid this unnecessary holiday trip to a European country.

This continued. She needed a pair of sunglasses (I have never used sun glasses when skiing), and a vest. Later in the week she had miraculous stories of how the money came in for this. She expected to pay for the vest. Why do you need a vest? “I just need one, I need to have one of those sleeveless ones, you know?” I didn’t, but ok. So somehow, someone paid her some money and it was enough for the vest with money left over for the sunglasses. But the sunglasses she wanted cost R200 more than the extra money given. So she was in a bind. I didn’t understand this because she was working (granted as an administrator in a church, but she should have R200). Someone gave her R200 that week. “Thank you Jesus! My ENTIRE trip is paid for. I don’t have to pay a THING! Jesus is good!”

I didn’t understand why Jesus didn’t have better stuff to do. Just thinking, ya know? I am especially sensitive to such things in South Africa where you live with poverty as your neighbor, and he comes knocking all the time. This friend brought up the fact that all the pastors at our churches had really nice cars. “How do you think they got them? They didn’t buy them; people gifted them with those cars.” I had heard it before.

A lot of pastors (either leaning to prosperity theology or in it) will tell you how favored they are. They walk in God’s blessing, bask in God’s favor, just swim in God’s gracious giving. They talk of how people give them vacations, homes, cars, trips, time-shares, seats to games, etc. I know it’s possible God favors them, but isn’t it possible it’s because they are pastors and leaders of churches and congregational members like to honor them. It seems that simple. No one ever gives stuff to the janitor or custodian. I haven’t blessed my pastor here, and I have never felt moved to. I did give a gift to two administrators at the church, one being this girl who was telling me about her many international trips and this new one to Switzerland.

I really think a lot of these pastors get blessed because they are the visible guys in front who people see and to whom they give gifts to honor and say thank you.

But why wouldn’t God (the Jesus one this girl was talking about) spend time blessing some of the people in the townships instead of giving money for unnecessary items for an unnecessary trip to the point of it not costing her one penny? I suppose I have no ability to question God. I do question what people say. . . .who’s doing what. . . .to whom we attribute what. I wonder. Anyway, perhaps God has the ability to give as much as he wants to whom he wants. Who am I to question? Maybe we’re the answer we’ve been looking for, if we and God are one.


So people have been asking me many times over e-mail to read this and to comment. I have read it and know the article well. The article is from an atheist who thinks Christianity is very good for Africa because it changes people. He doesn’t believe in God but he sees the affect it has and believes it has transformative effects on people as tribalism reminds him of some of the problems that plague places like the West.

I do agree that there is something to what he says. There is an effect that Christianity has when it is done correctly. There is a transformational effect. But there is also a dead Christianity (more often found in Europe and North America). There is a Christianity that is unconnected to the issues of today. It's just a thing that gives you hope and certainty (oxymoronic?) for the future -- your afterlife. But real Christianity (let's say what Jesus meant) means you bring heaven to earth NOW, God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven NOW right HERE. That spirit is here in Africa among certain people and Africans. That's why I have never been able to see non-evangelical or non-proselytic aid work that I do as non-missional, even though it's not evangelical missions but medical, construction, educational, public health, etc.

But there are some who see a difference and attack those who might support a social gospel. So let’s talk about it. There is something different in the lives and faces and spirits of these Christians. It's something different. Is it all pervasive? No. There are people practicing Christianity that don't have that. You have all types of mixtures and examples of syncretism, but when it's on it (the real meaning of Jesus) works. So yes, I do agree with him, but Africa needs it in its truest Jesus form,

An aid worker in Khayelitscha was saying that with so many unemployed people with nothing to do, boredom is a huge problem. So it’s quite natural for people to get up and engage in sexual activity. There’s nothing else to do! I thought this was quite insightful, but he knows this from seeing it in practice, in experience.

The same worker (from the book “Everything Must Change” by Brian McLaren) said that a lot of the Christian pastors had failed. They preach about the afterlife and getting saved and salvation but they do nothing for the poor, for education, for AIDS prevention (like condoms). They do nothing practical. People walk away with their salvation but still live in their despair and destruction day after day. It’s a strong contradiction.

But there are a few movements going on which I will try to explain. I have a friend named Kate (powerfully growing teacher who heads a geometry program now, coaches, and has a heart to love the world) who questions a lot of stuff about the Christian God and doesn’t see herself connected to that in some way. I have heard of many “stumbling blocks” or issues people have with the Christian God. So though I don’t know hers, I am sure that I may have heard of some of those issues. Some of these movements address those concerns.


The terms Emerging Church and Emergent Church are used interchangeably by some and used distinctively by others, so let me distinguish between the two if you ever see someone differentiating them.

Emerging refers to the movement to present the gospel of Jesus in new ways. In the U.S. it might be properly called a revival as there was an earlier Emerging Church movement in the Europe (like England). Nonetheless, you might find these people having worship services in coffee shops, outside, or in night clubs at different times to reach a different group of people. Perhaps their services might be so moving that you never get to the sermon and it’s just a complete musical worship service. They may be churches that have a deeper appreciation of the arts and nurture that like praising God through worship-art. No matter the new methods or locations, the message is still the same. An example might be Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church in Seattle (not to be confused with Rob Bell’s Mars Hill in Grand Rapids – VERY different). Mark’s church reaches out to a lot of people like skateboarders, tattoo artists, etc. It’s considered a hip church and Mark dresses accordingly.

The Emergent Church actually deals with people who actually have somewhat different beliefs. These are people who have engaged in a reassessment of Jesus and his words. I would still these people Christian, but some non-Emergent Christians might use terms like heretics or “not Christian” to describe them.

Rather, for me, I love inquiry and questions, and I welcome and embrace anyone willing to grapple with what Jesus meant and means. Like Donald Miller says, I don’t think any of us have our theology together. And as Anne Lammott says everyone thinks they’re right; if they didn’t they wouldn’t believe what they believe.

The problem with criticism of the Emergent Church is that it is not really a church or a denomination. It’s just a bunch of people who might say similar things but are reconsidering Jesus and his words and the gospel and trying to do what they believe he really would have wanted. They do not all say the same things, do the same things. To criticize Emergent Church writers, pastors, doers, you must criticize a specific person and criticize a specific comment or belief. You cannot really paint a broad brush. Many people labeled Emergent do not even know they are Emergent or would not label themselves as such. They just do.

I think it might be fair to talk about one of them, N.T. Wright, an example of his. Traditional Christianity uses the gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and [less so] John from the Bible that tell stores of Jesus’s life) as stories from which you can learn a little theology but to derive the bulk of theology (or all) from the letters of Paul and the epistles (letters from apostles) and Revelations [all the end books of the Bible after the gospels]. A lot of times what N. T. Wright is trying to do is to elevate the place of the gospels. So instead of the gospels being about Jesus, we study the gospel OF Jesus. There is a difference.

Here is a poor example (I have never seen an Emergent person use it, but it illustrates a point). When Jesus was on the cross, he didn’t say “Forgive them because I have paid the price” which is considered theologically correct. Instead he said “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Is there something to be learned in that at all? That’s the question. Like I said, I haven’t seen an Emergent writer use that or say that means forgiveness comes when there is ignorance on the part of committers of sin.

Another example might be the pastor I told you about, maybe a year ago, who thought that we should only concern ourselves primarily with giving alms and charity within the church and not out. He used Paul’s example (Paul was collecting money to give to the church in Jerusalem which was suffering due to a lack of food). Well, in writing I used examples from where? The gospels, in the life of Jesus, the one who healed, helped, related, conversed with people regardless of whether they were disciples of him or not, yet.

