By Dr. Conrad Van Dijk
A common question I am asked is, “are things getting better in Sierra Leone?” This is a difficult question to answer. When a country has suffered from such poverty for so long, it’s often hard to find meaningful and measurable improvement.
I checked the Human Development report that’s put out by the United Nations each year. Out of 188 countries, Sierra Leone ranks in the bottom ten in terms of overall life and human development. Several times over the past 2 decades, the country has ranked last. Canada, by contrast, has consistently ranked in the top 10.
In travelling to the country for over 30+ years, I’ve seen this terrible poverty firsthand. Petty traders are selling their wares to earn more than a dollar a day, which is all they have to feed their families. Even today, I still see many people like this.
But some things are definitely getting better in Sierra Leone.
Ten years ago, life expectancy in the Sierra Leone was around 37 years old. Today, it’s 51.3 – an increase of 14 years. The Ebola crisis that ravaged the country back in 2014 and claimed almost 4,000 lives is gone; there have been no new cases in the last 3 years. And on the social side, I was greatly encouraged to see so many Christian leaders in Sierra Leone praying for the recent election and encouraging others with messages of hope and action. All these things, while still only parts of a much bigger goal, are tremendous improvements.
We are continuing to encourage Christian leaders to foster transformation by teaching principles of integrity, sustainability, and hope. When people have hope (expectancy of success in their future), they do better and solve problems better. Hopelessness is a basic ingredient of the poverty in Sierra Leone, so if we could change that to an attitude of hope and success, the country would change so much for the better.
On my upcoming trip in September, I’m looking forward to not only continuing to teach about spiritual capital and transformation, but also teach how these principles can be applied to solve problems in the marketplace. One of the things I’m most passionate about is helping farmers there to develop sustainable, kingdom-minded businesses. This will be possible as teachings on integrity, spiritual capital, kingdom mindset, and sound business practices are merged. And it will be very special to reconnect with my friends Alpha Abu, Desmond and my former poultry farm manager Josepha Katta while I’m there.
I’ve spent almost half my lifetime traveling to Sierra Leone and being part of sowing and watering seeds of kingdom transformation. God’s kingdom is abundant, and is more than capable of breaking the grip of poverty in any nation. I’m excited to see what this next season will bring, and I ask for your prayers and support as we head towards the Integrity Summit in September.
Dr. Conrad Van Dijk