Monday, June 07, 2010

Reflections in Kenya

The past two weeks I have been in Kenya. It’s great to be “home,” as my daughters call it (we served here for 14 years, the formative years for our girls). I am teaching missions at the Africa Theological Seminary in Kitale, a city of about 40,000 people in the western part of the country, near the Ugandan border.

In my partnership agreement with ATS, in exchange of my teaching their B.A. students, they allow me to bring in students not formerly enrolled in the school for mission studies. This year we have 15 people from Kenya, Uganda and Sudan attending the class. My mantra is the same; I want to influence people for cross-cultural ministry.

In the past three years I have been coming to Kenya to challenge the church to send out missionaries to areas where there are no churches. Those regions, towns and villages are few as this country as about 85% of the population claim to be Christian. I am very much aware that probably not more that 35 to 45 percent of the population actually attend church on any given Sunday, but there are tons of churches in Kenya and they use to say that Kenya has more western missionaries, per capita, than any other nation in Africa. Yet, there are SOME places in Kenya where there are not many Christians, which would include many towns and villages in the northeast (near Somalia) and on the coast, which is predominately Muslim. My great challenge is that the Kenyan churches send cross-cultural workers to Arabic Sudan, Libya or Djibouti.

Because of my pioneer status, arriving here in 1976 and working in remote areas of Pokot and Turkana districts, some of the young pastors, who were not even born when I first arrived, see me as some sort of a historical figure. They see the churches started (12 while I was here, now over 200), the Makutano Bible Institute still moving forward and, like many who miss the details of history, wonder what role they may have for the future, even more so, what my role will be for their future.

“We are your spiritual grandchildren,” one pastor said to me this past week. “What can we expect from our grandfather in helping us in our ministry?”

“Nothing,” I replied.

I certainly understand the economic disparity between the grandfather and the grandchildren, but the issue of continually underwriting the national church, especially in a country where there are more churches than you can count, seems to me a bit outdated. Dependency has long plagued the church throughout the world in developing countries. I am not opposed to lending a helping hand and throughout my career as a missionary aided worthy projects throughout the world. I will continue to do so. In the process of growth, however, there must be some movement on the part of the offspring. There are two reasons I believe for dependency within the Kenyan church, and many other parts of the world: (1) An unwillingness to pay the price among the national church and, (2) The ignorant missiological approach of the West.

(To be continued)