People who have participated in a reassessment of Jesus and his message are Walter Brueggemann, Marcus Borg, Miroslav Volf, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis, Dominic Crossan, Diana Butler-Bass, N. T. Wright, Steve Chalke, Brian McLaren, Joan Chittister, Richard Rohr, Rene Padilla, Samuel Escobar, Ched Meyer, Mary Kate Morse, and many more. I have spoken about many of these guys, and I am not calling them all Emergent, but they are interesting people to read. Let’s look at the difference between the Emergent view and the traditional view. From this point, I will use emerging and emergent interchangeably to refer to the Emergent.

EMERGING VIEW versus TRADITIONAL VIEW (directly from “Everything Must Change”)

I am in a restaurant over Christmas (just before I came back to South Africa) and two friends and I am talking about the war in Israel (in Gaza). My Christian friend comments, “I mean, but isn’t there nothing we can do about that? Isn’t it all going to get worse anyway? Doesn’t the Bible say that the world will get worse and Israel will be on top?”

Good questions. And I love questions. Those questions come from the traditional view which has some unintended negative results which we’ll look at. One of them is a disconnection between reality and God. It’s the reason a leader from Burundi called Brian McLaren (after reading a few of his books) to come and speak to Africans about a gospel that has relevance to the hunger and famine, droughts and floods, war, tribalism, and pain they experience in Africa, not just about the afterlife. That led to this book “Everything Must Change” or was part of it. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two views.

The Human Situation: What is the story we find ourselves in?
Conventional View: God created the world as perfect, but because of Adam and Eve (ancestors) did not maintain absolute perfection demanded by God, God has irrevocably determined that the entire universe and all it contains will be destroyed, and the souls of all human beings (except for those special few who are exempt) will be forever punished for that imperfection in hell.
Emerging View: God created the world as good, but humans have rebelled against God and filled the world with evil and injustice. God wants to save humanity and heal it from its sickness, but humanity is hopelessly lost and confused, like sheep without a shepherd, wandering further and further into lostness and danger. Left to themselves, human beings will spiral downward in sickness and hell. [there are other nonreligious Western ontological framing stories and other nonreligious and religious ontological Eastern views; ontology is the study of what it means to exist and be]

Basic Questions: What questions did Jesus come to answer?
Conventional View: Since we are all doomed to hell, Jesus seeks to answer one or both of these questions: How can individuals be saved from eternal punishment in hell and instead go to heave after they die? How can God help individuals be happy and successful until then?
Emerging View: Since the human race is in such desperate trouble, Jesus seeks to answer this question: What must be done about the mess we’re in? The mess refers both to the general human condition and to its specific outworkings among his (Jesus’) contemporaries living under domination by the Roman Empire and who were confused and conflicted as to what they should do to be liberated.

Jesus’ Message: How did Jesus respond to the crisis?
Conventional View: Jesus essentially says “If you want to be among those specifically qualified to escape being forever punished for your sins in hell, you must repent of your individual sins and believe that my Father punished me on the cross so he won’t have to punish you in hell. Only if you believe this will you go to heaven when the earth is destroyed and everyone else is banished to hell. This is good news. [McLaren calls this an evangelical mainline Protestant view; A Roman Catholic one might be “You must believe in the teachings of the church and follow instructions especially concerning the sacraments and moral sins” A liberal protestant one might be “God is nice, and you should be nice, too.”]
Emerging View: Jesus essentially says “I have been sent by God with this good news—that God loves humanity, even in its lostness and sin. God graciously invites everyone and anyone to turn from his or her current path and follow a new way. Trust me and become my disciple, and you will be transformed, and you will participate in the transformation of the world which is possible beginning right now. This is good news.

Purpose of Jesus: Why is Jesus important?
Conventional View: Jesus came to solve the problem of “original sin” meaning that he helps qualified individuals not to be sent to hell for their sin or imperfection. In a sense, Jesus saves people from God or from the righteous wrath of God, which sinful human beings deserve because they have not perfectly fulfilled God’s just expectations, expressed in God’s moral laws. The escape from punishment is not earned or achieved, but is given as a free gift which can be received as an expression of God’s grace and love. Those who receive it enjoy a personal relationship with God and seek to serve and obey God which produces a happier life on Earth and more rewards in heaven.
Emerging View: Jesus came to become Savior of the world, meaning he came to save the earth and all it contains from its ongoing destruction because of human evil. Through his life and teaching, through his suffering, death, and resurrection, he inserted into human history a seed of grace, truth, and hope that can never be defeated. This seed will prevail over evil and injustice of humanity and led to the world’s ongoing transformation into the world God dreams of. All who find in Jesus God’s hope and truth discover the privilege of participating in his ongoing work of personal and global transformation and liberation from evil and injustice. As part of his transforming community, they experience liberation from the fear of death and condemnation. This is not something they earn or achieve, but rather a free gift they receive as an expression of God’s grace and love.

Whew! A lot here. So many of these Emerging view holders are criticized. I have never seen any deny the deity of Christ. In fact all the ones I’ve read affirm and hold to it. They do downplay the “spiritual” part of Christianity or the afterlife but another way to look at it is a refocus on the usually downplayed here-and-now or social part of Christ’s message. I’ve seen Mark Driscoll criticize people about the existence of hell, but again I have not seen any of them say there is no hell.

Rather you should look at the two views as two extremes. Most people would be somewhere in between, Some lean heavily to the traditional and add bits of the emerging view as fine print. Some lean to the emerging view and grab parts of the traditional view.

The goal of course is to read the scriptures for what they say. Most of us actually come to scripture reading already knowing what it should say, what it will say, what it cannot say, what it will never say, etc. So interpretation says more about the interpreter than it does about God. So many are trying to get at the heart of what it would have meant to people back then and what do Jesus’ words really mean (if perhaps we have some of our own theology and doctrine wrong and have not reached perfection).

But instead I see a lack of unity among Christianity with cries of heresy for any deviation from what is considered orthodoxy. Sigh. I wish we would struggle together and stay connected instead of all this infighting.

I found out that in addition to my pastor rejecting the book “Sex God” by Rob Bell and telling the bookstore manager (who ordered many copies after I told my friend to request one to read) to return them all, the reason my life group did not do a book study last year was because my life group leader did ask about purchasing “Velvet Elvis” (also by Rob Bell) but it was rejected. The pastor said it made good points but was theologically shaky. This, too, disappointed me. It’s hard to see the pastors as the gatekeepers of what can be read and seen and what cannot be. I prefer a more open bookstore as there is much truth to learn from Rob Bell. I feel that what I just said may be true since I’ve seen groups of mainline Christian friends who have read those books and who have been helped in their lives by those books.

Not only do traditionally many Christians hold to the traditional view and believe there are a select few. Some believe God preselected who would be saved before time began (general understanding of predestination, though there are others). There is even a view, held by John Piper, that God did not sacrifice Jesus because of the original sin problem (in other words as a Plan B), but rather God first chose to sacrifice Jesus before the problem arose as it would be the ultimate way to glorify his Son.

I myself read a lot of emergent writers but go to a traditional church (my church falls along Mark Driscoll’s church’s lines; they are considered part of a New Reformed movement which is a just a revival of the Reformed movement normally called Calvinism; one aspect is that God selected who would be saved and there’s nothing we can do to change that, avoid that, or frustrate that plan). When I found out this week my church was Calvinistic like that, I disagreed and felt confused. Of course, I’m fine and I will still stay here (I do believe in unity), but it shows that many of the Emergent writers receive harsh criticisms like heretics but to believe something of the traditional view (which is just another view) is never dangerous. No one would ever name call a traditional view holder. But let’s look at the negative consequences of the traditional view even though there is much to learn from the traditional view.

