NEWS END OF SEPTEMBER 2017
This news-letter finds me in the USA, in a totally different world to the one I am accustomed to in Kenya. My task while here: is to better inform North-American people on how to relate to and engage with African people in mission. To that end, I have already made appointments for meeting with people, giving lectures, taking classes, attending seminars and so forth, up to the 21st November, at which point God willing I will be heading back to Kenya. In almost all cases, I am to be at Christian universities and seminaries, engaging with people who are concerned for global mission.
A colleague asked: “Why are you in America?” Some Americans (and Europeans) don’t seem to understand, how their activities dominate the scene in Africa. Sometimes as a white man in Africa, it feels as if your hands are tied behind your back! It’s as if, the voice of American scholars in Africa is just as loud as it is in America, but we (in Africa) don’t get to comment or give feedback on what they are saying.
“I have lots of questions I could ask,” said a university professor attending one of my sessions. Time did not allow him to ask all his questions. “Was him saying that a compliment, or a criticism” I asked myself? Not everyone in the USA likes to learn that they need to listen to a white missionary who has spent too long living in Africa! , , , “You don’t understand us here in north America,” some are telling me. Well, maybe not, but I do understand you better than many African people who have never been to America (or the West), I think to myself. “But aren’t you just another white man telling us in Africa what to do” an African professor living in America asked me? “I am not telling you what to do, I am suggesting things that Westerners in Africa ought to do,” I tell him. Yet, because many African people having learned English, it is hard to keep the two apart.
“That’s really exciting stuff,” said one older lady after I’d shared with their group. So impressed was she, that she was soon on the phone to her professor-friend. The very next day, they drove me over-an-hour to a university to meet the department of Bible translation. Amazingly, when I get there, I find that I know people there! I find colleagues, who would love to make use of more indigenous languages, but who are defeated to do so . . .
“When we try to be sociable with African people, it doesn’t work,” a colleague tells me. I am thinking on my feet. I appreciate that doing this is very difficult. Yet, it is a difficulty that people do not want to face up to, through fear of being accused of being racist. I face the same difficulty after 30 years in Africa. I think my colleague wanted to get to the position where he could be relaxed with and joke with African people, as if he was not a foreigner. That is soooo difficult, especially as it first requires learning of an African language. “Don’t expect to ‘succeed’, I say. “If you expect to succeed, you will be disappointed. Then you might give up! It’s not about being sociable, it’s about loving people . . . so sticking with them, no matter what.”
My first time in four years attending an American church. An overwhelmingly positive experience! Americans have so much that is good to share with the rest of the world. “This is fantastic,” I share with a colleague. “You have a LOT to share,” I emphasized, “but, unfortunately, Americans are known for their money more than for their wisdom. You need people to share this, using local languages and local resources . . . ”
Thanks for your prayer. I am currently in Vancouver, Washington. On 30th Sep, I should be travelling to Los Angeles.