Darrow Miller and Friends

Africa: Understanding Its Problems from the Roots to the Fruits

Africa, the pleasant continent of promise, has been perceived as a dark and cursed continent. But is Africa cursed? Most of the world is acquainted with only the bad news of Africa: wars, sicknesses, pain, poverty, hunger, famine, and deprivation. … Though external factors such as colonialism, the slave trade, and global trade balances have taken their toll on Africa, the biggest obstacle to the continent’s development and progress is internal.

Africa’s numerous problems can be likened to a tree with spoiled fruit. Agencies and governments are trying to fix the “fruit” while ignoring the roots. The key to cultural transformation lies in the transformation of the mindset or the worldview of a people. As a person thinks within themselves, that is what they really become. (See Proverbs 23:7.) “Ideas have consequences” said Darrow Miller in his book, Discipling the Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures (Miller 2001, 93). …

women in Africa workingHaving been born in a rural African setting, with parents who were traditional animists, I believe that the roots of Africa’s problems lie in the worldview and social glue of the African Traditional Religions (ATR). From my experiences, living and working with people across Africa and Ghana, in particular, I have come to realize how wonderful, industrious, and hard working the people of Ghana and Africa are. And yet the people live with serious deprivations and poverty. I believe worldview plays a significant role in African attitudes, behavior, creativity, and general well-being. …

Consequently, among certain Ghanaians, fatalistic tendencies and an air of hopelessness prevail. Instead of people taking their destiny into their own hands and working hard toward progress and development, many rely on the direction of spirits, gods, and ancestors (and for some Christians, directions of prophets and “men of God”). In rural communities, such fatalistic thinking can lead to the superstitious belief that being successful is actually dangerous, because a prosperous person may be attacked and sometimes killed through voodoo, because of jealousy or envy.

If these root problems are not identified, checked, and worked on, the aid being given to Africa will not solve the problems of the “fruit.” Instead, the problems will persist and even increase. This is also true for third world countries in the Caribbean like Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica—countries that have high African populations with a high incidence of voodoo worship with worldviews and problems that are similar or the same as those in Africa. …

Most aid organizations seek to mitigate the suffering caused by institutional, moral, and natural evil rather than attack the cultural framework that creates the poverty in the first place. Mission organizations seek to deal with the “spiritual condition” of the people without realizing that the soul is firmly attached to the body and the gospel needs to have a wholistic reach – all of each person – heart, soul, mind, and strength – and all of their relationships.

I believe as African churches recognize the role of the church in society and help people, communities and other leaders link their religiosity to the development of individuals and society, and adopt biblical ethics and worldviews, Ghana and other African countries can emerge from the hunger, poverty, and the hopelessness in which the people find themselves.

  • Chris Ampadu

This article originally appeared in the William Carey International Development Journal. The entire article is available here.

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Chris Ampadu holds the PhD in International Development from WCIU. He serves as Network Leader for Disciple Nations Alliance, West Africa and is the West African Director for Samaritan Strategy.



    June 4, 2018 - 5:02 pm

    For further discussion on “Africa: Understanding Its Problems from the Roots to the Fruits” by Chris Ampadu

    I read with keen interest the article written by Chris Ampadu. Since we are from ten same region –we are part of the story.
    I read the article from its source. Here are some observations on the article and hoping we would have opportunity to discuss further.
    Chris Ampadu wrote, “Though external factors such as colonialism, the slave trade, and global trade balances have taken their toll on Africa, the biggest obstacle to the continent’s development and progress is internal. ” The issue of “colonialism, the slave trade” from the Christian perspective, to me is an over flogged issue. Africa was not the only nation that had such experience. As a Bible student, slavery sometimes may be as a punishment for the wickedness of a people. Israel had –one of the worst experiences of slavery, yet, today, we know how the people living on a very small parcel of land have contributed to world’s progress in different fields of human endeavours. Also, South Korea had her independence in1960. Nigeria had her own also in Africa. I have only cited these two nations for us not to blame our woes on colonialism and slavery. Even great nation like USA was not spared from colonialism but became a great nation. We cannot forget the Puritans…
    My brother went further stating “Some writers locate the root of Africa’s problems in such issues as incompetent leadership, infrastructural inadequacies, widespread illiteracy, or unjust economic systems. These are indeed serious problems in Africa, but most of these problems have far deeper roots.” As I read this, I paused to ask a question. What is the true root of our problems? One key issue as he wrote is “the mindset or the worldview of a people.” I am in total agreement with that position. However I would like us to stretch our minds a bit. As he was concluding his article, he wrote: “Africa… She possesses a rich heritage as the womb of the Judeo Christian faith…” True. Augustine of Hippo was from this continent. Vishal Mangalwadi, the Indian writer in his article on “The Pursuit Knowledge And Truth –The Key to a New Reformation” on Why did the Western Church think that the pursuit of knowledge was a divine calling?” in response to the question, wrote “The idea came from the Bible via St. Augustine (AD 354-430). He taught that God was a rational being and the human mind (not just the human “soul”) was made in God’s image. Therefore, our rationality was qualitatively different from the brain in other animals. God gave us a mind like His own so that we might know Him and understand and govern his creation as his children. For Augustine this meant that, according to the Bible, to be godly required us to cultivate our minds—the instrument of knowing God and his creation.