1. The emerging view sees Jesus as a medicinal cure to a lethal infection that plagues humanity (it’s probably better considered an organic/herbal medicine; the sickness is sin), while the conventional view sees Jesus as a legal solution to human infraction against God. The problem is that it relegates Jesus to practical insignificance in relation to human problems in society since the message is about the afterlife and guilt.
2. The emerging view sees God’s primary focus as the transformation and salvation of humanity within (keyword) history while the conventional view offers little hope for history and anticipates complete destruction and replacement. The problem is that people latch on to hopelessness of this world through dreams of the afterlife instead of being motivated and mobilized into action to transform the world here and now.
3. In the emerging view, God’s concern is holistic, integral, seeing individual and society, soul and body, life and afterlife, humanity and creation being inextricably connected. [a great example of this attacked is Rob Bell’s speaking tour and DVD “Everything Is Spiritual”]. The conventional view sees life as more dualistic where things are categorized into spiritual and secular. The problem is that the dualism can tend to keep faith a private and personally spiritual matter so people view themselves as only passing through and remained disengaged beyond church life and family.
4. In the emerging view, God cares about all people and special blessings come to one person or group are to be shared for the common good. They are blessed to be a blessing to everyone (everyone; Abrahamic covenant). In the traditional view, God blesses a select group or person with little or nothing for everyone else (except condemnation). The problem is that it tends to create an us-versus-them mentality or an elitism that can cut Christians off from others.
5. The emerging view sees God seeking to save the world from the suicidal machinery of a society driven by a false framing story (way we view the world). In the normal view, God must destroy the world and all it contains because of sin. Since the destruction is from God (specifically God’s wrath and damnation) it is from God that we must be saved. The problem is that since God’s essential attitude is seen as one of wrath, it’s had to see God as an ally in our world’s transformation. [ a GREAT example of an often criticized example of the emerging view is Rob Bell’s speaking tour and DVD “The God’s Aren’t Angry At Us”; I have no problem reconciling the emerging view with Biblical use of the word “wrath” because I see the terms “wrath” that Paul writes as consequential/resultant or metaphorical not as emotional; you won’t find an example of actual anger in Jesus’ life with the sinners and common folk, only with the establishment and hypocrites; there are actual examples of emotional anger in the old testament between God and the Israelites like in Numbers 11]
6. By postponing the essence of salvation to the afterlife, and assuming God’s plan is to destroy the earth, the conventional view tends to lead us to believe things will get worse and worse and that this deterioration is God’s will and his plan. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy (if you understand the term). The worse it gets, the better some Christians feel because the post-mortem salvation after the world is destroyed is eminent. The problem is that it can lead to a religious death-wish, a celebration in our “progress” towards destruction.

So though there is value in the traditional view, there are negative consequences like the question my friend asked about what to do about Israel and Palestine (and the entire Arab world). Or my friend saw God blessing her and you wonder if somehow there was a way to pass that on. I was proud of the friend (she is slowly growing) instead of keeping the money from that meal (I paid) she actually paid for two lunches of others that week. This is highly unusual as she looks for people to pay for her. I think she exaggerates her poverty because I know having a job at church (though not as great as the church pastors or industry people) gives you enough money to comfortably live.

So I sit and try to work through a lot of what is going on at church, with readings, actions, the world, these views, disunity, and confusion. And hopefully I can be part of the group of Jesus followers that affects the world positively in public way.


So I have been meaning to tell people about this exercise program. It’s a 6-week program that helps you to do 100 consecutive push-ups.

I have just completed the program, and some people make a big deal about me being bigger. I am actually not bigger, and I’m happy to say that I had breakfast with a friend after Christmas and she said that I was muscular judging from a picture she saw. Since the picture was taken in 2005, I felt vindicated that I was always a skinny kid (I say skinny because we all have muscles, they are just sometimes easier to see on me because I didn’t inherit a lot of body fat from my thin father). I do hate looking at yourself when working out. There’s a definite ego involved. I’m trying to stop looking in mirrors so much.

Anyway, join in if you would like. You can follow me on the push-ups logger. My login name is udoewa. I just completed the third day of week 6, so I will probably try a test in a few days. There is another program website started after the hundred pushups site. It’s called Two Hundred Situps.

Check ‘em out!
Beware, the pushups make men’s breast grow a bit bigger and gives women’s breast lift (due to the pectoral definition) but may make them grow smaller due to faster metabolism in general and due to increased muscle in that area.


Did anyone read about Samantha who is working at Oprah’s girls school in South Africa? I thought it was a nice way to give back and earn money while she finishes her thesis. A friend sent me this music video by Declan Galbraith about our world.

Also let me add an addendum to last week’s update. I probably do try to help people. I think I meant that I don’t try to think to help people. Rather, helping people happens naturally (automatically is a better word) without trying to think to help people. Truthfully I probably do think about it. But when asked by critics to analyze why I did what I did or do what I do, I often fall back on that “I was trying to help people” which is used against me. I do think it is a natural outcome of something greater rather than an intensely intentional thing. Automatic is probably a better word, though, there are still many areas for me to work on.


Did you see this? All I could do was smile and laugh.
It’s about the cuddly first couple. From the moment I visited the States and went to an Obama speech in Houston, TX in February 2008 during the Democratic primary to the inauguration and this video, I’m pretty sure Obama has rock star or music star status. Hands down.

Obama has captured the hearts and minds of people here. My pastor approached me today (Wednesday, the 27th) saying that he was not Black, nor American, but he was so moved by the ceremony. The most amazing thing to him about it is that it’s a completely political event and at the center of it he felt God was there or that it was about God. He said this because of the prayers during the inauguration (this is not common for all countries so some people see the U.S. ceremony as very Godly).

He still covers popular magazines. I have now seen he and his wife on the cover of South African popular magazines, even Afrikaans South African magazines. It’s amazing.

And yes, people have already started being disappointed. Some didn’t like his choice of Rick Warren, some didn’t like him appointing the gay bishop to do a prayer for one of the inauguration events. Some want him to take a harder stance with Israeli-Palestinian relations. And many disagree with many of his appointments. But overall, public opinion of him seems not yet to have waned. He is still flying high in people’s sights. And I imagine he will be given much slack since he is viewed as capable, intelligent, and having the American people’s interest at heart.

My pastors were enamored with Rick Warren’s prayer. I thought his words were nice, but I really liked the words of the pastor who closed the actual inauguration ceremony, Reverend Dr. Joseph Lawrence. Did you hear his words? Though he had a funny ending (“. . .where every red man, can get ahead, man. . .”), I thought his prayer, his words were excellent. In fact, there were lots of excellent words that day.


A former pastor of mine, in an church newsletter, wrote these words:

Practically all you have seen on the news today is the inauguration and celebration of our 44th President, and rightly so. It is difficult for many Americans who have not suffered the hardships of African-Americans and other minorities to understand the significance of this day in American history—but it is an incredible testimony of the human spirit and the honoring of human dignity for all, which really only thrives where there is biblical foundation. Really, it is the moral roots of this nation’s early history that are shining through today.

He went on to commend Bush and Obama for a peaceful and pleasant transition in front of the world with no bloodshed. But I thought his comment about the moral roots of the nation funny.

