Why I’m glad I’m not yet fluent in Swahili

February 28, 2013 in Life, Mark, Africa, Culture, Front, Language, Mission, Tanzania

Language learning can be hard work, especially for us Brits who hardly uttered a single word from any language other than English until age 11, (and even then only for 3 hours a week in the school classroom.) I remember looking forward to beginning to learn German as I started secondary school, and thinking that all I had to do was to memorise the German word for each English word and I’d be fluent – simple, right?! I’m glad to say my understanding of linguistics has progressed a little in the last 20 years…

Now, living in western Tanzania I find myself speaking Swahili for much of the day, alongside English, with a few greetings in some of the local languages around here thrown in. As foreigners living in Tanzania it can be tempting to see language learning as a necessary step before we can get on with our real work, a period of time we need to set aside to get up to speed with the language so we can start what we really came here to do.

But I think language learning is so much more than that. Learning the language (and culture) of another person is essentially learning to understand the world from their point of view, and as such is a never-ending journey. Read the rest of this entry →

Who are the poor in spirit?

September 6, 2012 in Mark, Bible, Front, Mission, Theology

Poverty is a tricky subject to talk about, and yet it is one that as Christians we must always be conscious of, if only because it is a major theme throughout the Bible. There are many different types of poverty in the world, ranging from material poverty (often the most obvious) to educational poverty, poverty of health facilities, and poverty of human rights. As Christians we sometimes talk about spiritual poverty too, which can go alongside and even underlie many other forms of poverty.

But I have to say I start to feel a little uncomfortable when we talk about spiritual poverty, particularly when the conversation turns (as it inevitably does) to how we can address the spiritual poverty that we see around us. When we talk of fighting spiritual poverty, the unspoken assumption is that we are spiritually rich, and that we need to use our wealth in order to help those who are spiritually poor. Read the rest of this entry →

Pulling us up from the mud

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

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 →

Giving Up Everything?

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

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 →

Fighting the battle with the enemy’s weapons

November 30, 2011 in Mark, Bible, Mission, Theology

Simon Cozens always seems to have fascinating thoughts on the Bible, mission and post-modern culture. Recently he posted about apologetics, and why the modernist style of apologetics can be very much at odds with the model of mission we see in the Bible.

The big-name Christian apologists are, basically, modernists. Their method of apologetics is to show that belief in the God of Christianity is entirely compatible with human rationality. In other words, they are accepting the proposition that human rationality is the standard against which God is judged. This may not be particularly glorifying to God but it certainly glorifies human┬árationality. Read the rest of this entry →