Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Building Bridges

CBM  Ministry  with  Muslims 
Project Officer’s Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya
William, Josephine, Erica, Aaron, Laura, Geoffery, and Yattani

We had the joy of gathering this week with the key leaders in Canadian Baptist Ministries’ integral mission program in the Muslim majority communities of Kenya’s North Eastern Province and Eastern Nairobi. Together our team members are working to build bridges of healing, trust, and cooperation among Christians and Muslims. 

“We face many challenges,” shared our friend Yattani. “Continued insecurity and radicalization. And of course fear because of the terror attacks. But there are many successes that we have to celebrate. The cross and crescent conference was not only strategic, but it was timely, significant and appealed to the needs of the Christian communities in Garissa. The need for bridging Christian/Muslim relations and also understanding what the Muslims believe is paramount.

The feeding program has not only increased enrolment of the students in [the villages of] Bakuyu and Buula Pamoja, but has provided nutritious lunch for the students and has challenged the parents to own the need of educating their children.”

Over the past three years these ECD schools have had explosive growth. So much so, that the Buula Pamoja school has become a major feeder school for the Korakora primary school where this past year 20% of the children are now coming from Buula Pamoja. These are over one hundred children who had never had the opportunity to attend school before.

“We are building bridges through farming as well” shared our friend William, who has been mentoring Muslim and Christian farmers each week in the Farming God’s Way conservation agriculture project in Garissa District. Currently six of the local churches are meeting weekly with their Muslim neighbours in each other’s gardens and farms. “We don’t just sit and have tea together,” laughs William. “We are in the fields every day working together, talking together and sharing our hopes. This is integral mission."

Please join us in praying for this important ministry and for these young leaders who are serving in such practical and important ways.

“The great gift of Easter is hope - Christian hope which makes us have confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake.” 
Basil Hume

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Prayers for Peace

Cattle herdsman in Juba, South Sudan

As we approach Palm Sunday, we are reminded of how Jesus was viewed by so many of his peers as a  potential military Messiah who would bring the “Kingdom of God” by sword. His triumphal entry into Jerusalem turned the expected political power-play on its head. Instead of leading a rebellion, Jesus’ path was set toward the self-sacrifice of the cross. In the Gospels, we read how the masses that lined the streets with Palm branches hailing the “king of the Jews” soon became the crowds who would turn against him. The path of following Jesus is not free of suffering, in fact it often directs us into the very centre of conflict and despair. Rather than meeting injustice and oppression with violence, the Church is called to a way of self-giving love, bold proclamation of truth, and courageous solidarity with the other.

This month is the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. During this week of mourning, our friends and colleagues living in Kigali have gathered with their neighbours in churches, public squares, schools and grave sites to prayer together, weep together and sing together. "Never again" is the common vow that can be heard throughout Rwanda. The Art of Remembering and Forgetting, by Peter Gwin is a great three part series on the Rwandan Genocide that is worth reading. In his article, he highlights the stories of dozens of Rwanda genocide survivors and chronicles the challenge of healing that the people of Rwanda have so bravely embrace. Among the many people Gwin interviews, he meets "Erine Nyirakarehe a 58-year-old ethnic Tutsi, [who] sits with former Hutu militiaman Ildephonse Twjiyezu, 33, who in 1994 led a group that burned down her family's home with her son inside. "It was very painful to kill the boy," says Twjiyezu, who was only 14 years old at the time. "It was like a stone in my heart." Through the organization As We Forgive, the two were brought together for reconciliation. "When I forgave Ildephonse, I felt like a whole person again," says Nyirakarehe. "It made me want to forgive more people.”      National Geographic Link

Our friend Reverend Gato Munyamasoko leads the Association of Rwandan Baptist Churches (AEBR) one of our partners in Rwanda. His passion has been helping the church and the communities where they serve to experience peace and reconciliation. Canadian Baptist Ministries has had the privilege of partnering with the AEBR in holistic mission that seeks to bring the transforming love of Christ into every aspect of peoples lives from improved agriculture and education, to deeper understanding and relationships with our neighbours. As the Church ministers in Rwanda, the heart of the healing that is happening is through forgiveness.

Our Canadian Baptist Ministries colleague and friend Laurena Zondo is the founder and president of  Peace of Life a dynamic ministry that is part of our wider peace building efforts in Rwanda. Each year young people come together for peace camps that are focused on personal healing and community transformation.

In Prayer:

- As we pray for continued healing from the scars of genocide in Rwanda, let us also pray for the people of South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, and Kenya where violence and destruction continues along ethnic divisions. 

- Please prayer for our friends in Malakal, South Sudan, who are a part of the CBM/FEBAC relief efforts.

- Please remember our friends in the Central African Baptist Churches (CBCA) in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo who are also working for sustained peace and healing among their people after decades of conflict and war in Eastern Congo.

CBCA Youth Drama on Conflict and Reconciliation
in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

“This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
John 15:12-13

Saturday, March 29, 2014

New Video for KAMP TUMAINI

Finding Our Way

Waliwana Families Participating in a Village Meeting
Garissa, North Eastern Province, Kenya

Walking among thorns bushes and along the twisting camel paths of Kenya’s North Eastern Province (NEP) can be disorientating. At times the mathenge scrub bush can tighten in, choking out the path in front of you. Straight lines are rarely found on the journey, as you must weave your way through the wilderness. For nearly four decades, Canadian Baptist Ministries has been serving in these semi-arid lands of NEP. Our story is a fascinating one as it has spanned an era of remarkable change within Christian missions -- there are few straight lines in our story. 

