May 1, 2008


Posted in Economics, Education, Environment, Poetry, Religion, Thoughts tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:32 am by randallbutisingh

Thought for today:


This is my letter to Brian and Kristen Konkol, recently appointed as missionaries in South Africa. They are dedicated and committed individuals, who were missionaries in Guyana before moving to South Africa a few months ago. They are now settling in and have asked my advice on: “How to reduce Poverty in Africa”. Here is my reply dated April 21, 2008. Your comments and advice on this most important subject are welcome. Feel free to contact Brian and Kristen Konkol with your help and ideas at:



To: Brian and Kristen Konkol:

Before I attempt to give my opinion on “how to reduce Poverty in Africa”, I will attempt to define Poverty. In my opinion Poverty is a relative term. How? An individual may have very little, and it takes very little to sustain life. He may live in a one room shack with one or no shirt on his back, but he works honestly for the little that he has; he is always cheerful and will gladly share the little he has and his shack with a needy stranger. He is the personification of contentment; his conscience is clear, his sleep at night is sound and unbroken and he lives without fear. Would you call such an individual poor?

On the other hand a person may be laden with this world’s goods, like an overburdened camel, much more above his needs; But he is the personification of greed; he cannot have enough; he is discontented; always wants more and more, never shares what he has with the needy for concern that it will diminish him. This makes him grouchy, irritable, and cheerless. His sleep at nights is unsound and broken because of fear that someone may come and rob him of what he has. Would you call such an individual rich?

Now, how about reducing Poverty in Africa! Africa is a continent, beautiful and potentially rich, but it has been exploited by foreigners and recently, after independence by its own leaders. There were very few leaders, among them being Nelson Mandela, who did not succumb to the plague of corruption. Billions of the country’s wealth and foreign aid have been stashed away in foreign banks by corrupt politicians while those whom they have been supposed to serve go hungry.

This brings us to the question of education. If the populace is not adequately educated in order to understand the issues and the ability to confront injustice wherever it rears its ugly head, exploitation and corruption will continue to have a field day. Recently two benevolent Americans have been working in this field. They are Oprah Winfrey who is spending millions to educate over a hundred girls in South Africa to become leaders in the future and Bill Clinton who is spending millions to improve Agriculture in one of the countries in Africa.

It should also be noted that Poverty is an attitude in some of the countries. The men leave all the hard work to the women. When they do not hunt or fish, they gather in groups and idle away their time while the women work in the fields. Recently a group of women banded together in a community, and refused to slave for their idle husbands.

We need people who can educate, motivate and inspire these people, raising them from their present level, especially the women to one of respectability. Here is where you and Kirsten can fit in and I know that with the meager physical resources you have but the abundance of will, dedication and commitment, you will make things happen.

Africa does not need to be spoon fed. But while they are given the tools to progress, effort should be made meanwhile to eliminate hunger and disease. You cannot preach to a hungry man about God; you have to fill his belly first.

Remitting of debts will be of little help if attitudes do not change.

Love, joy and peace,




  1. randallbutisingh said,

    Date: Wed, 7 May 2008 15:22:45 -0700
    Subject: RE: Poverty in Africa: How to get involved…

    I have given your reply to “poverty reduction” a great deal of thought, and through it all, I am reminded of how difficult it is to “wrap one’s mind” around the issue. And not only that, I am reminded of how challenging it is to find practical solutions to reduce this crisis.

    First…I totally agree with your attention to “defining” poverty. Oftentimes I tell people that, when thinking of poverty, one needs to remember that many are “economically poor”, but yet “spiritually wealthy” (..and of course, that brings to mind the issue of the U.S.A. often being considered financially wealthy yet spiritually impoverished). For me, when I think of “poverty”, I think of actual “human capabilities” in the sense of asking: “What are people actually capable of doing”? Do people have opportunities in life, or are they limited in their opportunities because of some sort of injustice and/or oppression taking place around them (…such as: racial, economic, gender, etc.) I believe there was an economist from the University of Chicago named Martha Nussbaum, and she wrote a book called “Women and Human Development”. She touched upon many of these issues, and did a great job.

    As for making things “better”, where do we even begin! To make a long story short…What I feel like is that there needs to be a combination of “top down” change as well as “down up” change. For example, there needs to be the “top down” resolutions, such as international trade policies and things like that, because I believe the system is stacked-up against the financially impoverished countries. I suppose this is why I believe International Debt Relief is so important. But on the other hand, there also needs to be “down up” (grass roots) resolutions, such as individual education, awareness building, and attitude changes. As you and I both know, one can make all sorts of policy changes, but if people do not have the will and/or motivation, things will not work.

    All in all, I feel it is important for more people in the Church to have these types of discussions and consider: what is poverty, how does it happen, where does it exist, and how can it be transformed?

    As always…it’s GREAT to hear your thoughts, and I look forward to hearing more!

    With peace and love,


  2. Brian Konkal said,

    Hello Randall:

    I really appreciate your gracious words. It means a lot. For me, I think my greatest strength is knowing that I have many weaknesses, for it’s amazing how much one can learn when they are humble and have an open mind to new ideas. Specifically, I find myself drawn to you and your work, not only because I learn a great deal from you, but I feel empowered to know that you are taking something from me and my experiences. I am honored that you would see our relationship in a back-and-forth “two way highway” manner.

    I do plan to say in touch no matter where God leads Kristen and me. It will be fun to share all that is taking place in South Africa, and of course, I am looking forward to hear more about what God is doing through you!

    Again, I thank you for the wonderful words of wisdom that you bring to me and many others. Keep up the great work!

    With peace and love,

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