An atheist ex-pat from Malawi writes about how important Evangelical missionaries are to the future of Africa. Not just the work they do, but what they believe. I read it from a position of ignorance, but I hope that he is right. Looking forward to discussing this with my brother-in-law Scott, a missionary in Tanzania.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
Every year, I have to ask Doug to remind me what the weeks in advent stand for. Since I don’t have a handy notebook near, I’m posting this here to remind me throughout the season, and so that I can find it with a snappy little blog search next year.
Advent is four weeks long. The four weeks are:
Hope – the Prophet
Love – the Holy Family
Joy – the Shepherds
Peace – the Magi
On week 5, we celebrate the traditional “80-Proof Christmas” candle, wherein all music pastors pass out from exhaustion and slip into the numb embrace of Bookers.
I borrowed the extended edition of The Return of the King from our friends Jason and Brooke and have been ever-so-slowly making my way through the special features. In one of the (many) featurettes, a bushel of Tolkien experts examine his theme of hope versus despair, which he explores most powerfully in the contrasting characters of Theoden, King of Rohan and Denethor, Steward of Gondor. Their story lines are remarkably similar: each has lost a son, each has another heir (Eomer and Faramir, respectively) who just doesn’t seem as great as the first, each one’s kingdom is threatened with impending doom. Yet even with all their apparent similarities, one chooses the path of hope (with no promise of fulfillment), while the other commits the ultimate act of despair: suicide (with no chance for what Tolkien called “the eucatastrophe“).
As I was watching the featurette, I realized I was crying. This in and of itself is not that surprising: I’ve become a bit of a blubber-baby in my old age. (All that “feelings need feeling or they get really pithed” has really done a number on my equilibrium.) What was a bit surprising, however, was the realization that the cause of my tears was a short clip of Theoden’s death scene — which was completely out of context, since I wasn’t even watching the film itself. As he lies dying, Theoden says, “I go to my fathers, in whose mighty company I shall not now feel ashamed.”
It just broke me up. It struck me that this hope — the hope that I will someday stand in the presence of my Father, as well as those who have gone before, and not feel ashamed — goes to the core of my desire to live well. I don’t fear punishment (hell, if you prefer) for NOT living well. No, I fear the shame of squandering the graces I’ve been given — and more, I long (on my best days) to live a life deserving of those graces.