BY EMMA, A PIONEERS UK FIELD WORKER
Arua, a bustling town in the north-west of Uganda, has one of the best fabric markets in East Africa. Shelves of colourful, fun rolls of cloth (called ‘kitenge’) lie stacked up, begging to be sewn into smart shirts and cute dresses. On the market floor, amongst the mud and dirt, lie discarded scraps of fabric, unused and unwanted.
The sounds of laughter and chatting ring out. It’s Thursday evening and we’re meeting for our card project, ‘Arua Home Crafts’. The card project was started over a decade ago by another missionary who saw a need, an opportunity and a market.
Our small card business uses the unwanted scraps of fabric and fashions them into beautiful homemade cards, with fun African animals and colourful, eye-catching designs. The card-makers stain the card with cold tea, and carefully cut round stencils to create the shape, meaning each card is unique.
There are currently six members of the card project. Two of the ladies are named Peace and Grace, which I find so apt for the heart of the project. The aim of the project is not only to provide an honest income – that the members can work in the comfort of their own homes, but also an opportunity to walk together in discipleship as we study the Bible and look at how it relates to our everyday life.
Peace is a widow with two sons, and one of them is Type 1 Diabetic. Because of the income provided to her through the card business, over the last few years, she has been able to buy a year’s supply of millet flour to send to his boarding school so that his diet is supplemented and his blood sugar levels stay healthy. In the last few years, the card project members decided to all contribute from their end of year bonus so they could afford to bulk buy essentials and then share them amongst themselves and their communities.
Grace is another widow with numerous dependents. The money she has earned through the card project has enabled her to pay their rent, pay for medicine for her epileptic daughter, pay for school fees, and for basic food. Through the encouragement of the project, Grace testifies to knowing God’s timely and personal provision.
The annual profits for the project are shared amongst the card members at the end of the year, and the card members receive a lump sum bonus, as well as being paid per card made throughout the year.
Like many businesses, we have had our past challenges, such as distrust amongst previous card members, slow markets, plagiarised designs, and maintaining quality control, but working together to overcome each challenge has helped us to grow as a team, and depend on God more.Our latest challenge has been a dwindling market due to lockdown, and Uganda’s borders being closed, which has meant none of the usual sales through tourists.
Yet we remain hopeful and prayerful that the project will continue to bless the card makers and their families, and in turn bless and bring hope to the wider communities.
As the unwanted kitenge scraps become an integral and beautiful part of each handmade card, so we pray that the project is a symbol of the good news of hope to the marginalised and down-trodden in society, that they too will become transformed into something beautiful and valuable in the Kingdom of God.
Photo by Annie Spratt
How is Your Inner Life?
BY DR DAVID SMITH
Readers of this blog may know that I have spent a lot of time over the past couple of years writing a book on the biblical tradition of the prayer of lament. But in addition, I recently worked on a set of Bible reading notes dealing with Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, which of course includes Jesus’ teaching on the subject of prayer.
So let me begin with the words of Jesus. At the very heart of what might be called the ‘manifesto’ of the kingdom of God, Jesus deals with three aspects of what we can describe as ‘spiritual disciplines’: giving to the poor and oppressed, prayer and fasting. A friend of mine told me recently that he avoids using terminology about ‘the soul’ because, he said, it has become a kind of jargon that few people really understand. Instead he will occasionally ask colleagues, ‘How is your inner life?’ He reports that when phrased in this way, even non-Christian friends respond to a sensitive enquiry, recognising that there is more to being a human person than what appears on a surface level.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Jesus’ teaching on these subjects is precisely his repeated insistence on the private, internal life of his disciples and, conversely, repeated warnings about parading religious devotion in public in order to enhance one’s esteem with other people. He talks about ‘acts of righteousness’ and immediately says they should not be performed (an appropriate word!) ‘before men’. The sharing of resources is to be done in secret, never as a means of gaining honour; the discipline of prayer is a matter for your own room with the door closed; and fasting (which Jesus clearly regards as a regular spiritual discipline) is to be directed solely to ‘your Father, who sees what is done in secret’.
