It’s Sunday in Samoa, so God gets a good look-in today. The SWAP Foundation is founded upon the biblical value system. Christianity is not required of our partners or team members but respecting the values contained within the Judeo-Christian value system is a prerequisite for working with us. This tenth principle is the one to Honour the Lord.
Samoa claims to be a Christian country, founded upon God. I have serious doubts about the genuine depth of faith of most here, but certainly their cultural practices constantly involve the biblical values as they see them – such as prayers, church attendance, building large churches, and church financial support and so on.
[Pic: Sun photographed from space, 7/8 of the way to the sun. Shows streamers of solar wind billowing radially outward for millions of kilometers. (The central circle covers the extreme brightness and white circle the actual size of the sun). Comet top left. Venus bottom right. Amazing! Of course the Good Book says that this was all created by a Creator, not just a big accident.]
The principles we work under are also based on the core Judeo-Christian values. This outworks in the following ways:
Liars, cheats, and thieves are not welcome on our team. Unrepentant liars, cheats and thieves are exposed and if a crime has been committed, charges will be laid and criminals will be “sent to jail” – the only real Samoan solution to criminal restitution, as fines would never be paid. (This can be a HUGE event in a country that treasures family honour and makes an art form of pretension. The shame on a family of whom one has done wrong when word gets out is a major cause of pain and anger.)
In a social sense, we want the nice “warm fuzzies” from exercising love, truth, generosity, caring for the elderly, the sick, the infirm, the poor and the weak and so on. Christians (and might I say particularly the Catholic Church) are, well certainly should be, the good-guys in this regard. Social justice issues abound in Samoa and can be very challenging.
[Pic: Moon shadow from space. Lunar eclipse for the people in the shadow. A different perspective to an event commonly thought of from below – eh?]
In a financial sense, we know that living and working in a third world country where relative poverty is the norm, inevitably our people will be dealing with and weeding out greed, selfishness, consumerism and providing deep challenges to our view of reality. Inevitably, many people with relative riches will be challenged at a deep personal level. Jesus (and many others as well) constantly advised that we can’t take “it” with us.
At a personal level, humility is a prerequisite for undertaking a successful business or lifestyle experience with our team. We are all challenged to, as the Samoan people phrase it “Come down” from the high position to the low position; to get off our hobby-horse, or ego trip and properly humble ourselves. This is the deeper message of Christianity that drives a spear into our hearts when we get involved in any cross-cultural experiences.
[Pic: Stars from space. Amazing isn’t it? Man is finding more and better ways to view the expanse of the universe, heading out to the stars, and inward to the molecule. Like with many things, we can face these findings and interpret them within or without the concept of a Creator God. For me, the latter flows much more naturally than the former. Upon increasing my awe and knowledge of our amazing world, the former requires me to increasing defy logic and undertake an increasing measure of stubborn blind faith in a single dogmatic position (that there is no Creator). The latter allows me to embrace the increased knowledge without the desperate need to defend my position. Being honest, I find that creation tends to talk for itself.]
The same as it is trur for all of us, the challenge for the Samoan is to humble onesself so that “greed” is minimised when a “rich person” comes to stay. To the Palagi who has so much to offer it is to realise that by humbling oneself we can truly have an influence for good, but that our Western culture has indoctrinated us to be the good guys, have all the answers, and know how to do it best. The ultimate example of this humility was of course, Christ, who modelled the way to the very end.
Our team is made up of the same mix as Samoa (a nominally Christian country with Catholic, Mormon, Protestant all working and living side-by-side) and over time we will probably develop our own unique flavour just as any successful organisation in growth-mode does, but the Judeo-Christian values are at our core.
So how does this work with people who don’t share the same faith, denomination and values as us?
Last night at our board meeting we had Catholic, Protestant and a, well, what am I? I think non-denominational Christian is the phrase I would use most to describe myself. Our meeting went deep – some major planning and discussions touching at the heart of some people’s lives, good questions challenging us all and some pretty heavy stuff. After a good couple of hours, we concluded the meeting entrusting our decisions and plans to the Lord. Pretty simple really, and a natural event up here. We acknowledged our differences but were united in a common purpose.
In general, people with major issues with biblical values tend to stay away from us and Samoa, or if they are here with us sometimes they can be deeply challenged. After all it’s very hard to hate people when they are nice to you, or are relaxed and at peace. Occasionally they will argue, but the arguments are generally all about things or theories such as about how far we should go in engaging with the culture, or whether we should be letting the locals cut down trees, or other stuff that misses the real point of life, and doesn’t really touch upon the time-honoured traditions that the Bible espouses.
Some are genuinely surprised at the enormous freedom that holding to biblical values gives them, contrary to their initial expectations. Not having access to dope, and keeping your pants on until you are married may upset some, but it makes life pretty simple for most of us really – just please go elsewhere for such pleasures!
As I said at the outset, it’s not that we require our staff or partners to exercise a Christian faith, it’s more that our values and what we try to live by are principles, most of them right out of the Good Book.
- Barter – exchange – collaborative commerce – whatever you want to call it, the principle we are working with is that of exchanging and sharing the assets of two parties, for the benefit of both.
- It’s not about money. It’s about people; sharing a vision and building relationships.
- Use what we have in our hands (exercising faith), as instructed to do (obedience).
- We wish to use only the best available to us.
- Our Take Nothing Home policy means that we eliminate excessive personal gain.
- It is more blessed to give than to receive.
- We encourage a Cross-Cultural Partnership, blending the best of two cultures.
- We aim for Financial Equivalence whereby we attempt to level the playing field financially.
- We offer strong leadership through a clear vision.
- Our values are based on the Judeo-Christian value system.
The Fourteen Principles:
- 1. What’s yours is mine
- 2. Vision > relationships > money
- 3. Use what you have
- 4. Use only the Best
- 5. Take Nothing Home
- 6. Giver’s Gain
- 7. Cross Cultural Partnership
- 8. Financial Equivalence
- 9. Everyone loves a winner
- 10. A biblical value-base
- 11. Work Smarter, Not Harder
- 12. We should empower others
- 13. Do The Right Thing
- 14. Walk the land