24 June 2009

Zambia, Zimbabwe & the UN Millennium Development Goals

I’ve just returned from a 7000km round trip to Lusaka, via Bulawayo and Livingstone. As always it was wonderful to travel in Zimbabwe and Zambia and to be with other YWAM missionaries. This was a mixed trip – teaching on two DTSs, spending time with other team members from the Africa Field Service Team, and travelling with Kobus van Niekerk, our YWAM Africa Director.

The Lusaka YWAM base is running a Community Development focused DTS, and I had the chance to team-teach on the fascinating subject of Worldview. A frequently used analogy compares society to a tree, where the roots determine the fruit. The tree’s hidden root system is the complex belief system and worldview that determines society’s values and behaviour. The tree’s fruit – the natural consequences of behaviour within society – are therefore a product of the ways that society views the world.

We’ve begun a working discussion within the FST about the UN Millennium Development Goals, and it was interesting to spend some time in Zambia considering these from the context of Worldview and belief systems. The MDGs address some of the bad fruits of society. The eight goals are worthy aspirations, aiming by 2015 to:
1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2) Achieve universal primary education
3) Promote gender equality and empower women
4) Reduce child mortality
5) Improve maternal health
6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7) Ensure environmental sustainability
8) Develop a global partnership for development

These issues are a result of numerous conflicting causes, including Worldview. It is not enough to simply promote gender equality, the root belief systems that assume male superiority have to be challenged and replaced with a truly biblical perspective on gender. Only when the roots of the tree change will the fruit naturally improve.

I’ve returned from Zambia with a desire to champion YWAM ministries which tackle the needs raised by the MDGs – for example pre-school education and initiatives to provide clean water. But I also see the need to be part of the study and dialogue which questions ‘what are the belief systems in society that lead to these issues?’ The UN goals are excellent, and biblical, but if there is anything to learn from 50 years of international aid, it is that aid does not work. Throwing money at these 8 specific goals will not change Africa, changing the belief systems that cause the problems will.

Tim Heathcote


  1. Tim, a big: "!". You hit the nail right on the head, but I also think it's an uphill battle. Much of the aid organisations 'live' because of the fact that the world is in dire straits. However, it is a battle worth fighting!


  2. PS (also from me): Just came across an interesting piece which kind of links with the topic of worldview/beliefs and (aid) development. See what is said in the bio of the Exec Director of UN's Population Fund: http://www.unfpa.org/ed/bio.htm

  3. That's cool! Since March I am heading a advocacy & campaigning project for YWAM focused on girls, inspired by the MDG's. Starting out with the gap between boys and girls in primary schools (in the 25 countries listed at the UN urgency list). SInce YWAM has a good number of primary schools in these areas. Keep me updated on what you are doing. Miranda Tollenaar miranda@ywam.nl

    (I also happen to be a friend of Marjon)