NEWS MID NOVEMBER 2016
(I am reporting on my trip to Nairobi, Kenya's capital, last week.)
I met a single female missionary friend in Nairobi for the first time in 10 years. 10 years ago, I used to drop hints that she ought to operate using Swahili. She used to ignore my hints. 10 years later she is gung-ho for Swahili! So much so, that she is strongly encouraging others to learn African languages.
I met a single male missionary. Before coming to Kenya, he used to tell me how he would be different from other missionaries. He would make quite sure that he would work closely with nationals, and he would quickly learn the local lingo. 3 years later he has been defeated in both objectives. He spends his time with fellow Whites, and speaking English. Cross cultural mission is not as easy as people think.
I talked to another white man. “I used to talk to Kenyan people in Swahili” he said, “then one day someone told me that my talking to him in Swahili and not in English was insulting him. So, I stopped and now only use English.” I have the opposite problem, I reflected. When African people talk to me in English, I feel insulted. They're talking to me in English, while they talk to their colleagues in Swahili, makes me feel I am being treated like I am ignorant. As if I only arrived in-country 2 days ago.
An African friend I used to visit cancelled out at the last minute. “I am coming anyway” I SMS’d, as I was already on my way. Perhaps at that point he breathed a sigh of relief. Having a white visitor can be very problematic for African hosts. Many Africans know that whites need five-star hospitality (nice hotel, nice car, the best food, etc.). If the African host puts that on and the visitor doesn't pay for it, there can be a big hole in the budget. If he doesn't put it on and the visitor is upset or gets sick, people can blame him. White visitors are loved because they can bring much money. But – if the African hits a dud (i.e. a White visitor who is not so generous), then he can be in a hole financially. Unfortunately, the white visitor who does pay generously ends up, frankly, promoting a gross kind of racism, notions of enormous white superiority, and the Prosperity Gospel. By saying ‘I would come anyway’ after he told me that he would not be there, I solved his dilemma, and my dilemma. I was indirectly saying “look I’ll just take what comes”. He could welcome me as he would an African – no special treatment. I could make a visit without adding to racist thinking or the prosperity gospel. It was an interesting visit. For those less familiar with African ways, basic facilities might have been a little more stressful?
For the nine nights I was away, I slept in 6 different beds. I'm grateful to my hosts, especially to the Moser’s (at one time of Andover Baptist Church), the main people I went to visit.