The connection between this teaching of Jesus and mission has nothing to do with effectiveness in evangelism, as though this is a kind of method to achieve greater success. The concern of Christ is
instead with the kind of people we become and the manner in which that then challenges the normal values of the world in which we live our lives. In 1937 the English missionary Charlie Andrews sailed to India for the final time and received a letter on his arrival from a Hindu friend who said, ‘During all these twenty years I have never asked you about Christ, for your own personality has been more than enough for me’. He went on to request Andrews to write a life of Christ in simple English and added: ‘You are the only person who can write this book, for you have lived like Him all these years in India’. Before his death Andrews wrote a small commentary on the Sermon on the Mount which he described as ‘an amazingly perfect description of the Christian character at its highest point’.
What though if your inner life is in turmoil? Is prayer possible when we experience crisis, whether personal tragedy or some larger catastrophe which shatters our hope and shakes the very foundations of our faith? This, of course, is the point at which the biblical tradition of the prayer of lament is so crucial. The Bible does not tell that when our hearts are breaking we have to say, ‘Praise the Lord anyway’. Praise and lament are closely connected in Scripture, and both form part of a normal relationship with God. The conclusion we draw is that biblical prayer is not only crucial for the inner life of the Christian, but also that it must be honest before God, unafraid to admit failure, doubt and struggle. As someone has said, the questions ‘Why?’ and ‘How Long?’ are as authentic in the Bible as the cry ‘Hallelujah’.
Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash
This article was originally featured in the April 2020 edition of Reach magazine. To subscribe to Reach, or any of Pioneers UK’s other digital publications, click here.
The Great Reversal
BY DR DAVID SMITH
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries huge numbers of people left the shores of Europe in a vast migration which was to change the demographics of the world forever. Some of those who crossed the oceans did so in search of a new life with better prospects than seemed available to them and their children in the industrialising societies at home.
Very many others went not by choice, but either by necessity, driven by extreme poverty or famine, or by force in the case of convicts transported to provide labour in distant territories now brought under colonial rule. It has been estimated that by 1915 some 21 percent of the European population had been relocated to lands overseas and this white diaspora now occupied one third of the inhabited world.
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, devised a detailed plan of social action to remedy the huge problems facing Victorian society and in his book In Darkest England and the Way Out he illustrated this with a poster which showed emigration as a key component of his vision. We see ships steaming away from Britain, carrying domestic servants and thousands of the poor and oppressed people who have been rescued from urban slums by the Army’s work of redemption to a new life in British and other colonies. This highlights the fact that the global spread of Christianity, and its later emergence as a world religion, occurred in parallel with this enormous migratory movement and was in some sense made possible by it.
In the 1960s I worked as a humble bank clerk in the City of London at the time that the S.S.Windrush docked at Tilbury with the first group of West Indian immigrants to Britain. From the start there was resentment and suspicion of those who came, and I remember the impact of a poster which appeared on the London Underground with a picture of the cheerful arrivals depicted as saying ‘We are HERE because you were THERE’. As that first trickle of incomers became a flood, people from Africa, India, China, and countless other places might have repeated that statement, reminding white Europeans and North Americans that the migratory movement now flowing from South to North represented the reversal of the earlier mass movement of peoples fleeing poverty and despair in the modernising West.
Where and how does the mission of the people of God fit into this picture? The question is far too big for this article, so I limit comment to a single observation. If what has been called the Great European Migration was the context within which the nineteenth century missionary movement was possible, then the present reversal of the global flows of human population must also create situations within which God’s purpose of grace is being worked out. Jehu Hanciles points out that the extraordinary influx of immigrants to Western societies has resulted in ‘an unprecedented volume and diversity of religious expressions and practices’, while also transferring non-Western forms of Christianity into the heart of a multitude of secular, Western cities. A missionary movement which continues to operate within structures and visions which belonged to the first great migration cannot possibly meet the challenges and opportunities which are presented by the Great Reverse Migration. As Andrew Walls says, ‘The missionary movement entered its old age as the Great European Migration came to a close. Under the conditions of the Great Reverse Migration, it is now in the process of transformation to something else, with the non-Western world increasingly assuming a sending role and producing the missionaries’.
