Fostering dignity in myself and others

Brown Ngoma is expanding his family's store, building a home, and now "when his family is sick he can pay for a private hospital." (Manyamula, Malawi)

Brown Ngoma is expanding his family’s store, building a home, and now “when his family is sick he can pay for a private hospital.” (Manyamula, Malawi)

“If I fail to treat someone with dignity, it is me, not them, who is undignified.” In other words, to keep my own dignity – that sense of self-respect and pride in oneself – I must honor everyone else’s dignity. Just because someone is poor it doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t have self-respect. In fact, as an article in the Guardian about international aid and dignity pointed out, “some of the poorest people are the most dignified. And some of the richest lack dignity.”

Luckily, Spirit in Action is a good place to work to practice honoring the dignity in each person. Our work is not just about numbers and outcomes, it’s about seeing the world and our fellow human beings as inherently filled with potential and self-respect.

Founded with Dignity

Even before Del Anderson founded Spirit in Action, he was enthusiastic about affirming the dignity of each person he wrote to. In the stuffed envelopes he sent out Del included simple self-help projects and encouraging messages.

Messages like: “Within you is the power. Within you is the power to face life and all that lies before you with unshakable assurance that the Lord your God is in the midst of you.”

And, “[The glory of God] is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Does this enhance our dignity and that of others?

The Yuba family shows us that they have enough food - good bread and chicken - from their pottery and kiosk business successes. (Kasozi, Uganda)

The Yuba family shows us that they have enough food – good bread and chicken – from their pottery and kiosk business successes. (Kasozi, Uganda)

Imagine, the Guardian article mused, if before we implemented a program we asked, “is this dignified? Does this enhance our dignity and that of others?” In fact, this is something that the SIA Board already does!

Small Business Fund groups and community grant projects are led by capable and empowered local leaders. They are taking charge of their own success – and that’s dignity. We’re used to seeing that dignity. And so we’re wary when grant applicants seem to play on our emotions by presenting themselves as inherently lacking or desperate.

Dignity is not about SIA buying and sending cooking pots to Africa. It’s about helping a family build steady income through their own business. Then it’s their own hard work that foster their hope in the future.

Last summer, I saw the bright glow of self-respect in the faces of the Small Business Fund members. They were all so proud of how far they’d come – the pots they could buy on their own, the medical care they could afford. They wanted to show me that they were the means of their success. To prove that they were able to tap into and channel that power within that Del talked about. And with dignity I affirmed their success. I drank the tea they offered to me and admired the new chairs. In these exchanges we were each letting our own light shine, and giving the other person space to shine too!

Wisdom from Del Anderson: God Calling…

Some inspiration to start the new year! The SIA Board reads this piece by Del Anderson at the beginning of each meeting. When I first read it, the language tripped me up a bit. As I have read it more and more, and line by line, it has become a great source of encouragement and inspiration.



By My grace, you have the privilege to be used as My yeast, My salt, to be my quickening Spirit manifested . . . now. For one brief period in history, you may be used to help re-direct the path of humankind and thus change the course of history. If you hear My voice and obey Me, I will use this very small organism called SPIRIT IN ACTION as leaven, as a mustard seed, as Light. Yield yourself to Me, give Me your desires and will, your very self, to be scattered seed, taking deep root in far places on My planet earth. As you obey, I will cause you to die to self and come alive in Me, bringing forth unimaginable abundant fruit.

Green beans growing on Kudabwa's farm in northern Malawi. Some family members stand on the bridge in the background.

Green beans growing on Kudabwa’s farm in northern Malawi. Some family members stand on the bridge in the background.

As you commune and abide in Me, and come into My Spirit-filled Earth Community with brothers and sisters of other lands, you do become My salt, My yeast, My Light. You cannot be total, One and complete in Me until every child of Mine, every lost sheep is brought into My fold. You live by dying, by joyously giving your limited, human, separated sense-of-self for identification, communion and union with Me.

I AM the Jesus Christ individuality within you, stirring, quickening, waiting to be fully released and expressed, brought forth and manifested. Release Me and let Me go forth through you.

A dream has no dimension, no boundaries, no limitations. In Me, you have the Wisdom, Love and Power to be My instrument in bringing My Kingdom into manifestation here and now.

For more inspiration writing from Del, click here.

Wisdom from Del: “Act in the Truth”

Wisdom from Del: “Act in the Truth”
school children

Boyd and Tanya with school children at the SIA Small Business Fund nursery in Manyamula Village, Malawi.

On this election day in the U.S., I post something to remind us of our core and common humanity. Del Anderson wrote the reflection below in the weeks just after September 11th, 2001, and for me it is a call to search for and hold onto that flame of hope within each of us. Where ever you are, I hope today you reclaim that “boldness, firmness, and humility to act in the truth.”


This is a difficult moment in which to write. The September 11th bombings seemed to further destroy the hopes of humankind and the building of peace, as the gulf seems to widen daily between peoples.

Using violence, and killing people to prove that it is wrong to kill people, has also proven futile through all of the history of civilization. Throughout history, force has resulted in more and violence. Such response breeds defeatism, fear and despair.

I believe that humans, as transcendent creations of God, have within them the Spirit of God and the capacity to participate in, with, and through our Creator God.

