Any of us who have worked in charitable endeavors have learned that good intentions are not enough for our offerings to meet actual needs. Our years leading the Congo Rising Corporation have been full of successes and failures. We have had equipment and money stolen or misappropriated, but we have also seen our film initiatives launch many new production companies which are self-guided and staffed by Congolese filmmakers.
Several years ago, we sent four incubators, school supplies, a music keyboard, and clothing to Lodja, Democratic Republic of the Congo. These items were housed in a large truck, which was also a donation. I won’t say how much we spent to ship this big offering. I will say that NONE of it reached Lodja. It was stolen at the Matadi port. We were given opportunities to pay bribes to retrieve the shipment—and we did pay one—but it soon became obvious that everything we had sent, including the truck, were gone. Someone said that the thieves had doubtless already sold the goods. Material we sent—or even hand-carried—to schools and churches was stolen several times, and money we sent for specific purposes was used for something else. The common response by our Congolese friends was, “I’m sorry. My country is bad. This happens all of the time.”
It does happen far too frequently, but the Congo is approaching a horizon of change. I continue to work there with several people I trust, one a Catholic priest, and others returned LDS missionaries—though neither the status of “priest” or “returned missionary” is a guarantee of integrity. Nonetheless, I have witnessed miracles in the Congo. I maintain FAITHFUL PATIENCE that more miracles are ahead. And besides that, I love the people I work with.
I have developed particular philosophies in all the giving I do. When I work in Africa, I support projects rather than individuals. But there are always exceptions. The fact is, we westerners have much more money at our disposal than our Congolese brothers and sisters do–or than our Guatemalen, or fill-in-the-blank brothers and sisters do. For me, it has always mattered to move into other communities with humility and generosity and become a student rather than a teacher. I rarely give money to anyone who writes me an email asking for it, but I will eagerly support community efforts wherein all are edified and work together. Perhaps the greatest need in most needy areas of the world is cooperation and collaboration.
One way of giving which I totally trust is the Giving Machines set up by the LDS Church, which urge communal cooperation. $22 million in donations have been generated since 2017. Here are examples of total items purchased:
- 250,000 chickens
- 500,000 articles of clothing (coats, gloves, etc.)
- 10 million meals
- 2,600 goats
- 500,000 diapers
I feel completely good about this effort. Join in!