In December of 2016 my husband and I packed up all of our belongings, put most of them in storage, and moved everything else to a small country in southern Africa.
We were both born and raised in the United States, but we had traveled some, and we were excited about the possibilities this move represented. I watched as our plane flew over mile after mile, my attention focused on every minute detail—rivers racing down the mountains, occasional gray rock faces rising dramatically out of dense green forests spilling down the mountains, seamlessly transitioning to field after field of maize (unsweet white corn that, ground, serves as the staple food in this region).
These fields or forests were periodically interrupted by circles of bright red dirt dotted with thatched or tin roofs, marking tiny villages. I had never imagined that this is the course my life would take, nor that we would be living in such a beautiful place.
Under the reign of Jesus Christ, government corruption will become a thing of the past. Hurt and destruction will end.
As the minutes ticked into hours while we flew above this gorgeous landscape over several countries, I slowly realized something seemed to be missing. Or, rather, in my experience there seemed to be something missing—roads, the paved ones at least.
In those several hours I had seen only one or two paved roads. I also hadn’t seen a city below me in quite some time. I was, in flying back home, accustomed to city running into city with brief farmlands turning into more city or mountain or forest, with one constant—roads. There are always paved roads.
This was going to be a very different experience. It’s exciting to see God’s creation unspoiled by manmade intervention. However, this unspoiled beauty is not by design. It’s all too often the result of greed. It seems funny to say this. The destruction of God’s creation is so often the result of human greed, but so, it seems, is the complete lack of development.
God designed a beautiful and abundant world, perfect for human occupation, and He gave us charge over it. In Genesis 2:15 we read that “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” The word “tend” is a translation of the Hebrew word abad, which can also mean “help” or “cultivate.”
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, defines cultivate as “to improve by labor, care, or study.” The word translated “keep” in this verse is shamar, which also means to “observe” or “guard.” God told man from the beginning that it is our duty to cultivate and guard the earth. We should use it, but not misuse it. God designed the world specifically for human beings, and for an incredible future.
The warm heart of Africa
Malawi, the country where we currently live, is called the warm heart of Africa, and that’s so fitting. The people you meet are kind and generous. The country itself and its neighbors Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania are beautiful but also some of the poorest countries in the world (depending on the measure used).
So why are they so poor? Why is there so much suffering? Do they lack resources? Is it a lack of foreign investment? No. The main reason for the suffering in these countries is corruption and greed, and it affects every aspect of life—just as God said it would when He inspired the prophet Isaiah to write, “The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways” (Isaiah 59:8).
In Malawi there is a serious electrical power problem. The power company, ESCOM, is owned by the government. It creates power through a dam system on Lake Malawi and several rivers, along with a few areas of solar power generation.
The company schedules “load shedding” periodically throughout the country to decrease the demand on the system. Theoretically the load shedding keeps any one area from losing power more often than others. What it actually does is gives the company control over who gets access to power and when. Most areas lose power at least once a day, ranging from a few minutes to multiple hours.
Notice I said most areas. Some areas lose power for days on end. These tend to be the poorer areas, with poorly built or badly maintained infrastructure. But some areas never lose power—the richer areas where resident Westerners live, where government officials live, where rich executives live.
What this means is that the poor get poorer. Many small businesses (Internet cafes, welding shops, small markets) have folded due to a lack of electricity. They can’t make money when their equipment sits idle in the dark. While these accounts are anecdotal—what I have personally observed and been informed about—the continuing problem with electrical power is well documented.
In 2016 when Malawians complained about ongoing power outages, they were informed that the recent severe drought caused water levels to drop in Lake Malawi and the Shire River (where most of the power generation occurs), and therefore there was less capacity to generate electricity. As the rainy season (November-April) continued into 2017 and the rivers swelled to flood stages, and the lake level rose to pre-drought levels, the power outages dragged on—this time because debris from the rains had clogged the hydropower units.
Temporary gains lead to chronic problems
It might be easy to excuse the lack of electricity as due to a lack of resources. However, nearly 40 percent of all public funds in Malawi are provided through foreign aid. In the last few years it’s been uncovered that 1.3 billion Malawian kwacha (about U.S. $1.8 million) have been pilfered from ESCOM.
Sadly, it’s not just the power company that is blighted with scandal. In 2013 it was uncovered that between 200 and 500 billion kwacha (around $3-7 million) were stolen from the Malawian government.
The most recent scandal to hit Malawi has been dubbed “Maizegate.” The department of agriculture mismanaged 9.5 billion kwacha ($13 million), impacting people’s access to grain for food and for planting later this year.
There are so many biblical concepts that would prevent all of these injustices, but I’d like to focus on just the principle of cultivating and keeping the land as God commanded in Genesis 2:15, mentioned earlier.
These companies aren’t taking their ill-gotten gains and updating the existing infrastructure to produce more energy. They aren’t investing in new technology to improve this situation. They’re not investing in the future. Instead they line their pockets.
Even worse, rather than invest in the country’s most valuable asset—their people—for an even greater return in productivity and creativity, these leaders and government officials fail to see the big picture and lie, cheat and steal for temporary gains.
While these specific cases happened in Malawi, corruption is endemic around the world. Malawi isn’t even in the top 50 in this regard. No country is immune. José Ugaz, chairman of Transparency International, puts in quite succinctly: “In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity.”
God the Father and Jesus Christ always see the big picture
One of the beautiful things about God and His love for mankind is His focus on the future. This is also, oftentimes, one of the most confusing things about our relationship with God. Why? Because while God wants to bless us physically (see Deuteronomy 28:12; Malachi 3:10; John 10:10), He is much more concerned about our long-term, spiritual condition.
His ultimate goal is for all of mankind (those who will follow Him) to inherit eternal life. Yet sometimes what’s best for us to attain that goal might include suffering. But it’s always temporary, it’s always for our good, and it’s always an investment in our future.
When Jesus Christ returns to rule over the earth, all people —but especially the poor and needy of this world—will finally be rescued. As Isaiah 35:10 describes it: “The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
Under the reign of Jesus Christ and His perfected followers from this age (see Daniel 7:18; Luke 19:11-27; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 20:6), government corruption will become a thing of the past. Hurt and destruction will end, with everyone coming to know God and being directly led in His ways (Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 30:20-21).
Jesus Christ will become “a refuge for the oppressed” (Psalm 9:9). Further, “He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy” (Psalm 72:4). God the Father and Jesus Christ want to see all human beings live up to their full potential (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) and become heirs with Jesus Christ of eternal life (Romans 8:17).
This means that everyone will be given the opportunity to live an abundant life, not just the elites. “Everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).
The farms of that time will produce abundant harvests. “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it” (Amos 9:13).
Again, God’s coming perfect government will protect the rights of those who work to enjoy the fruits of their labors. And everyone, not just the rich or those who work in government, will have the opportunity to prosper!