Saturday, May 28, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Below are some pictures from Patrick and Heather of the critters they run into in their home and around the ranch. Enjoy! Captions are below each picture.
Our kitten, Oswald Sebastian.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
My earliest memory is lying in a playpen at Ridgecrest. I grew up at church in a class called Mission Friends (taught by my mother), and after that Royal Ambassadors. Once a year I sat in a VBS class for a week, and when I outgrew it I taught one instead. My teen years were spent going to Centrifuge Camps at Skycroft, in Maryland or Ridgecrest, in North Carolina (including the obligatory tangent over to Sliding Rock) and being involved in the National Drama Society (NDS). I knew who Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon were long before Martin Luther and John Calvin, and I listened to Charles Stanley on the radio almost every night. In high school when I went on mission trips to Oklahoma, my support partially came from the Home Mission Board.
Right now you are in one of two camps, you either have no clue what I am talking about (and what it has to do with Africa) or you have just confirmed your suspicions that I grew up Southern Baptist. There was a Methodist and Community church in the same town as my church but we didn’t really talk to them much. We didn’t hate them or anything and we certainly considered them Christians, they just had their business and we had ours and sometimes we’d team up for something but mostly we had our own separate booths at the town fair.
Often in church history, small doctrinal errors end up getting magnified over time into major problems within the church. The early church needed somebody to decide whether Christians who had rejected Jesus under Roman torture should be allowed back into the church, and they gave that power to the priest. Move 1000 years forward and the priest, not you, decided where you stood with Christ (obviously I’m summarizing). Africa is not immune to history, and because of the amazing mission revolution of the early 1900’s, much of Africa’s modern church history starts with America and the West.
Within Ugandan Christian gatherings here, often the second question Heather and I are asked (after our names) is what denomination we are. Being part of Soma Communities, my answer is “non-denominational” which usually gives rise to a confused look on their face. They will often press for more information and at that point I try to explain Acts 29 to them and the famous Open-Handed vs. Close-Handed doctrinal system A29 uses to support church planters. Sometimes they think it’s cool, but often they get angry, Presbyterians and Baptists and Pentecostals and what-have-you all working together does NOT fly in Africa.
How did this happen? Two things I think. When we westerners came as missionaries, we didn’t come as one church, and in fact as the denominations in the States tried to one-up each other with their foreign mission work, they would stamp their denominational logo on anything they did here. Second, we didn’t recognize that Africans are tribal; their identity is strongly linked not to who they are but what tribe they belong to, and when many Africans became Christians, their denomination became their new tribe. So while in America the Baptist and Methodist church may be across the street and even share the same parking lot, in Africa it is not unheard of for Christians to get into a brawl or even shoot one another because they were part of the “wrong” denomination. And before those of you who attend non-denominational churches think you’re off the hook, denominationalism can come in the form of “John Piperism,” “Tim Kellerism,” or any local church member who thinks his doctrine is so rock solid that other Christians might as well jump off the boat (not that Piper or Keller think that but many of their followers do).
So what do we do? I think first we pray; God is in control and I think actually it is by God’s grace that this denominationalism is not as bad as it potentially could have become. I DO know that no missionary called by Jesus comes with any intent of malice and really does just desire for the Gospel to be heard and to make disciples of all nations. I am not attempting to vilify those who packed their belongings in a casket and blindly came to this world out of a love for the Gospel. Second I think maybe when we come to Africa we should worry less about making sure they know it was a Southern Baptist church and not a Presbyterian church that helped out, and focus more on the fact that Jesus sent us and Jesus is why we are here. We need to let go of that need we have for OUR church to be recognized for the work IT is doing, and admit we are all just servants of Christ acting out of a unified love (not our love but HIS).
Finally, I think we gently instruct and show Africans that we ARE one church. Maybe the next time your church plans a mission trip, consider teaming up with some other local churches. I’m still figuring out what this looks like, but I’ll end with a fun story. It has been my pleasure to spend time with a group of local pastors and church planters at the Pastor Training Center here at the ranch. I was sitting in with them one day when they began arguing over the denominational biases of the NIV bible. So it was with great joy and surprise to them that I had them all turn to the preface of their copies of the NIV and read this sentence:
“That they were from many denominations-including Anglican, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Brethren, Christian Reformed, Church of Christ, Evangelic Free, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Wesleyan and other churches-helped to safeguard the translation from sectarian bias.”