A mix of footprints and bike tracks on the dusty road in Manyamula Village, Malawi.

A mix of footprints and bike tracks on the dusty road in Manyamula Village, Malawi.

Our responsibility is not to lose our willingness to seek the truth and the boldness, firmness, and humility to act in the truth. As we hold fast to this consciousness, we cannot despair.

Great ideas may often be expressed in simple words such as, “All humankind are brothers and sisters from the same Creator.” We are not here by chance, but as an individualization of God and in union with our Creator and each other.

We each are unique and distinct, one of a kind. We lack nothing and are here to fulfill God’s special purpose through each of us for this generation. What a glorious, sacred, holy privilege and responsibility. Let us realize we are needed and important.

The time of decision is now.


Del ends with this prayer, which he used in the mornings and evenings. He adapted it from John Greenleaf Whittier’s “The Brewing of Soma”:

Drop thy still dews of quietness
Till all my strivings cease;
Take from my soul
The strain and stress,
And let the Christ within express
The beauty of thy peace.

Click here for more inspiration from Del.

Wisdom from Del: Living Triumphantly

Let us then labour for an inward stillness,
An inward stillness and an inward healing:
That perfect silence where the lips and heart
Are still, and we no longer entertain
Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,
But God alone speaks in us and we wait
In singleness of heart that we may know
His will, and in the silence of our spirits,
That we may do His will, and do that only!

    — Longfellow

Excepts from Created to Life Triumphantly by Del Anderson:

Living triumphantly. Del speaking at a SIA event in 2007, aged 100. Pictured with Dennis Johnson, SIA Board Member.

Living triumphantly. Del speaking at a SIA event in 2007, aged 100. Pictured with Dennis Johnson, SIA Board Member.

That which we learn to love, we grow to resemble. How do we grow into the image and likeness of God? By learning and practicing that which God has given us, created within us, USE what we have, partake of God’s Nature and participate with the Purpose and Activity of God.

Despite outer conditions, come what may, victory through us is ever and only God’s order of the day. God’s Will is victorious living. As we live in Christ, we glorify God, through expressing and manifesting God. This is awesome, but God’s Truth.

This faith we already have within us, even though it may be dormant. Victory and faith are synonymous, one and the same thing. IT IS THE FAITH OF GOD, NOT HAVE FAITH IN GOD.

Victory is already ours, as we are conscious of our own need and let go and let God bring forth. As we trust God and surrender to God all that is ours, our desire and will, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.”

Looking, loving, longing to be like Jesus, we grow into His likeness. That which we fasten our gaze upon, we become. It is my response to “Come, follow Me” with “Yes, Lord, yes” and then respond with action in daily living.

This faith requires self-sacrifice and self-giving, but God’s fruit comes forth.

This is not struggling to achieve victory, but rather, starting small and proceeding to build upon a victory already achieved. God is the Enabler, as we use what we have. God’s faith in and through us affirms the victory that overcometh the world. A Christian’s victory is not over others, but taking mastery over ourselves. The victory comes from God’s Grace, through us.

For the full text, click here. 

A Work in Progress

Road in Kenya

Breathe. Relax. Follow the path in front of you.

I woke up in a panic this morning. I had dreamed that I had planned a second trip to Africa – and that I had to leave TOMORROW. In my dream I was rushing around trying to get ready for the last minute trip: I still didn’t have my vaccines. I hadn’t packed. I couldn’t find my camera. Ack!

Breathe. Relax. In reality, I still have another month to figure that all out. And I still have a lifetime to work out everything else. One of my favorite poems reminds me of just this fact: Life is a work in progress.

In the midst of the whirling day,
In the hectic rush to be doing,
In the frantic pace of life, Pause here for a moment.
Catch your breath; Relax your body; Loosen your grip on life.
Consider that our lives are always unfinished business;
Imagine that the picture of our being is never complete;
Allow your life to be a work in progress.
- Richard S. Gilbert, Life Is Always Unfinished Business

Helping and serving others is also a continually evolving activity. Even Mother Theresa realized that when she said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” The goal is maybe to reach a hundred, a thousand, people. And it all starts with just one. As I wrote last week, sometimes that “just one” will go on to feed others, expanding in a sort of pyramid scheme of good will. [Read last week’s post.]

Start with what you have: Racheal shares a piglet with Lyness in Manyamula, Malawi

Start with what you have: Racheal shares a piglet with Lyness in Manyamula, Malawi

Del Anderson encouraged people to begin the process and feed that one person. “Start with what you have ,” he often said (and wrote) to those who came to him for advice and help. That’s helpful advice for our partners who daily see the immense need in their communities. There are people who are hungry, those who lack steady employment, and countries that lack greater systems of electricity and sewage.

Del’s advice was to first recognize that we all have something to give. If we can’t feed a hundred, maybe we have a little bit of food or money that we can share with one other person. We can allow (and welcome) all this as part of a work – and a life – in progress.

This is comfort for grant partners and seekers of justice – and even to someone who still has a million details to plan before flying to Malawi in just 32 days. Thank you God for the many sources of wisdom around me, which remind me to breathe and start with what’s right in front of me!

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