In a recent conversation with Bob Berry, who served on the executive staff of CBM in the 1970s and 1980s and as our general secretary in the early 1990s, we discussed the shifts in Canadian Baptist Ministries. Reflecting on the early missionaries who pioneered CBM’s work in NEP, he shared the challenge of discerning what it meant to be apart of God’s Mission in a post-colonial world: “...the new comer, coming in, was caught in that vortex of change going on.  And I think it was something that missionaries in this new era had to learn. We had to find our way.” 

Some of the earliest stories go back to the late 1960s when Canadians like Abner Langley, and later Bob Berry himself, could be found eating Kikuyu Mutura (think Goat Hagus) and building friendship with the leaders of the African Christian Church and Schools -- praying and dreaming together about where God might be leading His church in Kenya. It would take a decade of building trust and friendship in the hill country of Kenya’s central province before the first group of African and Canadian missionaries would cross the Tana River and establish a new work in NEP.

At the heart of the change, was an understanding that the Church of the West was not the centre of God’s Mission. Contrary to earlier expressions of Christian expansion, the post-colonial Church grappled with the recognition that our experience of Christianity had become entwined with our own cultural and philosophical values. We became increasing more self-aware, self-critical and struggled with the implications of how Christian mission had been abused. We were keenly aware of the indictments against Christian missions as a pawn of colonial empires. As Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, complained “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land."

Both Bob Berry and I are currently working on separate historical analysis of Canadian Baptist’s missional endeavours. Bob is keenly interested in the recent work of Robert Woodberry who has shown both historically and statistically that "Conversionary Protestant” mission actually has led to democracy and religious freedom. Contrary to the stereotypes that painted missionaries as puppets of Colonial powers, according to Bob "in actual fact, it was the missionaries who were the agitator’s change and the proponents of independence, and the mission policies reflect that”. In my own research, I have been impressed by the wider social impact of our CBM predecessors in NEP: People like the Wards, the Swans, and the Carlines, who encouraged and empowered Somali women to raise their voices against female genital mutilation, struggled to lower the spread of Tuberculosis, and worked tirelessly for the education of Somali children. As Canadian Baptists, there is a lot about our history that is worth celebrating.

I am also amazed by how many Canadians have been impacted by the ministry of CBM in NEP. By the early 1980’s, the NEP work gave rise to Canadian Baptist Volunteers (what we call today Short Term Missions STM). For decades hundreds of volunteers have joined the ministry in Garissa, Dadaab, and Wajiir as they came to teach, provide medical assistance, establish farms, and share the love and hope of Christ in word and in deed.

“Every day the church must wake up and ask itself, ‘What kind of day is today?’ for no two days are alike in her history.” David Smith, Mission After Christendom

While once described as “Somali Ministry” the outreach of CBM in NEP has become increasingly more inclusive of local Christian and Muslim minority groups.  As we continue to “find our way”, we have become increasingly more aligned with strengthening local churches in building solidarity with the marginalized people within their community. Among the many marginalized groups within NEP, over the past three years we have been walking closely with the Waliwana people. Our approach has been holistic and multi-pronged, as our colleague Yattani Gollo has been focused on building bridges with the Waliwana elders, the local churches, and civic leaders of Garissa; our colleagues William Wako and Geoffery Mwita have been accompanying both Christian and Waliwana farmers in establishing sustainable conservation agricultural practices; and through CBM’s self help group (SHG) initiatives Erica and our friend Josephine have been mobilizing vulnerable women and forming SHGs that provide social and spiritual support as well as financial empowerment. 

New irrigation systems and cover crops helping 
to improve the livelihoods of Waliwana farmers

"Marginalized people have God-given gifts that are under-utilized because of disempowerment and denial of access to opportunities and/or justice. Through struggles in and for life, marginalized people are reservoirs of the active hope, collective resistance, and perseverance that are needed to remain faithful to the promised reign of God.”  Together Towards Life  (CWME)

Perhaps one of the most important shifts has been in our understanding of the agent of mission as being God. In the words of Chris Wright, “It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world, as that God has a church for his mission in the world, Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission -- God’s mission.” We believe that the role of the “missionary”, be them international or local, is to serve the people of God living within a community. In this way, we come along side the local church (in her many forms) that is already embedded within a community like Garissa and partner with them for the purpose of joining in what God is already doing. Through partnership, we participate in what CBM calls "global discipleship” -- We are mutually learning, sharing and strengthening one another as participants in God’s story of redemption and healing in our world.

Today we are excited to be working hand in hand with a diversity of ethnic communities, including Muslim villages, local government agencies, community-based organizations and the fellowship of 26 different local churches whom call Garissa home. Together these churches are serving their neighbours in a spirit of humility and grace that reflects the beauty of God. Together we are finding our way.

Waliwana women weaving prayer mats 
at in the village of Bakuyu in Garissa District

In Prayer:
Please remember our CBM colleagues Yattani, William, Geoffery and Josephine serving with the Garissa Churches and communities in North Eastern Province. We pray for their continued safety and health. We pray for the relationships that they are building as they seek to encourage and strengthen Christian and Muslim cooperation. 

Pray for continued peace in this community. We are thankful that there has been several months without any further attacks from the Islamist extremist group Al Shabaab. We pray for healing and wholeness for all of those who have suffered from loss and harm from these attacks. We pray for Christian and Muslim leaders as they work in solidarity for the good of their community.

Please pray for the church in Garissa that it would reflect the nature of God. In the words of Andrew Kirk -- "God’s intention for the world is that in every respect it should show forth the way he is - love, community, equality, diversity, mercy, compassion and justice.”