By Colleen Walker Burroughs
“How much does it cost to drill a well?” is the most frequently asked question we get at Watering Malawi. The answer, around $6,000, is based on a series of geological variables as well as the infrastructure needed to maintain it.
The next most frequently asked question is, “Can I go help build a well?” It is always asked with the best of intention but is almost never from someone who actually has any experience in hydrology.
Plus, for the cost of three international plane tickets a trained Malawian can access clean water, create a fish farm or install new bathrooms in a school. Elementary students understand that math.
This is not an argument against international travel. Tourism is a wonderful boost to any local economy, and Malawi is a beautiful country. But there is a need for a stewardship conversation about what the long-term impact that one non-hydrologist can make on a short trip to a foreign country.
Maybe this is as simple as a conversation about channeling the good intentions to affect a broader Micah 6:8 impact on the ground. Or maybe it is as simple as doing the obvious.
Here’s an example. Malawi’s government just sold the presidential jet for $15 million to help feed the 1.5 million people suffering from chronic food shortages.
“The President, who took over after (former president) Mutharika died of a heart attack in April 2012, made selling the plane a priority as she sought to repair the damage left by the previous president, who picked costly fights with donors that left the economy a shambles.”
President Joyce Banda has also cut her salary by 30 percent and pledged to sell off 35 Mercedes Benz cars used by her cabinet. These moves indicate something bigger than the airplane’s price tag and even more substantial than the truckloads of cornmeal. Selling the presidential jet and fleet of Mercedes sends a message to the world that reads loud and clear: “Feeding the hungry is our priority.”
It is important to note that seven out of 10 of the world’s hungry are women and girls. When those same women and girls earn income they reinvest 90 percent of it right back into their families, compared to only 30-40 percent of men. Maybe there is a connection between those facts and why, as the second woman president on the continent of Africa, President Banda is right on the money.
Christians in America might consider taking some cues from President Joyce Banda, both as individuals and as congregations. How does our mission and ministry spending reflect who we are as followers of Christ in our communities and around the world? What does our spending say about who we prioritize as important?
It takes self-sacrifice to minister among the people whom Jesus called “the least of these,” and sometimes it just takes being grounded.