Stories From the Mission Field

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To speak of stories from the mission field may lead your mind towards exotic and far away places. It may be Malaysia , or, in my case ,the fresh memories of my recent trip to Kenya .

Several emails each week keep such memories alive. It reminds us that the Church belongs to Jesus and can only effectively live in the power of the Holy Spirit. No matter where the Church is, it is called to engage the worldly culture into which it was birthed two thousand years ago. As a result of that divine mandate, the Church, by virtue of its existence, must be at war with the world.

Two forces that the Kenyan Church is facing are tribalism and Islam. The British Colonial system, imposed in years past on much of sub Sahara Africa, did nothing to effectively unite diverse groups of people. The work of missionaries, who often lacked a Kingdom vision, also contributed to spiritual strongholds remaining as a barrier to the flow of God’s redeeming love. In the case of Presbyterianism, it remained largely the ‘faith’ of the Kikuyu people, the single largest tribe in Kenya .

I shared with friends there the story of Peter in Acts 10.His vision on the roof in Joppa, (modern day Jaffa) is a reminder also for us that the Gospel of Jesus is for every tribe and nation. Had God not initiated the vision, the followers of the Messiah from Bethlehem may well have remained essentially ethnically Jewish.

So, today, as for Peter in the past, a Kenyan challenge is to transcend the human prejudices and antipathies towards those who are “not of us” and to engage and embrace them. I am happy to report that the diversity of tribal representatives at Church conferences in Nairobi indicates that the Joppa vision is being lived out.

A second consideration for the East African Church is the growth of Islam. The eastern coastal belt of Kenya is occupied largely by the “Somali” people. Islam is their dominant world view. However, Islam is on the march. A distinct demographic shift shows these people are moving “inland”. Today, Nairobi has a large and growing Muslim area that is very distinct and different. Right in the middle of it—and yes, the hostility was very evident—stands the Church. Adjoining the church on one side is a school and community center. Many of the students are Muslim. The parents, knowing that this is a wonderful opportunity to receive a good education, allow “infidels” to tell their children about the prophet Jesus. It could be said that we have successfully exported Pragmatism as well as other products.

On the other side of the church is the inevitable mosque. A clear strategy of “chess” and in “your face” city planning. The Mosque activities, spiritually dead by virtue of its source, do cast a “blanket” over the neighborhoods. It serves as a great reminder of the prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17, expressing His desire for unity and peace. Here we find afresh the strategy for mission and evangelism.

I have learned that in part the expansion of Islam in Kenya is fuelled by funds created through the entrepeneurial efforts of Somalian pirates. Ransoms from captured ships are supporting hotel and mosque building programs.

There are other stories and other mission fields. Yesterday I had coffee with my friend Joseph. He is a low budget missionary. He sleeps on a local church property but returns to his daughter’s home for showers and other occasions. We were sitting in Mc Donald’s. Looking around, he shared the personal histories of many of the people sitting there. He knew their struggles and their challenges. Joseph also knows the path to overcoming. As people approached our little table to greet him, he was clearly the “Patriarch”; the encouragement to “Keep your eyes on Jesus” flowed convincingly and freely.

These people also belong to a “tribe”. In the eyes of many they are the Western “Untouchables”. I am glad that the Joppa vision has descended over our local McDonalds and Millbrook as well.
The largest “tribe” that I know around Fresno is the “Lost Tribe”. One of its members joined us for a drink recently. A professor of Psychology, he knows a few things about the human mind. As always, such visits are a delight. He challenges me to think through my worldview assumptions. Can a “leopard” change its spots? I know a sinner can become a saint by the power and the person of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit. Disagreement when expressed in a civil manner, and motivated by Love, will always return for more dialogue. I look forward to it.

The world, your world, my world, and our world is God’s world. Live in it with abandoned joy and freedom. Take every thought “captive”, and bring down every stronghold. Share the stories of your mission field experiences. God has too, because….in the fullness of time He sent His son, they call Him Jesus.

Because of Jesus….ruined for the ordinary.

PJ

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