NEWS MID MARCH 2014
I attended a church service on Sunday 2nd March. I listened carefully to both messages that were given. First, was a 1 hr 25 minutes teaching based on inappropriate actions by Gehazi, the servant to Elisha. Then there was a 45 minute preaching on prayer and how to acquire blessing. It is hard to concentrate on all of 2 hours and 10 minutes of preaching (in Dholuo, translated to Swahili) on a Sunday morning. But I did my best. I soon realised that what we were being told would make little sense to regular church goers in a British evangelical church, even if the language(s) were understood. Why? Because the issues being dealt with arose from a presumed existence of a determinative complex world of mystical forces that the preachers were telling people that they should be negotiating for the sake of their own prosperity and survival.
The church above is indigenously founded and led. But, it’s not crazy-radical. It’s pretty regular. It’s the reality on the ground. It’s the diet that is there in most churches, except those that make a super-extra effort to be ‘Western’. How then to respond to the above? It’s like there’s a thick fog between what they do, and what we do in churches in the UK . I don’t mean that they aren’t Christian (or that Westerners aren't Christian). God knows that. But communicating across the divide is fraught. To the above difficulty you have to add the reputation of pale-skinned people like me. As soon as I’m seen in Kenya , it’s like a hunt has started! People are smelling money, and everyone’s nose can quickly be in tune to getting dollars. This makes it very difficult to know when one is appreciated for what one is actually sharing, and when people are rejoicing at the prospect of ‘blessing’ or finance.
How then is one to engage with the indigenous Christian context? One way is to ignore the indigenous context, and just to minister as if one is in the West. Alternatively, one can adjust one’s presupposed context to Africa, but continue to give essentially the same messages as one would give in the West. (E.g. “when we ate our ugali . . .” instead of “when we ate our chips”, or “walking home from church . . .” instead of “driving home from church”). Both of these are OK in some ways, but limited in others. It is hard to adjust one’s references to context without a very close knowledge of life in indigenous contexts. It is easy to come across as very foreign and ignorant in what one says and how one says it. To help people ‘where they are’ is to do what ministers of the Gospel generally do in the West; to relate the Gospel to the context of the congregation. This latter is very difficult for a foreign missionary . . . but an important challenge for inter-cultural ministry.
The day finally came for a meeting of local church leaders to discuss how to revive our local Bible teaching programme. Without going into detail, let me say that it fell absolutely flat. The reason; it seems that everyone concerned would want to be assured that donor funds are on their way before entering into discussion. Overtly, people can be very keen on having theological education classes open in their area. The often unmentioned stipulation; is that a generous donor be found to subsidise whatever will go on. Without donor funds, encouraging indigenously rooted theological education (Bible studies) can be like beating a dead horse. Appealing to people to participate in such is like wasting their time.
Pray for my proposed travelling to Nairobi on Monday 10th March. I am to stay at the Coptic compound in Nairobi till Friday or Saturday. Objectives of the trip include processing my work permit application, and visits to colleagues at a major evangelical seminary in the city.
A short you-tube of some of my colleagues here at Coptic and their activities (they're short term, so all but one of the non-Kenyans recorded have since left). I don't appear or get any mentions. The setting is here in the Coptic compound, Maseno, Kenya.
A video about Coptic Mission, Kenya, that includes many people and places known to me.