Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

What motivates people to help others?

Today we started with the training of our seventh group of home-based caregivers in an area known as Nsalitje. To have a look at a satellite photo of the area on Googlemaps, click on this link.
Today was a typical day in Africa: The sun was VERY hot, with temperatures probably in the 90s (which is in the 30s in Celsius). The day actually started in the Dwaleni area where we are trying to help a community get fresh water. The government helped the community some years ago to install one communal tap which the entire community, consisting probably of a hundred or more people, has to share. But the water is flowing at such a slow rate that the women are spending most of the day at the tap waiting for their containers to fill. A 20 litre container would take about 30 minutes to fill. We hope that we have found a solution, but I’ll write about that when we see the outcome.
We then proceeded to drive through to Nsalitje (praising the Lord all the way for the luxury of air conditioning.) On our arrival at the venue where the training was taking place, I was really shocked. The training was being done in a community hall (known in Swaziland as the Mphakadze.) The entire building is made of corrugated iron and there is no ceiling, so it doesn’t take much imagination to think how it felt inside. 25 people had turned up for the training, all of them eager to become home-based caregivers. As I looked at this group of people, some of whom were clearly HIV+ and one young man whom I’m convinced already has full-blown AIDS, I asked myself the question what the motivation would be for these people to become part of this home-based caring project. Money is definitely NOT a motivation, as we don’t have any money to give them. Not all of them are Christians, so although we would like to think that their faith is the great motivation, this is also not the final answer, although it may definitely be true in some cases.
Ultimately it seems to me that the great motivation would be a desire to really make a difference in people’s lives. But then I’m still puzzled why people who have nothing, most of whom are living far below what we would describe as extreme poverty (less than $2 per day), would be willing to give their time and their energy and often even the little money and food they have to make a difference in other people’s lives. I don’t think I have the answer yet.
What I do know is that this attitude never fails to amaze me.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008 - Posted by | Africa, Church, Culture Shock, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Mission, Poverty, Social issues, Swaziland, Theology, Women


  1. Could it not be a projection of the helper? The person who wants to help actually needs help themselves?

    Comment by Chip | Sunday, May 10, 2009 | Reply

  2. Chip, there may be some truth in this, perhaps not in the sense that they are projecting their need to be cared for onto people whom they care for. It might be that some of them realize that the day will come when they themselves will need to be taken care of. But when you work with the people on a personal basis as I do, and you see the joy they have in doing this work, then, at least for the vast majority, their desire to help is truly unselfish.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Sunday, May 10, 2009 | Reply

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