Friday, January 09, 2009

'As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God'

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

From this fascinating article, found via a friend's link on facebook.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

hot drink

My wife's parents have been in town for the last few days and we all went out to lunch on Friday, before I went on to class. We went to a new favorite of ours, Cristina's, a Mexican restaurant. Emily was really enjoying the chips and salsa, meaning she was fairly quiet. With the conversation going on I wasn't watching her too closely, even though she was right by me. After a little bit, I look over at her and she is holding up the salsa directly to her mouth, guzzling it down straight from the bowl! We quickly take that away from her, and she goes back to chowing down on chips and salsa. Soon she is making weird faces and you can tell that her mouth is getting really hot. But this is a slow building salsa, so it is hard for her to tell that the pain is coming directly from the salsa. Now of course we have to take it away from her and try to get her to drink water, which only makes her think "My mouth is killing me AND they are trying to take away my delicious salsa", so she was none too happy. The trials of being two.