Normally when people throw out a person’s history or work because of faults, I am against such things. You can learn a lot from most people. That doesn’t mean the person didn’t have faults, but it does mean that some of the things they wrote or said can still contain truth. And I am on the search for truth. So sometimes you will find Blacks who discount many of our forefathers because of blaring contradictions and hypocrisies that many whites in American don’t understand or miss the irony because of their perspective.

I thought the comment was funny because I thought we had a lot of immoral roots to our country, and it’s good to understand that, embrace that, and learn from that.

I love the United States of America, even in full recognition of its many and glaring faults, past and present. For a young country, it is the most inspiring country to me in its founding documents and in the ideals to which the founders aspired. It’s been said (I’ve written it before) that the greatness of the Constitution lies not in anything that was actually written but in the fact that its writers knew they did not have it all together. They knew they didn’t account for everything and had not worked out everything. So the greatness lies in the fact that it is a living, changing, mutable document; it lies in the allowance for amendments. So now future generations have the legacy of perfecting what was not fully perfect. Can you see the oxymoron?

Here is my favorite line in the Constitution. It’s from the Preamble to the Constitution.

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union. . .”

First of all, I LOVE language. And you can study the nuances and subtleties and diction (word choice) in any language. Look at the juxtaposition of more and perfect. This is amazing to me! The founding fathers had a clear understanding different than mine. I looked at perfection as a state. They shifted away from that paradigm; they are offering me a new one. They are saying that (ok I’m interpreting for them, but follow me), we will NEVER have it all together [Donald Miller says about the different Christian sects that none of us have all our theology perfectly correct]. So instead of perfection being the state of rightness and correctness in which there exists nothing wrong which we will never reach if we will never have it all together, instead perfection is simply being on the journey of continually correcting and always moving toward that ever-elusive state. Since we will always have problems, perfection is simply the process of getting better. As long as we do that, we’re right where we want to be. [this is why it’s scary when world leaders use terms like “axis of evil” or “Mr. Devil” or “Satan” or “we’re right and they’re wrong”]. How ingenious is that language?

That’s why our founding fathers and documents are so amazing. They set forth ideals that were even beyond where those fools (I use it light-heartedly) were. Imagine writing

“We hold these truths o be self-evident that all men were created equal. . .”

and later counting slaves as property, as 3/5 of a person and counting women as below men. I am willing to be that if you asked them to reword that to say “white men” they would NOT have done it though it would have been true and more what they meant. I am willing to be if you asked them to replace “men” with “male human beings” they would not have done it, though that is what they meant. Let’s not even start with children.

So there was lots of immorality at play in our founding, but the funny thing is much of the language doesn’t reflect it. So it gave us a place to go, a way to keep perfecting, to continue creating a more perfect union, to even use their own words against them or rather for them AND for us to make this the country God intended and intends for all countries, to bless EVERYone. How beautiful is that?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Paul the apostle was the first on in history to ever say men and women were equal (he also gave seemingly contradictory instructions to women in worship service, but I believe those are reconcilable through contextualization) but how long from that stage did it take to even get to equal protection under the or equal civil liberties and rights for men and women? How many countries still live with the subjugation of women? And how many paralegal (alongside the law) female-male disparities do we still live with, today, though the law is good (like glass ceilings or salary disparities for the same job that no one knows how they come about)?

That was the greatness. Even in moral failings, they wrote most of the words with the highest moral standing, even above their own. And it’s one reason I love to listen to Obama. Just listen to a speech with a paper and pencil and watch what comes out. He said this phrase in his inaugural speech:

“The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit,” said Obama, “to choose our better history, to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation — the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” (emphasis added)

To choose our better history? I LOVE that. There’s so much there. It acknowledges that we, as a country, our government, our leaders have done some pretty horrible things to other people, countries, each other (civil wars), and even to the least in our society. And at the same time we don’t want to dwell on our history and live in the past, we still must learn from our history. One of the best ways to learn from history, our history, is to choose our better history. After looking at our past and what we’ve done well and what we’ve done poorly and what we should never have done, we choose to relive, rehearse, revive, and reconceive our victories, our better history. That’s learning. That’s acknowledging our mistakes, and that’s reliving the successes and the sure footing. Choosing our better history. I don’t think I would have ever come up with that. Maybe I would have done so. But I like the phrase.


Zimbabwe is still in a pickle of a situation. With 2 billion percent inflation, billion Zim Dollar notes, more than 3,000 cholera deaths (60,000 others infected), famine and hunger, no working unity government, closed universities, hospitals turning people away—the people are suffering. SADC has finally said that they want to swear in Tsvangirai by the 13th of next month. So they are moving to that. Still we have yet to see if Tsvangirai will agree to that without a proper sharing of government power in a way that promotes security and economic change. Actually, the MDC denounced the agreement to swear in Tsvangirai on the 11th and appoint ministers as agreed by SADC in November. They challenge the unanimity of this SADC agreement reached on the 27th of Jan as declared by South African President Motlanthe. But Tsvangirai, candidate of the MDC, did say he agreed to this. So there may be infighting in the MDC which has not gained any of the key ministries or clear definitions of prime ministerial and presidential roles that it had requested since the last agreement. So since this is a similar agreement, perhaps people in the MDC do disagree with it and are not ready to given in. We will see.

The LRA is still doing their business and did some recent raids on DRC towns. They are still at large. However, General Nkunda has been captured (last week)! Kinshasa and Kigali came together and worked together to capture him while he was on the run. We hope the partnership (haven’t seen it before) between Rwanda and the Congolese army continues, and the next step is to see how this affects the future.

The Economist reports that perhaps Kagame (president of Rwanda) was embarrassed by reports of the connections between himself, his country, and Nkunda (general of the National Congress for the Defense of the People CNDP who said he was fighting to protect East Congolese Tutsi from the Hutu genocide soldiers of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Even Britain threatened to cut off aid to Rwanda if they didn’t do something and cut ties.

Kagame and Kabila (DRC Pres) agreed to a swap. Kagame would capture Nkunda and remove him from Eastern Congo (actually I think they were supposed to hand him over) and the DRC would incorporate the CNDP soldiers into the Congolese army after Rwanda broke it up. The DRC would also let Rwandan troops come over the border to destroy the Hutu FDLR. And they wouldn’t tell the UN peacekeeping soldiers anything in advance (surprise!). It seemed like a good deal for DRC who had lost faith in the UN peacekeeping force and needed a way to promote and make peace in the eastern part of his country where he had lost control.

Now, we wait and see.


Well, since this update was deleted, and I had to retype it, I’m not sure what to write. I don’t have much to say. We’re still fighting the same fights and battling the same things. We still are looking for peace in Zimbabwe.
Obama still rules the world and South Africa! Ha ha!

We will again host Ms. World this year in 2009, and we have hosted it more times than any other country.

The biggest thing now is politics. We have another voting registration weekend even though they said the last weekend they did it was the last time. But we don’t have enough people registered. So the TV is filled with lots of adverts promoting getting registered to vote. Some opposition groups feel they have enough support to actual beat out the ANC this year. Most likely this will not happen, but there will be some change with the new opposition group COPE. We’ll see what will happen. You never know.


