What is development?

A loaded question, floating around in my mind, shifting, tumbling, re-surfacing, disappearing, and confounding me in different moments of the day. As a young guy of Swiss background with an American higher education, it was great to step out into the world and desiring to help make changes in places that had great need. My motivation to do so seemed pure, and with my understanding at the time, I did my best. However, the longer I reflect on issues surrounding development, foreign assistance, dependency, dignity, partnership, mission, individualism v community, the more I see the complexity of life in a global world. At times, the sheer arrogance of my cultural background is overwhelming, and at other times, the great achievements and benefits of that same background seem amazing to me. The question for me remains: What is development?

If any of you would like to share your thoughts, I would love to hear from you!

HOPE for AIDS Annual Letter 2013

Yearly publications are there to show us that another year has passed, so it seems. Another Annual Report for HOPE for AIDS has come of the press and I’m once again in awe at the opportunities I’ve had to be a part of this amazing group of people and projects. A humble privilege and a source of joy, the work being done in each country – every day and every week of the year, is an inspiration to me. I hope as you read the report, that you might be inspired as well.

A glance at HOPE for AIDS numbers for 2013

A glance at HOPE for AIDS numbers for 2013

HOPE for AIDS Annual Letter

If you are inspired and would like to make a contribution to HOPE for AIDS, visit

HOPE for AIDS Master Project

Contributions are tax-deductible and a receipt will be provided.

Another Transition…Another Identity?

It is just amazing how studying a certain subject causes ones brain to move in different directions. I’ve been marinating in the topic of identity and what it means for us as Christians, and while there is much on the topic that is known, I started to think about identity in the midst of life transitions. As we move back to the beloved continent of Africa, but to a new country (South Africa), it seems that it may change who we are? Or will it not? These transitions certainly impact us as we learn new things about our hosting country, about its people, and about daily life in a new place, but if our identity is rooted in Christ and what he identifies in us as being true, then these external transitions may not shake the foundations of our inner being. The question we often face (or run away from) is: WHO AM I? In a small way, I attempted to cross-section possible answers to the question. Here are some notes from a recent teaching I was able to present at the Chinese Christian Church of NJ (www.cccnj.org) on this topic of identity:

http://prezi.com/xvythqpdk5n1/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

As we all know, one of the biggest barriers to identity is our mis-understanding of God’s love. A powerful example of a broken heart is found in this illustration of a well known story:

Growing in our trust in God and His love is key in growing a better understanding of who we are. Maybe this is a good moment to reflect on who you are?

Eliminating My Job…

…sounds like a scary proposition, but that is exactly what I hope to work towards. For most of us, working ourselves out of our jobs is not desirable, but when we look at the struggles of development and aid projects, especially in Africa, it is imperative that we operate in a way that decreases dependency on foreign funding and increases local sustainability based on local innovation and basic human dignity. There are many things we (collectively as the West helping the Rest) have done wrong, even if at times we had the right motivation (for a good read on the subject of development and aid in Africa: http://goo.gl/nuUYK9). Moreover, Jesus trained his disciples in such a way that they could go out and do what He did … and MORE (John 14:28). With these thoughts in mind, I have recently written a one page description of where I see HOPE for AIDS in the future. Would be curious to hear what you think on the subject.

Here is the short article:

Towards Fulfilling HOPE for AIDS

I just mentioned the need to decrease dependency on foreign funding, but to help our projects arrive at that point, we need to “bridge the gap” until we’re ready! If you would like to contribute to our efforts in training and preparing projects to become self-sustainable and integrated, feel free to make a donation here: http://simusa.org/projects/project/14

What the FBI has to do with it…

… and how the last week has brought us many steps closer to moving to South Africa.

General area where we hope to live...courtesy of Google Maps (https://www.google.com/maps/@-34.0865086,18.45499,19620m/data=!3m1!1e3)

General area where we hope to live…courtesy of Google Maps (https://www.google.com/maps/@-34.0865086,18.45499,19620m/data=!3m1!1e3)

Let me guess: the title got your attention and you are now here, reading…I am glad my ruse worked. If you don’t want to hear about the reason for the title, get back to work, but if you’re interested, keep reading.

Last week, our counselor shared with us that she feels we are in a much better place than when we first arrived in the US and that we should be okay to make this big transition to a new country, new relationships, new way of life. We have been waiting to hear back from Burkina Faso as we needed a criminal background check done for the South African visa applications. The day after we met with our counselor, I got an email saying that the background check had been completed (much faster than we expected), and a day later, it was on its way to us via DHL. Wonderful news!

We’ve also been surfing the rental properties online for a place to live and hadn’t really seen anything yet, or the properties needed to be rented before our actual date of arrival in Cape Town. A few days ago, I was briefly checking the same webpage, and saw a rather neat looking place that has used many natural materials – appealing to us. Two friends in South Africa went to check it out for us and took many photos, which we were able to look at yesterday – and they are going ahead to see if we can rent this house. The cool part was that Jen and I were on the same page about the house! Another cool step towards our move!

In our attempt to find decent airplane ticket prices, but not adding so many layovers to our flight, I’ve been worried about prices going up – but this past week, they started to come down quite significantly – just another piece of the logistical puzzle falling into place.

Oh, and what you’ve been waiting for: our FBI Criminal Background Documents arrived in the mail on Friday as well. Slowly but surely, our pile of documents for the visa applications are coming in – and most of it happened this past week after deciding to go ahead and head for South Africa. Yes, we were thinking of heading to South Africa this spring, but I was holding out in going full steam ahead until we had some assurance from our counselor.

What it ultimately comes down to is this: do I trust God completely or only partially? I think it took me stepping out and realizing that God works in our lives regardless of geographic location or cultural obstacles or personal weaknesses. And you’d think I’d have gotten that lesson a long time ago as we’ve lived in different places, travelled a lot, and married cross-culturally. But the reality is that my concern for our family’s health (physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational) had become much stronger over the last several months – and for that, I am grateful. Looking forward with confidence and peace to what lies ahead!

And there you have it – the FBI had something to do with it!   🙂

Reflections on AIDS in Africa

In December 2013, I had the opportunity to attend the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (icasa2013southafrica.org). Here is a short summary and a few reflections on trends in HIV and AIDS. If you have any thoughts or ideas, please comment! I’m always up for a good discussion.

ICASA 2013 – Summary Report