Learning from Africa in the covid-19 crisis: how to ‘dol’

“In this Crisis, we need to learn how to survive from poor communities,” a friend said to me recently. I didn’t respond. Social-distancing and self-isolation do not represent instinctive responses of poor communities in Africa to disease threats like covid-19. Absolutely contrarily; more closeness would be their response! I could hardly tell him that though, as he had already declared social distancing to be a no-brainer.

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There are no ‘World Religions’!

Christian mission often finds itself up against ‘world religions’. We have been told, since year dot (when we were toddlers), that there is a set of eleven or so ‘world religions’, of which Christianity is one. Those who told us this, didn’t seem to have any qualms about its truth.

When we believe the above, we see mission as doing our bit for Christianity, against other ‘world religions’. When we look in the bookshops, we find lots of books on the shelves telling us about those other religions. We think that is helpful, because if we can understand them better, that should help us to convince them that Christianity is ‘better’. At the same time we wonder – if there are so many world religions; then how can we be sure that ‘ours’ is the best?

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What is not held by faith

Much of our world is divided into two. In the majority world, we are told that there are two kinds of NGOs working; faith based, and ‘not-faith-based’. Christians tend to go along with this terminology. ‘We’ are the ones doing faith-based development. Other people are doing the ‘real-thing’, the development that is not just based on faith! Because theirs is the ‘real thing,’ whereas ours is just a faith-based imitation, we look up to ‘them’ as better and setting the pace.

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Did you know, ‘super-natural’ is an invention of Western theologians?

I have often been struck, that in Africa we do not have a ‘supernatural’. That is, African people, Christians included, refer to things ‘supernatural’ in the same way as they do to things ‘natural’. (While the term ‘supernatural’ is used in some African Englishes, it does not mean ‘supernatural’. It is used like a euphemism for ‘God’, or ‘amazing’.)

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The Nature of God / Nyasaye: ‘a silly mistake’

A British Church, in partnership with an African church, decided to put on a conference. The conference was to be entitled The Nature of God. The name of God in that African language is Nyasaye. Somehow a mistake was made in the publicity material. Instead of promoting a conference on The Nature of God, the publicity put out internationally advertised a conference on The Nature of Nyasaye.Read more

Try It Out

My fleshly-me often wishes I could have a wife, try her out for a while, then leave her if I don’t want to carry on. If this is not allowed for wives, why is it allowed for mission?

Where is the precedent for trying-out God’s service before committing oneself? Many young people who come to Africa seem to have that in mind. They come saying “I am asking if God is calling me here”. Some say “I will definitely come back”, but they do not. What exactly is going on? Couldn’t God speak to them before they came? Does God only speak to people once they have arrived in Africa? Do young people only want to come if they think they will enjoy it – is mission about ‘enjoying’? Are they testing the people being reached – “if you are loving and friendly enough to me, then I will come”? Are they saying to God “make me happy, then I’ll serve you”? Or are they testing themselves – “can I do it” – is mission dependent on our ability?Read more

Anti-racism legislation and Global Christian Mission

Anti-racist legislation is designed to protect people in the West from bias arising from ethnicity or skin colour to ensure that everyone is treated equally. People originating from other parts of the world should be taken as being as competent to function in the UK as are native British people.

This raises the question of what to do if someone is in need of something that regular Westerners do not need? What happens to any differences between communities that may actually exist? ​Are there any differences for which one should compensate or with which people need to be helped? ​Could it be that as a result of anti-racist legislation, these kinds of differences are ignored and that this could result in leaving people disadvantaged?

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