I saw “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare. We have a Shakespeare in the Park event once a year in the summer where they put on one play. People usually picnic in the park before hand. It was lovely. I went between three groups of friends there. If you like Shakespeare then you would have enjoyed yourself. It wasn’t the best acting, but it was fun. It was probably the darkest comedy I have ever seen. The director had this Xhosa Warrior guy who acted like some kind of forest spirit or something who was invisible but in many scenes and he would dance and move. It provided nice interludes. And he acted as the deer that was caught and hunted by some of the characters who lived in the forest. At the end at the wedding celebration people did South African style dance to Black South African folk music. It’s really interesting to see. If you know the story, the Duke banished to the forest acted like a New Age/Eastern religious leader/healer and his band of hippie Western followers. It was quite funny. The Duke who did the banishing was like from the Spanish Inquisition. All his henchman had huge crosses on their black garments with large hoods that hid their faces. It was quite interesting. It was definitely a mix of times and places in one play. It’s always interested to see how people reinterpret Shakespeare, but this guy did a few different time periods in one play. It was funny. The best characters were not the main ones. But they were captivating when they were on the stage, whether speaking or not. It’s also funny to hear some South African accents slip through the English ones, but I’m not sure if they did it on purpose or not.

Baby Tshepang

I saw this play about an incident in 2003 or 2002 about a child rape. The child was 9 months and almost died. They had 6 guys in custody but found out that their DNA did not match the DNA of the semen found on the baby. Later the police found out it was the live-in boyfriend (who was married to someone else) of the mother. He wanted intercourse from her, and she wanted alcohol. She gave him the baby and she went off to the tavern and got drunk. He violated that child almost to death. It became big news and apparently more child rape cases came to the news. So there has been a growing awareness about it since then.

It was a powerful play, one of the best I have seen since being here in South Africa, and it was done in a very small intimate theatre. It’s being made into a movie, so the writer/director of it is quite happy along with the man (it was only a 2-person cast) who was the main character who was the original actor since 2003. The actress was new and had only been doing it for 2 weeks for this production in Cape Town.

There is lots that I could say about the play from the female Christ imagery which challenges gender roles (Tshepang is not the actual baby’s name, but the name given to the baby by the town; it means Savior) in the play to the visual motif of beds. At one point in the play the main character sat on the actual large bed, while the silent actress (lost in her grief) laid her head and shoulders on a small bed and a very tiny bed made for a dollhouse was empty. They represented to me the three characters and levels of development—the baby whose life was cut short before even 1 yr, the mother whose growth had long since stopped as she lived for men and alcohol, and the main character whose growth was the most with his perspicacity into the situation yet still faced stunted growth himself. The most amazing work was done by the girl, the actress. She had much work to do to act for an entire play without speaking. Only the best actors (opinion) can act without words. It’s harder because you lose one of the main tools of the actor.

The toughest moment came when the main actor relived the actual rape on the mid-sized bed (size of a person’s back) using a loaf of bread and a broom stick in a small spotlight. You know how people understand the interaction between an actor and the audience with comedies. Laughter can fuel an actor and teach him timing (whether to linger or go on). There is a give and take. The same happens, though harder to detect, in dramas. Gasps, silences, and in this case pure crying communicate to an actor. People were crying, sniffling, bawling controllably. You had to try to control it; it was such a small intimate space and you didn’t want to ruin the play but at one point I became aware that it was not the actress that was crying but several people in the audience.

They had trouble getting it funded in the era overflowing from the “New South Africa” which was all about joy and peace and prosperity and truth and freedom. So it was harder to get back to the reality of life since Mandela, that there are many problems we still have, from which we still have not escaped. There’s much work to do.

Happy Weekend!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009


January 17, 2009

My very masculine friend pointed out that I kept having conversations about a book called “Eat Pray Love.” I told him that happens because it relates to the conversation. He thought it was because I am a girl. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (blink). . . .(blink). . . . . . . . I think I am a boy.
Is there ANY boy, metrosexual or heterosexual, who has read the book “Eat Pray Love”?
Please speak and show my chauvinist friend, Jose-Miguel, that I wasn’t the only one. Are there any? Any? Are there any women who have male friends who read the book? I looked out in Oprah’s audience the day the author was on the show, but all I saw were women. I am a boy, right? . . .anybody? E-mail back.

Twelve percent of adults are supposed to have HIV in South Africa. And the percentage gets higher when you include kids. There are regions of the country where the prevalence rate is 50%. Now what would you do if you were getting your head cut by a barber and the barber accidentally cuts your head (breaks the skin) with his electric clippers and blood is pouring from your head at the sight of which he nonchalantly continues to cut and finally dabs the blood with a napkin and continues cutting while it continues bleeding? (Later he dabs the blood again)

A Nothing because you’re so shocked that he didn’t use alcohol or something else. Doesn’t he realize this is South Africa?

B Tell him you have diarrhea and quickly run to the nearest bathroom OUTside the barbershop.

C Tell him you have AIDS (to get him to stop cutting your head).

D Ask him to please use Neosporin to heal the wound before continuing because 8 out of 10 doctors recommend Neosporin for minor cuts and bruises.

E Ask him if he is not waiting to stop the bleeding because he’s actually also a doctor and is one of the 2 out of 10 doctors who did not recommend Neosporin.

F Ask him if those same clippers have ever caused a cut on anyone else’s head, and right before he answers the question, cut him off and say “No, nevermind. I DON’T want to hear the answer.”

By the way, really quickly, if you had to list the top five most pressing problems facing the world today, what would they be? Take a moment to jot them down. And then compare with the global section somewhere below.


I’m back, and it’s good to be home? It’s strange. On the plane from Senegal to South Africa, I see people I know and meet a girl who knows a friend of mine. I’m greeted at the airport by a wonderful friend who is there to pick me up and see another friend beside her who happens to be at the airport. As I walk in the warm Cape Town weather outside, someone honks (hoots) his car horn at me as he drives by. At the grocery store, I bump into two friends. . . .I think people know me here, at least a bit.

But I still love anonymity. It’s one of my favorite things. And most of us take it for granted until it’s completely and utterly gone (as it is for celebrities where even people who have never met them know them). I can actually say it feels like home here. The purpose of staying or actually living in a foreign country seems to have been served for me. I wanted to actually stay long enough to develop a community of family and friends and peers, have people whom I support and who support me. Though I haven’t fully explored it (I have just been invited to audition and possibly join a salsa performance group and I have to yet to act in a production in Cape Town among many other things still yet to do and explore), I can say that I actually live here and occupy a particular place in society that is outside that of short-term visitors.

And it feels good.

The FIRST thing I want to do is head to the beach. I’ve been missing it in the cold of Houston (yes, it actually snowed the day before I arrived). I may do that either tomorrow or perhaps next weekend.

Oh I forgot to mention that I have 4 articles/papers out being reviewed. Before I left in December, the first week, one was finally accepted for publication (meaning no more asking me to revise it). The second of the first two is still sitting with editors in the form of a 2nd draft. I submitted two more in December before leaving. Yesterday, one came back from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Journal of Aircraft as accepted. They sent an e-mail right before New Year’s only asking me to eliminate some pictures and shorten some parts (no substantive or content-based editorial changes at all). So that will go through typesetting as well. The second of the final two papers is still with the editors. So I’ll probably have four published this year from this set.


Christmas was such fun, one of our best ever.
We hosted, so everyone came over to the house.
It was a full house full of food, folks, and fun!
Some were watching Nigerian movies (the adults),
others were playing board games (Taboo rules),
others watched American football (there are always
American football games and sometimes basketball
games to watch on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day,
and New Year's Day), others played with children, others just ate and ate and ate. My cousin made quite professional sweets -- brownies, cookies, and some type of chocolate mini-tarts. I made lots of food and starches--sweet potato banana casserole and sweet potato sausage casserole (along with mashed potatoes). We had two animals--turkey and ham (Haley ordered and mailed a wonderfully cooked ham cooled by dry ice). It was great! We ate well. And we laughed and laughed and laughed as normal. It was good to be home to see it all. I especially loved seeing wives who were married and kids who were born while I've been gone. So that was sooo good!

