The Jim Harries Mission Page



Jim's Work



Contact Us




Dear Friends,

Within 24 hours, but independently, an Egyptian missionary and then a Canadian missionary, who do not know each other and who live and work miles apart, both told me that working in Africa is much more taxing on the mind that equivalent work in their home-countries! Both times I asked the missionary concerned to explain. The answers came on the lines of the following: back in our home country we just do our work in a relaxed way, as everyone expects it to be done. Here, however, there is so much more that one always has to think about. In Africa, let us say, life is more complicated.

In my judgement, the root of this lies in an African ‘double standard’. Many African people are trying to live ‘modern’ lives, while also satisfying ‘traditional gods’. As people seek to satisfy the demands of their ‘gods’, they also require outsiders to respond to them in line with the same demands. For a foreign missionary to respect people for who they are, requires them to respond to the demands of local gods, that they often do not understand. Not to respect people for who they are, is to give constant offence. But, if one were to bow entirely to the demands of the gods, then the projects on which one is working would fail. The complications of the life of a foreign missionary arise from their having to respect those gods, while at the same time going contrary to them, to try to save people from them. Unless they work at cross purposes to people’s indigenous identity, an outsider will not be able achieve the assignment they are given in the project in which they are involved.

My reader may be wondering – what on earth are those ‘gods’? Two major forces underlie the power of those gods. One is envy, and the other is shame. Some African people’s lives are a constant struggle not to succumb to either of the above. They must not make other people envious of them, and they must at all costs avoid shame. To avoid making people envious, one must not be seen to be too concerned for one’s own wellbeing, as against that of others. To avoid shame, one must conceal one’s misdemeanours from public view and censure. Success in avoiding envy and shame is thought to result in prosperity. These two avoidances are so demanding, that other ‘project work’ has always to take second place.

Jim’s Journal – I generally produce a Jim’s Journal in the early months of the year. I apologise that this year I have not yet produced a Jim’s Journal. The reason is that I seem to have so many demanding writing projects on the go, that I am forced to keep Jim’s Journal on the perpetual back-burner!

Give thanks for the help I am able to give to two missionaries who have come here from another mission station. I am helping them to learn the Luo language.

Medical doctors have been on strike here in Kenya since the start of December. See here for a missionary colleague’s account (he is a medical doctor at another hospital in Kenya); see here for the situation.