Monday, April 06, 2009
A Tale of Two Peoples
Hey ya'll what's up? It's been a long, long time. I'm chiming in now because though things are still going full steam ahead I thought I'd relay an interesting conversation I observed yesterday.
It happened during a meeting of Fruit of the Vine Ministries. FVI is a missions ministry began by a member of CLF which seeks to partner with orphanages in Kenya. What fascinated me about the conversation was how similar it was to some things I had said when teaching a new members class just a few hours before.
It began when one of our Kenyan brothers explained why some of the Maasai people who live in Kenya called him a white man. At first he didn’t understand but then they explained that black Christians don’t come out to the bush and do mission work. In fact some of the Maasai used to say that come Sunday if there wasn’t a missionary available there would be no church, this despite the fact that there are millions of bible believing Christians just four hours away in Nairobi.
A second Kenyan brother echoed and further explained this phenomena. He dropped the knowledge that despite millions of Kenyan Christians and thousands of churches there is little mission mindset. He even jokes with his Kenyan friends who’ve been trained as doctors and nurses but lament the lack of work in Nairobi by telling them that there’s plenty of work, but not if you want a great paycheck.
To sum it up it appears that many Kenyan believers lack a mission focused mindset and Christianity. This is where our new members class ties in. This week we spent time working through our mission and vision. To set this up I do my usual spiel about growing up in West Philly. In short I explain how the local news helped to shape my view of my community and fuel my desire to get an education, get out of the city and get into the suburbs as fast as my little brown legs could carry me. I go on to say how everyone in my extended family stoked this mindset. I cap this little commentary by noting how in my humble opinion far too many black folk long to live in a community built up by someone else. We seem to believe that it’s either impossible or just do hard to create the kind of community we’d like to live in and then feign righteous indignation when another group gentrifies it and we have to move onto to somewhere else. From there I explain CLF’s vision to participate in building a beautiful Christ-centered community in which we, our children and our grandchildren can live, thrive and serve.
What does this have to do with the price of tea in Chinatown? Perhaps nothing. But one thing I noticed is how important theology is. (That’s right the dreaded ‘T’ word). If you feed a community of believers a steady diet of theology that focuses on their problems, success, prosperity and comfort you will produce a community of believers who actually think that mission is for those white people. Thus when it comes to building up their own communities so that in time those same communities become places of mission they either wait for the government or business or some other group. Remember folks everyone has a theology, especially those who proudly proclaim they do not. Everyone has a set of beliefs about God, scripture, Jesus, salvation, sin etc. These beliefs that shape how they live out the faith they profess.
And judging by the state of things among black folks in Africa and America we’ve got some work to do.