New Years was more of the same somewhat. I went to the watchnight service at my father’s church. No one came outside the family. So we just had a service just us, about 10 of us. The youngest, Itoro, said it was SO good. He made me laugh. We did have a good time with the music. And everyone had to go forward and say what we were thankful about in the previous year and what we looked forward to happening in 2009. It made you feel good to be home to reconnect.


The rest of the time was busy spent seeing people. Some people are equal opportunity visitors and will allow you to do groups. Some people specifically want one-on-one time with Victor. So many days I spent going from a long breakfast straight to a long lunch and a small break in between and then a long dinner. At the same time, I tried to spend time with my family which I did a good job though someone made a comment that I was always out after I had postponed all engagements for the weekend of my dad’s church’s 1 year anniversary (my father actually rebooked my flight [they canceled the return flight in July which gave him some leverage to rebook the departure as well] to make me come back almost a week later so I would be in Texas for the 1-year anniversary of his church.

Many people asked me what I was doing during the entire 4-5 week break. I was trying to apply for jobs, write letters, visit friends, spend time with family, work on papers to be published, go over proofs of accepted papers before the editors send it off for printing, submitting manuscripts, looking for agents, record some songs, doing some research on a writing project, do the music for my dad’s church, cooking, do flyers and a video for my dad’s church, etc. The list goes on. The biggest thing for me to do was apply to jobs which I have actually officially started to do this week now that I’m back.

The one-year anniversary itself was nice. It was 3 days worth of events. My father’s church, originally planned to be a church plant of a previous church but was planted independently, has only 3 families in it. But for special events like the Christmas program or the 1 year anniversary the place gets full. Full is something like 50-60 people. It’s not a large building. So people came from Houston, in-state (Texas), other states, and (one person) from Nigeria. It was good. I was doing the music so my sister was able to get a break from choosing songs.


I received so many interesting comments from this. The most interesting of them was a conversation that I had with a woman who is a friend of the family, around my mother’s age. First, if you didn’t read the section in the previous update, you may want to go refresh yourself. Otherwise, let’s dive in.

The most interesting phenomenon is that when bad things are happening and someone asks you how you are doing and you say “Actually I’m quite well” this is the confused response.

How are you?
I’m doing fine.
No, really, how are you.
Actually I’m ok.
I know that has to hurt. That must hurt.
(in trying to feel or be hurt for the person) Yes, it’s really tough, man.
Well, you can’t walk around hurt all the time. You need to learn to rise above it.

That’s my general experience. If you are somehow peaceful amidst craze, people don’t believe it and actual want you to be “honest” and show how it messes you up. So when you agree to “be messed up” they then tell you how you need to be able to deal with your situation and not be messed up, sad, delirious, teary-eyed, depressed, or angry (which they wanted you to be originally).

Actually when I wrote that I was quite calm. I don’t think I was frustrated, but perhaps I’m lying to myself. Secondly, I used the term extended family.

Some people wrote about having similar experiences. Some said it was the similar but they weren’t black sheep, more like grey sheep. Others were like this meeting I had with this woman who thought a few things. One, I didn’t understand my extended family. And two, what was probably hard for my extended family was security. Would I be able to take care of them in future? Many of our families in our Nigerian communities are not well off with huge retirement savings. The funny thing is that the thought of security was actually not new as I’ve been told that none of the tension over my life has to do with anyone in the extended family wanting money from me. To prove this it was pointed out that I’ve not been asked for money to help the family out for years (other people have helped out). So I’m not sure about any of that. As for understanding, I think I meant that I can see how they think what they think, and I would, too, in the same situation and life experience.

So the walk-away point was that the children are supposed to take care of the parents, period. It’s my responsibility, and to abdicate is negligent and, if I understood it correctly, amoral. I think this would probably fit in line with many countries. I don’t know if it’s very popular in the States. Regardless, in this conversation it was suggested to me to start a savings account/investment of some sort to prepare and take care of the parents. I would like to do it and thought it was a wonderful idea and spoke immediately to my siblings. There are a few complications though and I’m not sure if we’ll be able to do it or when or how soon. Maybe. I would like to see it, even if it’s just a little.

The interesting point of the conversation is that the woman said I could do both—do something I felt God had put in my heart and make a lot of money to take care of the parents. Why are they mutually exclusive? And she thought I was just the person to make it work. I hope so. I don’t know. I know the jobs I’m looking at. I know the Engineers without Borders placement or the Doctors Without Borders placements would cause tension. I know that. I know the jobs that would give me lots of money, and I’m not excited about that. But I thought it interesting that she said it was my responsibility which implies that providing for them is priority. You do that first. So if you have to choose between two things, you take the best job and provide for them. This was not a person from my culture. She was a middle-aged white woman who is a like a second mother. So it was very interesting. I will look for some way to synthesize the two. I truly believe I will be able to do it much later in life. Whether I can do it for my next job starting in July/August, we shall see.


Now the biggest news for us is the inauguration. I often wondered at how a presidential candidate could grace the cover of so many popular magazines. Then I figured it’s good for your campaign. But after the campaign was over, would they end? Over here. . .the answer is no. He still graces the cover of a few popular magazine, and it’s so funny to see that. I’ve never seen that with a presidential candidate. Its shows his striking popularity and the great strides he’s made before even being elected or doing anything as president.

I’ll say it again: even if he’s does nothing as President, he’s already done so much. This time let me point to an amazing happening in South Africa—campaigns!!!

In South Africa, we don’t have the system in the U.S. with huge fundraisers and requests to raise money for traveling around the country for televised town hall meetings, live broadcast debates, etc. You just know who the candidates are, and then you make up your mind. But there is no campaign season, no debates, nothing. It’s hard to figure out the actual platform of candidates (remember that in reality you vote for a party here not the candidate). Well, guess what?

While I was gone, I believe due to the American election influence, they started to have a weekly series of debates between presidential candidates!!! WHAT??!!!!! When did THIS happen? This doesn’t happen in South Africa. In fact, it never happens and to prove it, notice that Zuma sent the third in command to do the debate in his place while he simultaneously appeared on another TV slot. I doubt he’ll do that again. Sunday, the 18th, is the next one, and hopefully I will get to watch. The long, drawn-out, fiercely fought primary elections and national secondary elections were watched by South Africans, and now they are making the campaign and platforms public which is quite wonderful for the general public. It’s easier for them to be educated about the candidates this way and judge for themselves which party presents the best choice. Good job U.S.A.!

And now the biggest rumor here is that Oprah was asked to be the next US Ambassador to South Africa. Of course, her people have said that she is not considering that (but potential candidates are required to be silent about such until the president himself announces a nomination). She would have to figure out what to do with her TV show, but a friend told me she was looking to wind it down anyway within the next 2 years or so. I’m not sure if that’s true, but an actual US embassy official in Pretoria did say that at the workplace (in the embassy) the only person they are talking about is Oprah, so it’s quite possible she was asked and is considering it.


Well, it is as if time were frozen while I was gone. None of the issues or problems facing South Africa or Africa were resolved. And to be honest, do you blame anyone? These are huge problems.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) took their case to a constitutional court. And they have now got the judges in the constitutional court to overrule the ruling by Judge Nicholson earlier which ordered Zuma’s case be dropped on technicality and that there seemed to be political motivation involved in the case against Zuma. So this Supreme Court reinstated the charges against Zuma allowing, once again, the NPA to go ahead and pursue a case against the presidential candidate. As of now, Zuma is in the strongest position to become the next president. And he would appear in court as president by the time the court case starts. In the U.S., let me say, in such a situation (especially for the length of time that Zuma has been in this situation) the candidate would step down. But Zuma doesn’t want it, and you already know it has been stated in a speech by the ANC Youth League head that “we would kill for Zuma.” Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point.

