I accept virtually anyone on FB who sends a friend request. Just a quick scan to see nothing obscene or blatantly self-serving on their profile and they’re in. Whereupon—and this is far more common coming developing lands, they direct message me with a “Hi. How are you?”
This drives me nuts. Facebook doesn’t work that way! People I don’t know think I can conduct a dozen exchanges about nothing per day? I ignore them all, assuming they are scams of some sort or in some way self-serving.
But I am from Western background. It may be that friends from elsewhere do use Facebook that way—as a platform for individual chats. Either way, I’m not up for it, but I am curious. “Can you shed any light on this?” I asked Emma, born, raised, and who lived many adult years in Africa?
(Ha! There was one sister I friended from South American who sent several ‘Hellos’—all unanswered by me, then “Oops. Sorry. I see you are marry.” Whereupon I did respond with a “Not to worry, Sonya. Nice to have a friend from [wherever it was].” And then back to DM silence. For the most part, I don’t even look at that side of the app.)
“In Africa, especially from [country name withheld] - you can be sure they will ask you for money later on,” Emma replied.
Why, in your opinion? Are they 1) scammers who are not Witnesses at all, 2) Witnesses who are opportunists, or 3) just plain genuine Witnesses with a material lack?
“All three and more,” she replied.
Odd she should mention it. There was a supposed brother who appeared out of nowhere for one of our Zoom meetings. His country of origin I forget, but it was Africa. Several made a big fuss over him after the meeting, and a certain older sister, known for hospitality and generosity, exchanged contact information. Sure enough, he soon began asking for money. Some of Jehovah’s Witnesses are the most naive persons in the world.
I’m not shocked at such things, but neither do I play that game. I know there is crushing lack in many places, but I also know there’s no way to distinguish between who is who. I know the branch will strive to keep body and soul together, but only in the most basic manner.
There was a another brother years ago from a U.S. faraway state who moved in to our congregation —he knew one of the local publishers. He was a pleasant enough guy, genuine, but in time he became a real mooch, hitting up one after another for money. Of course, this puts people in an awkward spot, and some recoil almost in horror at the thought. It got around to such an extent that Ray addressed it in a local needs part. Screwy as Ray was (he later tested false positive for anointing and true positive for apostasy) he made a very balanced presentation—that it was just one of myriad foibles human imperfection has stuck us with, that we have to deal with, perhaps firmly, but ought not provoke an overreaction, as we all fall short in many ways.
Emma: A Norwegian sister I know married a lovely African brother and went to pioneer in Africa - Kongo region. She told me that the sisters constantly asked her for money. If your skin is white and you come from Europe or USA they think you are very rich. In most African cultures families used to share everything to survive. They all eat out of one pot of food - so everyone gets a little. Things have rapidly changed in the last generation. Very few Africans share what they have with others.... becoming selfish.
So, they really thought the sister was hiding her money somewhere. They thought her family was sending her money and she was hiding it. In fact she worked so hard! They build a little holiday flat with hard earned money and rented it out to visitors to survive. That was their sole income. …
When she arrived in Africa, she lived without a bathroom - washed in the community faucet in open fashion until her husband built her a private African place to wash. When I met her she told me about her time in Africa. I immediately had so much respect for her because I knew where she came from and what she went through. She told me that none of her family understood. I was the first to understand a rural home in Africa. She really apprecieted that I understood.
I have camped rough in Africa but I will not be able to live with very little amenities like she did for a very long time. I do not blame them for asking... and trying a lot. But the Western culture is so different... we are shocked. Some can be opportunists - even if they have a lot of money.
see Part 2: