Well, mid-term break is upon us here in Kijabe. That means that Moffat is off until Wednesday and Luke (RVA) until Tuesday. It’s a momentary lapse in the hectic schedule that we seem to keep. It’s also a time to reflect on the past six weeks.
So much happens in such a short time that it is difficult to convey via a newsletter or blog posting. But, I’d like to pull together four somewhat random topics in this blog post – Culture, Missions, Car Repairs and Volleyball.
We’ve been in Kenya now for one year and six months. We are still learning the culture and I’ve been reminded recently how different we westerners think.
Each term at Moffat Bible College we set aside a day to focus on Missions. We generally invite a guest speaker for chapel who shares about their work – we do our best to have both Kenyans and westerners. This academic term I invited a former member of the Moffat family to speak. Rev. Moses Njenga served as our VP of Academics but decided last year to go back to fulltime church work. His church is in the middle of a seven year project to reach the Pokot, a semi-nomadic tribe in northwestern Kenya. He spoke about the biblical basis for missions – taking the students back to the Old Testament and God’s covenant with Abram and brought them full circle to the work that his church is doing among the Pokot. Their end goal is to plant a viable Evangelical movement among the Pokot and empower Christians among the Pokot to reach their own. Please pray with me that God will continue to bless their work. They are ahead of their expected schedule and are already planting the first church.
One interesting aspect to Moses’ presentation was that there are cultural barriers to cross – even for a Kenyan ministering in Kenya. We are still learning Kenyan culture and I recently “endured” the process of having our car repaired. Talk about feeling culturally inadequate! I knew that I would need help, so I asked a Kenyan friend for advice. He connected me with a mechanic in Nairobi who works on Nissans and he and I took several trips into town to work through the process of having the repairs done. There are traditional mechanic shops in Nairobi (much like what one would find in the US) but that’s not where we went. We spent time among the jua kali (literally – hot sun). This is a reference to people who make their living out in the hot sun. We went to an area of Nairobi which is not often visited by wazungu (westerners/white people). My friend helped me convey the need and eventually the car was repaired. Without his guidance, I would not have been able to find the right jua kali. I needed his cultural knowledge and guidance to reach my objective.
After the repairs had been completed, my friend and I proceeded to another area of town to purchase new tires. He led me to an area near downtown and we stopped in front of a little shop. In fact, the entire street was filled with shop after shop – selling tires or other car parts. I learned later that almost all the tire shops I saw were owned by the same person – it was a marketing strategy – if you didn’t like the looks of one shop or the people working there you would just go to the one next door . . . not knowing that you were buying from the same owner. We sat for some time while various selections were acquired for me to review (all coming from the different shops on the street). Eventually the guys working there got a little tired of this mzungu delaying the process and conveyed this to my friend. He politely explained to them that we wazungu don’t think like Africans – we often like to think through things carefully before making a decision. I had no idea I was getting on the nerves of the shop guys – I was just being myself. Thanks to my friend’s knowledge of Kenyan and western cultures, he was able to smooth out the situation.
I am cognizant on a daily basis of the cultural differences that separate me from Africans but was reminded by Moses (our Missions Day speaker) that even among Kenyans there are cultural distinctives. Tribal traditions vary and even a Kenyan missionary serving in Kenya needs to learn and adapt to culture. Moses’ church has had to learn some distinctives of the Pokot so as not to cause tension and at the same time seek open doors to connect the Gospel.
One of my roles at Moffat is serving as the faculty patron (sponsor) for the Antioch Mission Fellowship. We have students from a variety of tribes and seek to encourage their leadership development so that we can have pastors who lead their churches to be involved in local missions as well as Kenyans who seek to be missionaries in Kenya and beyond. The lesson that Moses gave us in cross-cultural missions was very timely and struck a chord with me as I reflected on my limitations as a missionary. My experience having my car repaired again highlighted my limitations. Please pray with me for our Moffat students – they are all gifted by God and it is my heartfelt desire that God will use them to strengthen the church and to spread truth throughout Kenya and beyond. They can only do this if they recognize their limitations and trust God to be their strength and guide.
As Christians, we are all called to share the Gospel. We do this through words and actions. We are all missionaries of one sort or another. Cultural barriers often get in the way but God is able to overcome those barriers even when we have no clue what we’re doing. Sometimes he puts the right person in our path to offer wise advice and sometimes we just stumble through while he sands off the rough edges. Praise God that He can use us here in Kenya to encourage and empower the church!
Lastly, I just had to include a story about volleyball here in Kenya. I’m not sure if this applies to Kenya in general but this is how we play at Moffat. We are in the middle of a tournament that involves students, teachers, and staff. I thought I knew the rules of the game but there are different rules here at Moffat. Hitting the ball three times is still the norm but one is not limited to the use of hands – feet and heads are also legal! For proof, I offer the following:
This particular shot went wide but on a number of occasions the ball stayed in play after a foot shot. One student playing in the second row center hit a winning head shot – caught the line!
Talk about cultural differences! 🙂
Tim for Maureen, Luke and Kate