I am currently reading a very interesting book all about the problems with the Western world’s relationship with “Africa”. Aside from some geographical difficulties (referring to the region of problem as “Africa”, when in fact, he seems to be dealing largely with the issues in East and South Africa), the book is, so far, very good. I’ve zizzed through a lot of it – partially because I know all the pre-argument facts, and partially because it makes me very sad to read all of those miserable statistics. People are dying, getting sick, and living in poverty. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and don’t want to dwell on it any more than is necessary.
This book, however, falls in nicely with my readings in the book of Ephesians. In that particular letter, the writer, Paul, is primarily concerned with unity in the church – especially between Gentiles and Jews. He encourages them to treat all as equals, that Christ breaks all man-made barriers, and that we are called to love.
A big problem that I have observed living here in Uganda (not in “Africa”) is divisions. Tribalism is a big problem. I was recently told that there are 42 recognised languages in Uganda – that’s at least 42 tribes. Within those tribes are clans. Within those clans are families. Within those families are individuals that are feuding and distrustful of eachother. So many divisions! So many reasons to dislike and fight with eachother. In the book I’m reading, it said, “It is thought that Uganda, a smallish country of around 25 million people, could still probably feed the whole of Africa if commercially farmed.” (Giles Bolton, Africa Doesn’t Matter) That sentence, besides making me think “What does he mean by ‘Africa’?” and “Yeah! Represent!!!!” also made me wonder how much potential this “smallish”, wonderful little pearl could do if united.
But what does it say in Ephesians? “For he Himself (Christ) is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (ch.2, vs. 12-16) In Christ we are FREE of all of those barriers – those petty restraints. As a church, we are ONE. We are a whole body, the bride of Christ.
So how does this play out in a place where there are so many walls between people? Walls that have been built up over years and years of feuding? Walls that separate people that may have never heard the gospel? How do we build a church out of the broken-up people?
As foreigners/mzungus, we are so far outside of all the local “divisions” that we all just get clumped together in a pile labeled “white people”. That can be a real asset. We’re just some rich people from a place far, far away. We aren’t really a part of the tribalistic structure – we have a category all our own.
For instance, one of my father’s employees started a savings account with my mother. He is, as far as I know, entirely uneducated, and had very little scope of the actual amount he had saved. He would bring his little bit every so often, and my mother would keep a close record of how much that was. Why did he trust her? How did he know that she wouldn’t sneak off some of his money on the side? Is there a chance that, in representing Christ, we mzungus are considered trustworthy?
I really hope so. Please pray for unity among the tribes here, and that our witness would shine out here – that our differences would be a help to our ministry and not a source of estrangement. May the church be ONE!