    This Augustinian theological assumption enabled the West to put confidence in human logic, language and rational knowledge (all the way from intuition and empirical observation to doctrines and creeds). Much before the birth of the modern age, the medieval (Augustinian) monasteries began doing something that became unique to Christianity. When a young man devoted his life to seek and to serve God, the monastery required him to spend years studying the Bible, languages, literature, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, music, theology, philosophy, and practical arts such as agriculture, animal husbandry, medicine, metallurgy or technology. Thus, the monastery—which was an institution for cultivating religious life—began producing a peculiarly rational person, capable of thinking, researching, developing technology, writing books, developing capitalism, science and complex, rational legal and political systems.”
    The African Church is yet to be enabled.
    St. Augustine was from Hippo -a Roman African, early Christian theologian and philosopher from Numidia, located in what is now Algeria and a smaller part of Tunisia and Libya in the Berber world, in North Africa.
    The Church in Africa was not discipled and we are not discipling appropriately now. Being a denomination is uppermost in the heart of our leaders.
    The Pursuit Knowledge And Truth –The Key to a New Reformation (Bible-based Education) through which true enlightment could be achieved to us in this part of the world it is how much would accrued to the purse of the church establishment. We need to go to the church of Martin Luther in Germany and learn how he pursued his universal education.
    Our brother, Chris Ampadu concluded his article stating “I believe as African churches recognize the role of the church in society and help people, communities and other leaders to link their religiosity to the development of individuals and society, and adopt biblical ethics and worldviews, Ghana and other African countries can emerge from the hunger, poverty, and the hopelessness in which the people find themselves. (To be Continued.)”
    Since he has not concluded his submission, I would put forward what I would like him to consider and think about. Of importance – holistic discipleship, must come into place above denominational interests. The early Church, first as our example to follow (Acts 2:42-47) and in not too far to our age -William Carey would serve as a model. The church in Africa from my observations over the years is yet to serve her people. It has been more of what we can take from the people than what we can give back to the people. The missionaries came; they brought hospitals, education, printing press…etc. What have we done to serve our people? The Church in Africa should come up with a policy for a free Christian universal education –through which the children of the poor would receive the same education the richest in the society would give to their wards. Also that a life-long learning process be put in place, holistic. We must also have a bold plan for the future for the coming generations…Thank you.
    Side notes: I have these few observations about the Church in the West which the teachings of Augustine, Martin Luther, Calvin, and John Wesley affected and have impacted the whole humanity… history will not forget William Wilberforce, neither William Carey. It is no longer so today, profit above character has taken over some important church oriented bodies among our co-heirs of salvation.
    As a very young man, as I was coming out of the art college as a graphic artist, having been reasonably informed about my Christian faith and with a commitment for literature development–I sent letters to different bodies in the publishing world in the West, one of my earliest questions was to enquire about the kind of paper for printing of the Bible. No direct answer was given to me. I was directed to go and meet a particular body in my country. There were books that I read that I found could be of help to new believers -money was central in some of the discussions despite assuring them that I had no intention of selling but use these materials to help others.
    The state of biblical literacy would need first, our love to share, I am not against rewarding those who laboured to put into print good publications…but that we need to be mindful when profit beclouds our senses and we allow ignorance and darkness rule the lives and in the land all around us. Yet, I am thankful -two bodies responded favourably, one publishing house from India, a discipleship group in USA, and a magazine publishing house.
    What am I saying, at this stage of the battle against the arrays of the devil, poverty, ignorance, we need to reach others with the word of God in their heart’s language and to care for them.
    Thanks to Darrow Miller for publishing this article and Chris Ampadu the author of this article -giving room for this discussion. I would like to know how we can work together.
    “Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love…”

    • admin

      June 6, 2018 - 6:54 am

      Dear OLUSEGUN

      It is good to hear from you. Chris is a dear friend, brother and co-laborer.By God’s grace, he has done remarkable work to share these ideas in West and Southern Africa. My hope would be that someday you can meet and engaged in a discussion, that I think would be profitable for each of you and for the future of Africa.

      Thank you for your thoughtful engagement with Chris’ blog. You have much in common, including a common heart for the flourishing of your Continent.

      In publishing your response, I hope that you and Chris will be able to dialog.