education

Snakes in a loo

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Here in Kondoa, we have had many warm windy days and nights. Our outside hole-in-the-ground loo, which is surrounded by lean-to corrugated iron sheets, has all but blown apart. A friend espied a baby snake disappearing into the hole the other day, so it is possible its entire family lives down there! Just as well we have indoor, western-type loos too. We can even flush them sometimes! The hot season will be upon us soon, which hopefully will include lots of rain. Some villages had no harvest at all from the last ‘wet season.’

At Kondoa Bible College, we rejoice in the enthusiasm of all our students. Fourteen students began their 3-year Certificate of Theology course in August, and right now are on their mid-term break. Most of them would have preferred to keep going, battling away with their essays, which many of the staff like giving them for their mid-term assessment. There are several pastors in the group; others are catechists who hope to be ordained when they have their qualification. Two more students may be joining them after the break. The two-year course students have all eagerly taken on leadership roles in the college, which is great! They too are working well, and benefiting from the computer lessons that Peter is giving them. Their goal is to be able to write their essays on the computer.

We’re at presently applying for work permits so that we can then apply for our residence permits to be renewed. We had hoped that by now there would have been an exemption granted for us as missionaries with the Anglican church but that will be too late for us now if granted. This week has been occupied with a long journey by bus to Dar es Salaam for Peter followed by two days trying to complete our work permit applications and then a long journey back to Kondoa, interrupted by a night in Dodoma, having arrived too late to go on to Kondoa. We pray that we’ll have a positive response to our application so that we can then renew the residence permit before it expires in mid-November.

Recently Peter led both services at the church in Kondoa and fortunately did not have to preach as well. Our pastor was away at a family funeral so he had to ask for the part-time pastor and myself to cover for him. We had a time of thanksgiving as part of the service for David Pearce, who had worked in the 1990’s in Kondoa and still had many who warmly remembered him.

Over a week ago now we received news that Peter’s translated version of a book on grief has arrived in Dodoma. They are waiting for us to collect and then distribute. Thank you to all who have contributed to help this come about. It will be interesting to see what it actually looks like after all this time!

Since our last newsletter we have had several groups of visitors which involved quite a lot of travelling to different parts of the Diocese. It is quieter here at present on that front as the Bishop is away on Sabbatical leave until mid-December.  Please pray for him that he can have some refreshment while away and safety in all his travelling.

Safety on the roads is a constant challenge here. An example of that is for one of our pastors who was travelling on a bus from Arusha on Friday. He ended up in hospital after the brakes of the bus failed on a steep incline and crashed. Many were very badly injured. He escaped with cuts and bruises.

We really do appreciate your interest and sharing in our ministry here in Kondoa. We would love to hear from you too when you have opportunity. Why not leave a comment below?

Image: The current three year Bible course students.

Identity, anthropology and mission

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What does it mean to be missional while being a student? Abigail shares a story demonstrating that university can be a place to express and explore – not lose – our faith.

I’ve been studying Anthropology at university. It’s about understanding cultures and trying to see things from their perspective, and having traveled a fair bit the last five years and going on a few mission trips myself, these are valuable skills I hope to use a lot in my future trips. Useful skills for modern missionaries.

The other day I got into a debate with my Anthropology lecturer in a tutorial. His argument was that identity is purely contextual and relational – our experiences and the people around us make us ‘who we are’. So if there is to be ‘me’ there must always be a ‘you’ to make me ‘me’.

This is one of the foundational building blocks of Anthropological thought. It’s necessary for anthropologists to think outside of their cultural context, avoid ethnocentricity (being biased and only seeing things from their own perspective) and understand other groups within their own context and relations. ‘It’s all relative’ so they say.

He went on to discuss how there is therefore nothing that makes us essentially who we are.

There is nothing essential or eternal about us all.

But he failed to point out that the academic who had make the point in the reading we were discussing was writing from his own belief system – a belief in ‘Nothing’. The same foundational philosophy as Buddhism – a great universal nothingness.

 

My question to him was, “What happens when we die then?’”

Because when the context and the relationships that defined us in this life disappear, if there is nothing that makes us essentially who we are, our identity must disappear along with them. We cease to exist.

We become ‘nothing’.

 

I am not saying that our identity is not purely contextual and relational.

Because I think it is.

But what if you were in an unbreakable, unchangeable relationship with something essential and eternal, that would always be there?  With a place prepared for you forever.

 

I asked him another question: “What about integrity?”

That idea of being one, whole person, all of the time. Perhaps even a ‘genuine’, honest person. If a person’s identity isn’t grounded in ‘Something’ outside of time and space then there is no way of being a person of integrity, because nothing outside of your environment is defining your choices or who you are. No one to make you ‘human’, or even humane. No conscience, compass or morality. You are a ship on a thousands seas, with a million fractured personalities.

 

My lecturer threw me back a question: “Why did God make the world then? What could he possibly want from us?”

Because he loves us, I said. He created us for a relationship with Him. Love is creative. It was not that he needed us at all.

Jesus came that we may meet the God who loves us, the ‘Something’ outside of nothing. And when that day comes, and the people we meet and the things we have experienced are gone, a relationship with God and a context in eternity will remain-  and our identity in Christ will remain.

 

My lecturer was right – identity is purely contextual and relational.

And if I believe in Nothing… if I fail to find my true identity through a relationship and a context in Something (eternal, everlasting, infinite, loving, unending, faithful, enduring), nothing is really all that will remain.

 

THE MUSE

Its easy to hide our faith, especially in the academic classroom. What has your experience been when your faith is challenged? Are there creative ways you can express your faith in your context like Abigail did?

THE MOVE

Watch out for an opportunity God will give you this week to share your faith. (Also, consider doing an anthropology paper or reading a book about the subject – it’s an incredibly useful area for those interested in mission.)

 

Abigail has worked in mission contexts around the world the last five years with a focus on anti-trafficking. She completed a film school last year in South Africa and has returned to Christchurch to study Anthropology at the University of Canterbury. In the future Abigail hopes to use the arts and film-making as an advocacy tool, and is currently interning with the Tear Fund to raise awareness and support for the anti-trafficking organisation Nvader (nvader.org).