Why Africa Matters to Your Community
I wrote several days ago about people’s strong feelings about missions as sponsored by their local congregations. I have talked with preachers, elders and lay people alike who constantly wrestle with what portion of the church budget to send to workers overseas and how to answer people who ask questions about African missions and what relevance that holds for a church called to be a local expression of Jesus.
First of all, I don’t really care for the local-foreign division in how we see missions. I would rather see missions thought of as the outgrowth of a Christian life and devotion. Just like we don’t think of local-foreign peace or local-foreign study, there is just peace, just study, there should just be mission.
Secondly, if missions is done correctly, it should be a discipline that grows, changes and is constantly improving on itself. Every few years a new book is published about a church who found a new approach to small groups that has completely changed their church. The book sells millions and church leaders and lay people alike get to read, critique, glean and discern what part, if any, of the new model will work in their contexts to strengthen and build up their churches.
The same thing has to happen in missions. But largely it hasn’t. Despite the fact that Americans could learn a lot about church growth from guys working in Africa, and we could learn a lot about engaging post-modern culture from those who have been doing it in France for 20+ years, we still see a foreign-local divide.
I will give you a few examples of how Micah 6 Community is trying to discern what may work in our local context from many friends of ours who are working overseas.
Several friends and mentors of mine has been working with and founding Kibo Group over the past 15 years. Kibo is a group of missionaries in Africa who have been engaging their communities for Christ through business and community development initiatives. This has proven successful an has created not only disciples but a better quality of life for all involved and living in the surrounding communities.
A friend started a business called MANA which feeds hungry children in Africa through mothers, who are essential to creating healthy families, communities and generations. In Pontiac, we hope to be deeply committed to re-education about nutrition to low-income and families in need who otherwise wouldn’t have access or education about healthy foods. We plan to start our re-education efforts with mothers.
Heifer International has been helping far flung communities start bottom-level economies through education about farming and gardening. This idea plays out in Pontiac as we are teaching locals how to grow vegetables in order to encourage them to being growing for themselves; starting bottom-up economy and taking nutrition into their own hands.
A new friend, Corey Keen, and his team in the Czech Republic began noticing that there were many teenagers who were just wondering the streets without much to do in the form of organized or positive recreation. This led them to start a teen center where kids could come hang out on a regular basis, and they staffed the center with Christians to provide a constant positive presence in their lives. Similarly, we are always looking for ways to provide entertainment and recreation for the kids in our neighborhoods whether that is watching movies in our living room or playing soccer in any of our vacant fields.
None of these are in and of themselves remarkable revelations about community engagement, but they are lessons that I have learned from missionaries elsewhere that we plan to implement in our community.
Similarly there is plenty going on abroad that I believe will be greatly instructive for what we plan to do at home.