From the Ends of the Earth
AN INTERVIEW WITH WAIRIMU
DIRECTOR OF PIONEERS EAST AFRICA
Pioneers: Hi Wairimu! Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with us today. Tell us a little bit about yourself—who you are, where you’re from etc.
Wairimu: I am a Kenyan missionary in my mid-fifties, a widow with one daughter whose family has two sons. I was born and raised in Nairobi from independence after my parents’ migration to the new capital. I coordinated youth and children’s ministry in two churches for a total of fifteen years before going to seminary to study missions. I have worked with refugees in this region for about eight years. I am now finishing doctoral studies in missional theology and development. I am also serving as the first Pioneers mobilisation office director for the East African region.
Pioneers: Who is the East Africa mobilisation office looking to train and send to the mission field? And where in the world are they going?
Wairimu: In theory, we are set up to send people from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Congo, Zambia, Malawi, Madagascar and Botswana, based on geographical and cultural affinity. French-speaking people from Congo are often drawn to North Africa; Kenyans seem to have quite an interest in the Middle and Far East. Ideally, they should be able to go to any destination the Lord has called them to if they can effectively raise sufficient and sustainable resources from their home communities. To that end, we normally encourage them to reach unreached peoples within their own country first.
Pioneers: You’ve implied here that one of the challenges in mobilising Africans is the lack of financial resources in the local churches. What are some other challenges that Africans face in answering God’s call to mission?
Wairimu: I have been involved in missionary care for a number of years and have seen first hand the challenges that indigenous missionaries face in part due to negligence and perhaps ignorance on the part of their sending churches and agencies. God has called many people to missions through local missions events, but a large number of them don’t reach their mission destinations because there are very few viable sending agencies and churches, if any,
Pioneers: So as a general rule, the local churches don’t have financial resources to support indigenous missionaries, but are there other ways the African church is contributing, or could contribute?
Wairimu: The church has made some effort in planting diaspora churches (for instance, Kenyan churches in the UK), mainly to meet the needs of Africans in other countries. These are maintenance churches that have potential for outreach, if given sufficient training, motivation and guidance. Church and mission leaders need to support missionary sending much more than they are doing, especially among unreached peoples where the need is great but the workforce is small.
Pioneers: More and more of the global Church’s missionary efforts are coming from the Global South. What do you think are the contributing factors to this increased sense of calling in people from the Global South?
Wairimu: There are a lot of teaching, training, envisioning activities happening in Kenya these days. Kenya is a global missions, business and public service hub so many mission strategies and ideas get tested here first. There is also a growing number of well-discipled Christians who are venturing into missions even though the sending efforts are still low.
Pioneers: What can people in the “traditional” sending nations (the UK, the US, Germany etc.) do to facilitate the sending of Africans, South Americans and Asians?
Wairimu: It would be good if they could come and visit and see that their financial endowment is being used in God’s work, regardless of who uses it. In addition, they could share their expertise and be willing to work under indigenous leadership. The challenges of local resource mobilisation make it difficult to send those who clearly are ready to go but don’t have the financial muscle to sustain themselves. Trade imbalances continue to keep the Western nations rich at the cost of Southern economies so we may never really be able to compete at the same level.
Pioneers: When we think of the word ‘missionary,’ a European or North American face usually springs to mind. But the fact is, God has been calling Africans to missions for a long time. We’ve been told missions runs in your family…
Wairimu: Yes! I just found out recently that my grandmother, who I didn’t get a chance to know, was a missionary. I hope to start writing her story in another year or so. Many intruiging stories are told about her but what is clear is that she and her husband were commissioned to reach many in the Kenyan highlands, she built a church in her compound and was non-denominational in her work. She is my current hero.
