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Dear Friends,

A recent blog from Jim Harries - donor money and protection money.

A recent article by Jim Harries: do we in the West have 'superior theology'?

A Shock a Day!

I have been teaching the Luo language to some missionaries who have long been engaging with Luo people using English. Here are two of their ‘shocks’:

1. They were shocked to discover that the seat of the emotions for Luo people is not the heart but the liver. “What then have people been understanding all the times that we have taught them about our hearts,” they asked themselves?

2. The Luo word that translates the English term ‘life’, incorporates health, prosperity, and wealth as well as ‘life’ itself. So, if you tell people ‘Jesus brings life’, when they translate that into their own worldview, people hear that ‘Jesus wants people to be wealthy, successful, and prosperous’.

The ‘professional’ Bible teacher . . .

When people ask me what I do in Kenya, my simple answer is that I "teach the Bible." That is in simple terms what I do. Bible-teacher to me seems to be a very elated title! So then, what is it like being a 'professional’ Bible teacher?

When I hear that title of someone else, I would think that person knows their Bible inside-out, and can easily reel off all sorts of teachings. Then of course – that his listeners always be 'spell bound' by the profundity of his teaching. I mean – if being a Bible teacher is your job, surely you can always do so very profoundly?

The above description does not fit me. Often, if not usually, when I need to prepare a message for a certain group, I draw a blank; I haven't got a clue! How to give people a message from God, and I am just me? Impossible! . . . That's the way it seems. I certainly don't just have a basketful of 'teachings' to choose from. When I go back to old notes – often they make no sense.

Somehow the above 'impossible' has to become 'possible'. If I knew how that happened, that would enormously aid my task. If only I could find a simple way of teaching the Bible! That might save me a lot of heartache. At the same time, I have to realise – that if I could just so conjure up a message, at will so to speak, it would not be from God but from me! Usually I must agonise. Something doesn't just 'come'. I must pray more and be broken more . . . That is how it seems to me, to be a message comes from God and not from me. That's not the outcome of a methodology, it's not a trick, it's not a system, it is a relationship!

How to know whether what one has shared has 'gone home', or 'been appreciated'? Again – haven't really got a clue. If people are attentive then I feel good. But – has the word (or the Word) changed their life? If it has not, how can it be the word of God? If it has, then how can it be from me? The answer to this puzzle to me, remains a mystery.

Just to add: asking myself 'what do people need', doesn't work. If I do that, I end up trying to make people more like me; that is more like a White man. I do very much imitate my African preacher colleagues – but I don't know how successfully so?!