Success is measured not by the number of projects we are involved with but rather success is measured by the lives that are impacted throughout the movement of these projects from Dependence to Independence and onward ultimately to Interdependence.
As we have involved ourselves over the years with Kenyan partners, we have become believers in the benefit of partnerships both for ourselves as well as the locals. These partnerships are the "Together" of ReACT and central to everything we do. The concept of "Shalom", is traditionally interpreted simply as "peace" but is terribly inadequate. As Tim Keller points out, Shalom is better illustrated as the "weaving of a garment with thousands of threads interwoven and tied together in a way that, on their own, they could never be." It is this weaving together of people that we refer to as the "Together" in ReACT.
Many that I have spoken with over the years remain cynical, arguing against funding African projects, rightly citing that it produces a Donor/Recipient mentality. "Colonization was the mistake of our forefathers." I would agree and even say that not only have errors been done in the past, but today, this problem is much larger than ever before. Many well-meaning NGO's, churches and other organizations have meant well but naively fostered this dependence on the West and its resources instead of moving along the continuum from Dependence to Independence and ultimately on to Interdependence, the place where they not only support themselves but become enabled to help facilitate others to do the same.
We are ever mindful of this process and goal at ReACT and ultimately have in mind moving our partners out of partnership with us. (Yes, you read that right.) Our hope and prayer is that those we are partnered with will ultimately become financially independent of us and even move on to support other works that are struggling to find the first rung of the development ladder. Over time, the movement from Dependence to Independence and ultimately to Interdependence is one key measure of success. Many Western organizations love the power and control that Dependence on them brings, not understanding that, like the perpetual teenager living at home into their 30's, they have become the plug in the bottle that needs removing.
During our time in Kenya this winter, we began to see that one of our partners was wonderfully close to working Independent of financial help from ReACT. Daniel Juma and his wife Anastasia, together with their home are now functioning with a high degree of independence because of the success of the multiple small businesses that he and his family operate from their home. Juma cares for 22 extra children in his home and has done so for years. Children are effectively parented and now have relationship with their Maker. ReACT's involvement is small since we began only by helping him establish a "boda-boda" (bicycle delivery) business in 2006. Since then, Juma has purchased 2 motorcycles for transportation, started a poultry business, begun a popcorn business, has greenhouses on his property as well as a host of other ideas. This really is Juma's success through God's grace...certainly not ours. I am thrilled to see how he has moved along the continuum over the years to the point where his businesses now support his needs.
As I spoke with Juma and Anastasia this past winter, I suggested that the next stage for them was to find someone that they could mentor and work with to do exactly what they have been doing over the years. Their response showed an element of the Divine. "Its funny you should say that", Juma said. "Just last month, John, my oldest son, approached me and told me that he would like to support two orphans in his home."
John is their 22 year old son and has been mentored over the years simply by living with his father and mother. Despite his young age, John lives independently in Kitale, Kenya and is already supporting himself through a couple of small businesses that he has begun. His heart has been to have orphans live with him just like he has observed in his home growing up. "He only does what he sees his father doing". And so now, John has begun the journey towards starting another home just like his parent's home, and Juma has begun to move from Independence and on towards Interdependence.
Imagine how wrong it would be if we got in the way, encouraged Dependence and never moved on to Independence and ultimately to Interdependence! Imagine a grassroots movement of homes that care for OVC's in a culturally relevant and cost-effective way. They blend in with their communities and are ultimately multipliable in the culture like yeast slowly working its way through a batch of dough. This would be a triumph, not of any Western organization, but of the locals themselves who have caught a vision of what they can do thorough empowerment.