The ANC Youth League reminds me of education, and I’m sure you know Oprah’s school is in South Africa. One of my favorite blogs to read is that of Samantha, a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Johannesburg. She finished her scholarship tenure last year along with Haley and others, but she is staying in South Africa to finish her masters thesis as most people take longer than a year (except Haley of course). I actually don’t read blogs, but as I was required to read Haley’s I clicked the link to Samantha’s and enjoyed seeing her perspective as an African-American in an African country. That’s why I like it. She is also a big Oprah supporter (in favor of Oprah’s school), and she actually decided to come back and work as an RA at Oprah’s school while finishing up her thesis. The story about meeting Oprah is near the top of her blog. The actual visit last year (during our 2nd semester or the U.S./European autumn semester) to the school for the first time is about 2/5ths of the way down the page. Please read both of the accounts if you get a chance. She seems a bit infatuated with Oprah, though. Heh heh!

Well, since our academic year falls in line with the calendar year, the high school (secondary school) graduates have their results and if they passed, they’ve been accepted into South African universities or technical schools. So that’s quite great. Out of the entire Western Cape (my “state” or province), the top results come, of course, from Cape Town (we have the best schools). I will probably continue working with Cape Town schools this new year and semester.
But the Western Cape also had a first—Cholera! An incidence of cholera showed up here while I was gone. The situation there has worsened.


Radesh, one of my housemates and Anna’s boyfriend, says that there are supposed to be 40,000 cases of cholera in Zimbabwe. The number has increased since I left. Have you heard of the group Physicians for Human Rights? Go check them out. They are saying that the cholera epidemic is so bad that action should be taken with the International Criminal Court.

Ghana just had its run-off election in December while I was gone. The incumbent New Patriotic Party offered candidate Nana Akufo-Addo who beat the National Democratic Congress (NDC) party candidate John Atta Mills by a small enough margin that the rules required a run-off. In the runoff, Mills won 50.2% of the vote compared to Akufo-Addo’s 49.8%. Wow! That’s close. It’s supposed to be the smallest margin of victory in Africa’s (the continent’s) electoral history. Asia and Africa have shorter electoral histories than the Americas and Europe but that’s still something. It seems they have developed a two-party-dominant political system there which is reminiscent of the States.

Many were watching Ghana with hopes of showing that Africa can have a peaceful election compared to Kenya or Zimbabwe or even strife in Nigeria a bit ago (not as bad). But Akufo-Addo admitted defeat quickly after the election results were announced, and the current president Kufuor (of the NDC) also conceded for his party. So though there were some reports of intimidation and attacks at the voting polls (and the police had to use a water hose to tame a brawl), there were less reports during the run-off as such. And international observers were happy with the decision. This is good news.

In all honesty, I was never worried about Ghana erupting in violence. They have had democratic rule since 1992 and have been doing a good job. They also discovered offshore oil in 2007 which some worry will lead to the type of corruption in Nigeria. I doubt it though as Nigeria had oil before it ever had democratic rule (correct me if I’m wrong). But Ghana’s oil discovery and resulting revenues came under democratic rule. It’s a different story.

Ethiopia’s started the withdrawal of its 3,000 troops from Somalia. They’ve been there for about 2 years with the U.S. encouragement. Somalia’s president Abdullahi Yusuf resigned on the 29th of December, so now the country is led by an interim government. There will be a – correction – there are talks of a new presidential election within weeks. But we will see how fast that can be done. People hope a new deal between the moderate Islamists and the interim government can be achieved now that Yusuf, who many thought promoted or supported warlordism. I wonder about the fanatical or extreme Islamists. I feel like these are the people that should be brought into any peace deal negotiations.

The 1600 Ugandan and 1300 Burundian peacekeeping troops will pull out as well unless they are reinforced by other promised AU troops (Nigeria, Malawi, and Ghana who have not yet honored their pledge of troops). Can I say that I am SO proud of Uganda and Burundi. They are not really in the best position as countries; they each have their own set of problems and both have dealt with Hutu-Tutsi problems/relations. And even in their state with no outside support from the UN militarily or the “West” they are taking initiative or at least taking action in their region to help promote peace and send troops (not that sending troops will work; we need something more lasting). That is so amazing to me. If you get the chance read up on Burundi’s history or Uganda’s. The U.S., India, China, and Europe have all decided against military intervention inside Somalia.

So that leaves the scary possibility that with Ethiopia gone, there is a winner-takes-all situation, a “power vacuum” as the Economist calls it. Who will gain control? Who will the radical Islamists side with? The radicals (like the Shabab organization) or with the warlords and transition government? It’s anyone’s guess. There are many independent groups from rival clan elders who are loyal to warlords, moderate Islamists, radical Islamists, private security groups, gunmen up for hire, etc. It’s a sad situation. And it is one we will keep watching and pursuing a solution.


I think I have written before on the seven different biological events that cause aging or, rather, are aging itself. These range from the mutation of DNA to the increase of what we call free radicals (ask later) in the body. Some of the things that slow the aging process actually address some of them. Nothing out there today deals with all seven. However, if I could somehow slow it down to live to the end of this century (to around 2100) I am not sure I would want to be here.

The future scares me a bit. By that time we will have probably reached our peak global population at around 9 or 10 billion ( according to World Bank VP for Europe J. Rischard who also predicts a population of 8 billion by 2025 which implies a slowing of the growth rate towards the maximum population which makes sense). I can begin to imagine the water wars predicted by some novelists and columnists. Though I’m not sure there will actually be war over water, I do foresee skirmishes and small disputes (I’m not sure about a world war over water). You never know.

With Obama’s inauguration looming, many are saying he has a tough position. Reporters and commentators say that he has inherited a tough situation. So I wanted to look over what are the challenges facing Obama, the U.S., and the world in general. Specifically what are the global challenges? Though they may not be domestic challenges only, they are automatically domestic challenges to the U.S. whether or not it realizes that its fate and destiny is inextricably bound to that of the world.

A group of economists led by Bjorn Lomborg (a Danish economist) came together to form the Copenhagen Consensus they performed a cost-benefit analysis to prioritize the potential solutions to the world’s problems. Remember that for this list, if something is ranked low, it doesn’t mean it’s not important. It just means the potential solutions (currently out there) have less of an impact to reduce the impact of the problem than solutions to problems with better rankings. Does that make sense? Here it is.

1. Hunger and malnutrition
2. Climate change
3. Conflicts
4. Financial instability
5. Water and sanitation
6. Subsidies and trade barriers
7. Population/migration
8. Communicable diseases
9. Education
10. Governance and corruption

You’ve seen the Millennium Development Goals before as we have talked about them. These 8 problems that the UN member nations pledged to address by 2015 seem to have the better of us. As of today we are behind on those goals. I won’t list the specific benchmarks they wanted to reach in reducing the problems, but here are the 8 areas to compare to your list of top 5.