Pioneers: What’s going on in the East Africa mobilisation office these days? What do you need prayer for?
Wairimu: I have spent most of this year recruiting and training potential volunteer staff. I have learnt the hard way a lot about the aspirations and expectations of volunteers in Christian service. Those who have experience in the positions we require are looking for jobs and not for volunteer positions. Those who are willing to volunteer don’t tend to have the discipline to learn what they need to contribute meaningfully. I am praying for God to bring those whom he has called to commit to this work. I need urgent prayers for this office team to come together. We are open to staff members coming from any part of the world if they feel called to serve in a mobilisation office in admin and accounts, training facilitation, resource mobilisation, research and publications, and in missionary care.
I have had the opportunity to walk with about fifteen people who expressed interest in being mobilised. It turns out that many of them are looking for paid positions. I am learning that we will need creative sending ideas such as sending people as students, business people and professionals for mobilisation to succeed. Also, we will need locally to engage young believers who are indigenous to their own unreached people to make it sustainable.
Pioneers: Thank you for your insights, Wairimu. You’ve given us a lot to think about! We will keep you and our Kenyan brothers and sisters in our prayers, and who knows, maybe one of us will be called to come serve alongside you to mobilise Africans to the nations!
The Power of the Gospel in the Global South
BY SIMON, PIONEERS AUSTRALIA DIRECTOR
If you hear someone say Western missions is over, don’t you believe it! Western missions (and mission from anywhere) is over when Christ returns, and the end has come (Revelation 22:20-21; Matthew 24:14). That said, there has been a radical shift in recent years in terms of the centre of mission activity.
Until fairly recently, Christian mission was predominantly “from the West to the rest”. Today, the number of cross cultural gospel bearers from the Global South is on the rise… and the rise is significant. South Korea, Brazil and Nigeria are now major missionary-sending countries, and Christians in China, India and Indonesia, among others, are poised to send large numbers of Christ-followers to countries near and far, including to the post-Christian West.
An example of how God is stirring His people in the Global South to engage in mission is seen in the story of Pioneers’ influence in Pacific countries such as the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
A Catalytic Ministry and the Solomon Islands
In 1886, a small group of indentured Solomon Islanders working in the sugarcane fields of Queensland, Australia, were being discipled by a young Australian Christian woman named Florence Young. This ministry developed into a significant mission when Solomon Islanders returned to their home country with a new message for their people – salvation through Jesus Christ. In the early 1900s, this group became known as the South Sea Evangelical Mission (SSEM), spreading the gospel throughout the islands of Melanesia and giving birth to the South Sea Evangelical Church in the 1960s. This church today has more than 90,000 members.
From Headhunting to Worship in Papua New Guinea
In the mid-1900s, another small Christian mission was formed with a strong vision to engage peoples on the islands of New Guinea. This was a time when tribal fighting was bloody, and headhunting was the norm. Aussies and New Zealanders built airstrips, established medical outposts, taught literacy, started Bible studies and, by God’s grace, established churches. The work of Asia Pacific Christian Mission (APCM) contributed directly to the formation of the Evangelical Church of PNG and the Evangelical Church of Indonesia. It is virtually impossible to count the number of believers in some 700 ECPNG congregations throughout PNG today. In the late 1990s, SSEM and APCM linked arms to become Pioneers of Australia.
From Receiving to Sending
This year, 30 leaders from Pioneers and Pacific churches convened at the request of the Pacific leaders to pursue a partnership for the mobilisation of Pacific Islanders into the Pioneers global movement. We now have the beginnings of two mobilisation teams forming to support this partnership; several discussions with new workers; and our first Fijian family has recently been appointed to serve among Indigenous Australians. We celebrate new members and partners joining our growing global family.
This is a new era. The Lord is at work in the Pacific Islands – stirring the hearts of His people in the Global South to reach others in nearby countries and in lands elsewhere! It is a privilege to watch this story unfold, and to affirm such an important historic relationship for God’s glory and God’s story in the Pacific and beyond. ~