Saturday, March 29, 2014
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
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.”
Monday, March 24, 2014
One of our greatest joys in serving with Canadian Baptist Ministries in Africa has been the opportunity to spend time with the care givers and children of the Guardians of Hope.
The Guardians of Hope (GOH) is Canadian Baptist Ministries’ international response to HIV and AIDS. For the past ten years, tens of thousands of households and individuals in Kenya, Rwanda and Angola have been apart of this movement to end the spread of HIV infection and provide compassion and support for people who are infected and affected by HIV. We are excited to be a part of a new initiative that will provide on going support and mentorship for the orphans and vulnerable children of the Guardians of Hope in Kenya - Kamp Tumaini.
Beginning in 2015, both the youth departments and GOH programs of the African Brotherhood Church (ABC) and the African Christian Church & Schools (ACC&S) will be hosting camps that will provide every GOH child in the Kenyan GOH groups an opportunity to experience the love and hope of Christ through camping ministry. Beyond the fun of the camp, each GOH camper will be paired with a Kenyan youth mentor who provide supportive and encouraging mentorship.
We are looking for volunteers to join the camps that will be held in Kenya over the next three summers beginning in August 2015. If you are interested in dedicating two weeks of your summer to serve in Kenya as a camp counsellor, nurse or leader please inquire.
To learn more or to apply for this short term mission
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Friday, March 14, 2014
Springforth Short Term Mission
Alicia, Emilynn, Lauren, Scott, Taylor, Patrick Maina (ACC&S),
Debbie, Krista, Maggie, Sam, Noah, Dan and Sarah
Today is the last day for the Springforth STM that has been volunteering with the Canadian Baptist Ministries’ food security program in Maai Mahui. We are so thankful for this amazing group of young people who have lived out the love of Christ over these past two weeks with the ACC&S church.
Erica giving Emilynn a lift over the safari ants
Aaron and Lauren enjoying Ethiopian Coffee in Nairobi
Farming God’s Way in Maai Mahui
Erica with a local farmer in Longonot
A big thanks to our team leaders!
Thursday, March 6, 2014
On the Road with the Springforth Short Term Mission Team
in Longonot, Kenya
Erica and I have been enjoying a wonderful week with twelve intrepid youth volunteers representing Springforth a ministry of the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches. Together we are working with our friends from the African Christian Church and Schools in their food security outreach ministries in Maai Mahiu in the Great Rift Valley.
We are so impressed with the great attitudes and openness of the youth who are living forth the love and joy of Christ as they enthusiastically serve with the ACC&S team.
Building demonstration Farming God’s Way conservation agriculture plots in farms in the community