by Mark

Pulling us up from the mud

June 12, 2012 in Africa, Bible, Front, Mark, Mission, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

Having been in Mpanda for three months now we are starting to feel settled and are enjoying our work, making friends and organising our house to feel like a home! I’m particularly enjoying my job as operations manager, helping to set up and maintain the office for the project as our colleagues work with the local language communities to write down their languages and start translating parts of the Bible.

One of my favourite (in a tiring kind of way) moments of the week is Thursday evenings, when I get together with several of our Tanzanian colleagues to do a Bible study in Swahili. We have wanted to read through one of the gospels, so have started with Matthew and read a few verses each week. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Giving Up Everything?

May 23, 2012 in Africa, Front, Mark, Mission, Theology by Mark

When a cross-cultural worker moves to a different country and a very different culture, as well as experiencing many benefits, they will also inevitably give up a great deal to do so. The things that they have to give up may be financial (a well-paying job), relational (family and friends) or just simply the comfort of knowing what to expect when living in one’s own culture and speaking one’s own language.

When moving overseas it can be easy to focus on the things one has given up, feeling like we are suffering a great deal for God and his work. “We had to give up so much in order to move to this country”, or “my life is difficult but God needs me here” can be common sentiments among cross-cultural mission workers. In this situation I can also deceive myself that I am vitally important to God’s work, and that I deserve to be in charge and making the strategic decisions since I have invested “so much”. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Matthew and the Genealogies: Who is this Jesus?

May 5, 2012 in Africa, Bible, Culture, Front, Mark, Mission, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

On Thursday, at the request of the guards at the office, we had the first of hopefully many Swahili Bible studies. I had no idea how the session would go but thought we would start to read through the gospel of Matthew.

The first week we read Matthew 1, and mainly discussed the genealogies, which led to some fascinating questions and discussions. Was David the same guy who killed Goliath? Was he the same one who was king? Where did Solomon’s name come from, and is he the same Solomon that Muslims talk about? Where did Abraham come from? Did he originate from the land of the Arabs? Why were Abraham and his descendents chosen, and not other people? Was the exile the Matthew talks about when the people left Egypt? Why does Matthew keep talking about 14 generations? Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Reading the Bible with the Tanzanian Church: Grace and Works

May 3, 2012 in Africa, Bible, Church, Front, Mark, Mission, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

I had a fascinating conversation with a Tanzanian friend the other day about God’s grace (giving us good things that are not earned by our good deeds), and our working hard to follow him and live a good life. The conversation started as we discussed a western missionary who believes that many Tanzanians have not understood the fullness and extent of God’s grace, and so who preaches about God’s completely unearned gift of salvation at every opportunity.

While my friend believes that God’s grace is completely free and unearned, he was concerned that the missionary has not completely grasped the cultural paradigm in which he is working. Many uneducated people go to church in order to hear the pastor tell them exactly what they must do to please God. Emphasising too strongly that God’s grace is not linked to our good deeds will result in people feeling they can do whatever they like, ultimately going against the major thrust of Scripture which is to live good lives that honour and obey God. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Joyeux Noel

December 24, 2011 in Culture, Mark, Theology by Mark

This Christmas Eve we spent the afternoon watching the movie Joyeux Noel, the story of Christmas in the trenches during the First World War in 1914. The movie of how the soldiers of various nationalities who had been fighting each other for months ceased their fire, greeted each other in no-man’s land and even played football together.

The most striking part of the movie is the absurdity of the war. When the men meet up at Christmas they realise they have a huge amount in common, and yet on every other day they are trying to kill each other because that is what their commanders, and their nations, have ordered them to do.

In many ways the First World War was the height of modernity, with the European nations accepting without question the narrative of the unstoppable march of civilisation and progress. In reality the nations at war had a great deal in common – shared histories, similar languages and cultures, and apparently a shared religion. And yet their narratives of progress, despite their similarities, could not co-exist but clashed leading to the loss of millions of lives. Read the rest of this entry →