1. Eradicate poverty and extreme hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development

The MDG’s led to
One Campaign
Micah Challenge

J. Rischard (mentioned earlier) made his own list under 3 categories.

6 Ecological Problems—Sharing Our Planet—global warming, biodiversity and ecosystem losses, fisheries depletion, deforestation, water deficits, maritime safety and pollution

6 Humanitarian Problems—increasing fight against poverty, peace-keeping (including conflict prevention and combating terrorism), making education for all, eliminating global infectious diseases, reducing digital divide, preventing/mitigating natural disasters

6 Regulatory Problems—reinventing taxation; creating rules for biotechnology; updating global financial architecture; stopping spread of illegal drugs; improving rules for trade, investment, and competition; creating protections for intellectual property rights; developing rules for e-commerce; improving regulations for international labor/migration

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback church in California and author of best-selling book “The Purpose-Driven Life” created the five-point PEACE plan (PEACE is an acrostic from the bold words)

1. Spiritual emptiness to be solved by Planting churches to proclaim the Christian gospel (8)
2. Selfish, lazy, ineffective, corrupt leadership which is solved by Equipping servant leaders (8)
3. Poverty addressed by Assisting the poor through various humanitarian aid (1)
4. Diseases addressed by Caring for the sick (4,5,6)
5. Ignorance addressed by Education the next generation (2,3,7)

This information comes from McLaren’s book “Everything Must Change” so I’m following his number system as well. The numbers in parenthesis show the connection to which MDG it corresponds to. Do you start to see the connection between all the lists? One more.

The United Nations University (research arm of the UN) made another list of, this time, 15 global challenges which they phrased in the form of questions to the world.
How can. . .

1. sustainable development be achieved for all?
2. everyone have sufficient clean water without conflict?
3. population growth and resources be brought into balance?
4. genuine democracy emerge from authoritarian regimes?
5. policymaking be made more sensitive to global long-term perspectives?
6. the global convergence of information and communications technologies work for everyone?
7. ethical market economies be encouraged to help reduce the gap between rich and poor?
8. the threat of new and reemerging diseases and immune micro-organisms be reduced?
9. we improve our capacity to decide as the nature of work and institutions change?
10. shared values and new security strategies reduce ethnic conflicts, terrorism, and the use of weapons of mass destruction?
11. the changing status of women help improve the human condition?
12. transnational organized crime networks be stopped from becoming more powerful and sophisticated global enterprises?
13. growing energy demands be met safely and efficiently?
14. scientific and technological breakthroughs be accelerated to improve the human condition?
15. ethical considerations become more routinely incorporated into global decisions?

Whew! Lots of problems. The question is what are you doing about it? Sometimes we view life as having a grander story for some a bigger part to play for a select few, and I definitely see that as true in earlier history. But there’s something different today. Today, it seems to me that we all have that grandeur within us (I’ll get more into this in a future update). I’ve been pondering lately how bad or good it would be if everyone (or almost everyone) just focused on these problems. Is that bad? I know it sounds bad. And I know we need people to do some basic things like producing food, shelter, clothing, good schools. But we have a lot of frivolous work in the world it seems. And I wonder if, say instead of pouring so much mental energy and time and money into things like campaigns, what would happen if more people joined in the essential fight for pursuit of life in its full measure for all peoples. I don’t think it’s that the few people who work for such things are the “chosen” ones. I think they are just the ones who understand its importance. No, “understand” is the wrong word. Realize is better. If we all did, maybe some work wouldn’t be as pressing or cogent. Perhaps what I say is nonsense. But I’m just thinking. It does seem, though, that because it is not recognized as pressing by a large portion of the able population, then the few who does realize must do the work otherwise, who will go? Who will serve? Who will act? Who will defend? Who will love?

I’m still trying to understand it in my head, but it’s the general problem of the doer and the funder. General thinking says we need person A, the one who goes out into the field into developing countries or in the streets/inner cities/rural areas of developed countries and works on infectious diseases and public health, primary education for everyone, peace and conflict resolution, ending hunger, etc. And then you need person B, the person who doesn’t work on any of that directly but gives money to person A to do person A’s work.

So if you remember, I’ve been criticized and asked “Who does more? You or Oprah?” To which I stumble and murmur and finally say “Oprah.” Then the response is “See. You should get a high paying job and then you can choose one child and fund that child’s education.” What does one say to that? Fund a child or teach hundreds of children? Who has more impact?

But it seems like if we all were doers we wouldn’t need funders. We all know there is enough money and enough food in the world that with proper redistribution none should go hungry while we transition people into healthy work and jobs and build the economies of regions around the world. But the political will to do it is absent. I always say we would not need such huge NGO organizations if everyone did a small part and took care of the poverty or homelessness on their street (granted, some of us live far away from that).

Do you remember one of my two crime stories in South Africa? Let me recant. There were homeless-looking people on the corner of my neighborhood that I would pass each day. They were on my heart. And I thought to myself and prayed “Lord, what can I do to help them in a lasting way. They’re here in my neighborhood. They’re my neighbors. What can I do?” Then one day someone broke into my house and attempted to rob us but flew the scene before taking things. The place was a mess and a few things broken. Well, one of the homeless people on the street gets food from our neighbor and gives information. He tells the neighbor who did it. Guess who? One of the guys I had been praying about to find a lasting way to help. Do you see the irony? I wanted to help these people in a lasting way. But before I could do that (or to them, since I was not doing that) my house was robbed. And I was robbed of stuff that I would have gladly given to him if he had asked—shoes, clothes, food, etc. I would have given it. But it gave me first-hand experience with the understanding that most crime is a symptom of need. In South Africa, with the 80% of the population (conservative upper estimate maybe) in dire need, the situation is drastically skewed more so than in any other country I have lived or visited. If our community had something to help provide for its people perhaps many of us would not have been robbed.


Speaking of crime, the guy who attempted to rob my place (remember he got away with nothing when my neighbors saw him trying to drag my oversized luggage stuffed with goodies he found in the house; he ran and left it all including his medical insurance card, wallet, cell phone, and ID [and clothes]) was reached in person. Earlier before I left they went to his house but he was on the run. But an article was printed on him in The Voice (a small publication that looks tabloid-like). The title was “The Most Stupid Criminals.”
And he keeps getting out on bail and being sent to rehab and then leaving rehab and being sent back to jail and then out on bail and then back to rehab, etc. His court date was set for the 20th of January the inauguration of Obama. We’ll see what happens!


I just wanted to share two websites, though there are tons of inspirational stories everywhere. The second one is of a shoe-shiner.

The last thing I wanted to say in thinking about the concept of misconceptions (earlier in update and in last update) and living the best life you can is this. I remember the conversation with the family friend who was talking to me about trying to life a frugal life, a life her daughter had chose. And I also think about people who use such things against you: “You want to help people, do you? You want to help people, huh? Well here is the BEST way to help people. . .”

The problem with that is that I don’t think I ever actual think like that. I don’t think I am going to try and lead a frugal lifestyle or I am going to try and help people. Those types of things (if I ever do them, and I don’t do them all the time) our actual outpourings or natural outcomes of something else. Helping people natural comes from my faith, or my relationship, rather, with God in Christ. I am not trying to help people. I am definitely not trying to live a frugal lifestyle. I just don’t ever think about buying clothes (which my family makes fun of me a lot for and we have GOOD times laughing about it [honestly]). I don’t think I’m frugal (in many ways I'm quite extravagant when it is something I care about). Maybe I am; I don’t know. I don’t think I am intentional about helping people. Maybe I am, but that’s not my aim or goal. It does happen though because I think Christ was like that. So I get into these weird trouble-conservations where that is used against me because people ask me to analyze myself. And it never seems to work for me to go back after the fact and try to figure out why I did something. Sometimes you can, but many times you actually put motivations and thoughts there were never there when you did; it’s possible to overanalyze.

Rather helping people or being frugal or whatever else people say about me or similar people is a result. And we’ll discuss the cause next time.