“Jesus should have been arrested for destroying their business!”

February 16, 2013 in Wycliffe, Mark, Africa, Bible translation, Church, Front, Mission, Swahili, Tanzania

Our team leader, Richard, and I were driving around Sumbawanga town this afternoon, trying to meet up with regional bishops and church leaders to update them on the progress of writing down the Bende and Pimbwe languages in preparation for Bible translation to start. Arriving at the house of the FPCT (Free Pentecostal Church in Tanzania) Pastor, we were told that he was at a meeting of Sumbawanga church leaders at the EAGT (Evangelical Assemblies of God in Tanzania) church.

Sure enough, when we arrived at the large EAGT church we found not just this pastor, but about 20 leaders from churches across the town. We were grateful for the opportunity to update these pastors on the work that our team has been conducting with the Bende and Pimbwe communities over the past few months, and our hope of seeing Bible translation started soon.

After giving this update, Richard asked the pastors if they had any questions. Read the rest of this entry →

Good News for the Poor?

November 13, 2012 in Life, Mark, Africa, Bible, Church, Front, Justice, Mission, Tanzania, Theology

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19)

This was the Scripture that Jesus read in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth, asserting that the Scripture was being fulfilled through himself, and giving an early indication as to how he saw his ministry. But how did Jesus fulfill this prophecy of good news to the poor? And what does that mean for today?

Last month we were in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, which caused me to ponder these questions. What is the good news for the poor of today? 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 →

Modernism, Mission Planning and Western Syncretism

August 2, 2012 in Mark, Africa, Mission, Theology

Eddie Arthur recently highlighted a couple of posts from Mark Meynell entitled “The dehumanising metrics of modernist ministry: The Present and The Future“, where Mark looks at how a modernist worldview can affect the work of the church and at times lead away from the very values of the gospel that the church is called to live out. Mark looks at several trends in modern ministries, including our obsession with speed, novelty and uniformity.

But the sections that really stood out to me were his observations concerning “The economics of effectiveness” and “The hubris of strategy”.

But I fear a sinister trend has crept in. For if we’re not careful, we can seek an effectiveness shaped more by Wall St than the via Dolorosa. Big business constantly seeks a combination of efficiency and growth in order to thrive… which is fair enough. Maximum profit for minimum effort. But this is effectiveness measured by the Damoclean sword of the bottom line. Read the rest of this entry →

Economic Crisis?

June 14, 2012 in Mark, Africa, Justice, Tanzania, Theology

News of economic bailouts and financial crises in Europe seem a little strange to me here in rural Tanzania. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something incongruous about extremely rich people dressed in nice clothes discussing how to preserve the banking system and stave off financial collapse, when our friends around us here in Mpanda are blissfully unaware as they work hard to harvest their crops and earn money to buy a plot of land and build a small house for their family.

So what exactly is the crisis? Is it that people are starving, or being persecuted, or being denied access to basic healthcare? Not generally, no. Maybe it is the shock of individuals losing their jobs, and families having to adapt to a different way of life. I think this is a big part of the crisis.

And yet these kinds of issues are faced by people around the world every day, with no talk of a crisis. A couple of days ago Zitto Kabwe blogged about The bottom 30 million, a reference to the majority of Tanzanians who rely mainly on agriculture and are not benefiting from the overall economic growth in the country. Many of these 30 million have limited access to healthcare and have no formal employment, so could be said to be in a much worse economic situation than many of those struggling in Europe. And yet there is no talk of an economic crisis in rural Tanzania. In fact, if anything there is often an unspoken acceptance that this is the natural way of things, that European countries have a right to be wealthier than African countries, as evidenced by the Spanish Prime Minister’s comment that “Spain is not Uganda”. Read the rest of this entry →