Monday, 26 November 2012

William Carey: Pioneer Missionary to India

William Carey: Pioneer Missionary to India
Early Life
William Carey was born in August 17th 1761 in Northhampton, England to Christian parents  Edmund and Elizabeth Carey. From a very early age he showed interest in knowledge, reading every book he could get including Latin, plants and animals. His schooling however came to and end at age 14 when he was sent to Clark Nichols, a shoemaker in Piddington as his apprentice. At 17, he made a public confession of faith in Jesus Christ and left his Anglican Church for the non-conformist Baptist Church.
Carey developed his faith through Bible study, reading religious books and deep discussions with Anglican and non-conformist thinkers in the neighbourhood. He tookl opportunities to preach and succesfully sought the conversion of others including his master Nichols who was converted at his deathbed.  In 1781 he married Dorothy Plankett.
Missionary Call
William Carey was ordained as a baptist minister at 26 but he carried on as a shoemaker. In his spare time he studies languages, biographies and the conditions of the heathen world. 3 books particularly influenced him – The Bible, The life of David Breinard and Captain Cook’s Voyages whose vivid potrayal of the moral and spiritual conditions in the South Sea Islands made clear the the crying need for missions. [1]
In 1786, he pleaded with other ministers in his denomination to take up work among the heathen but was greatly grieved when the chairman reproved him with the infamous words.. “ Sit down young man. When it pleases God to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine”[2] Carey was disturbed by this response so much so that he felt compelled to express his missionary convictions in pamplet form to reach a wider, perhaps more responsive audience. The pamphlet was published in 1792 under the heading  “An enquiry into the obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathen”
That same year,  Carey also preached his memorable sermon giving out the challenge “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God” the immediate result of that was the organisation of the Baptist Missionary Society.  At 32, William secured passage on a ship and headed off to India arriving in Serampore in 1793[3].
Into the Field
Work in Serampore grew quickly. From this base, he laboured for nearly a quarter century to spread the gospel throughout the land. Through his unfailing love for the people and his relentless campaign against “the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12), India was literally transformed. Asian historian Hugh Tinker summarizes Carey’s impact on India this way: “And so in Serampore, on the banks of the river Hooghly, the principal elements of modern South Asia—the press, the university, social consciousness—all came to light.”2
Carey didn’t go to India to just start new churches or set up medical clinics for the poor. He was driven by a more comprehensive vision—a vision for discipling the nation[4]. “Carey saw India not as a foreign country to be exploited, but as his heavenly Father’s land to be loved and served, a society where truth, not ignorance, needed to rule.”4  Among  other misionary triumphs William Carey managed to do the following
-        He carried out a systematic survey of agriculture and campaigned for agriculture reform. He introduced the a system of plant organizations and published the first science texts in India.
-        - He introduced the idea of savings banks to India to fight the social evil of usury.
-        - He established the first newspaper in an Oriental language, His English-language journal, Friend of India, gave birth to the social-reform movement in India.
-        - He began schools for children of all castes and launched the first college in Asia.
-        - He was the first man to stand against the ruthless murders and widespread oppression of women. Women in India were being crushed through polygamy, female infanticide, child marriage, widow burning, euthanasia, and forced illiteracy—all sanctioned by religion. Carey opened schools for girls. When widows converted to Christianity, he arranged marriages for them. It was his persistent, 25-year battle against widow burning – sati- that finally led to the formal banning of this horrible religious practice.[5]
A Jar of Clay
Although William Carey had a long, illustrous mission career at Serampore, it was not without challenges , perhaps the biggest being his own marriage to Dorothy Planket. Dorothy came from a poor background and was herself illiterate. She had resisted going to India but went nonetheless together with her seven children. However, with recurrent bouts of illness she sufferred immensely and evantually went insane. [6]
Towards the end of his life, the mission suffered serious financial challenges. In 1823 there were floods which destroyed his school buildings, his own home and the beautiful garden washed away and there was no help forthcoming from England.
At 71 years of age, William Carey was still engaged in regular preaching, lecturing and translating of scriptures but in 1833, he took seriously ill on saveral occassions and had to give up all work and was confined to bed. He died on June 9th 1834 and was buried the following morning in the Baptist Mission Cemetery, Serampore. [7]
As rightly reffered, William Carey is indeed the father of the modern missionary movement, a movement that has since reached every corner of the world. Although a man of simple origins, he used his God-given gifts and every available means to serve Christ and illuminate the dark corners of India with the light of the truth.

[1] Davis, W Bruce; William Carey: Father of Modern Missions, Moody Press Chicago, 1963. P 13.
[2]  Bach, TJ; Vision and Valour, Baker Book House, Michigan, 1963  P38.
3. Ruth and Vishal Mangalwadi, The Legacy of William Carey: A Model for the Transformation of a Culture Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999, p. vx.

[4] Scott Allen; William Carey: A Missionary who Transformed a Nation, Journal article available at
[5]Scott Allen; William Carey: A Missionary who Transformed a Nation, Journal article available at
[6] Mangalwadi Ruth & Vishal, Willima Carey and the Regeneration of India.Good Book Publishers,New Delhi 1993 P 33
[7] Davis, W Bruce; William Carey: Father of Modern Missions, Moody Press Chicago, 1963. P 104. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Antidote for Fear

I have spent much of last week reflecting on  the subject of faith, trying to understand what it really is (and is not) and learning practical lessons for application. It started when I was asked to share in our local church on the subject as part of a teaching series. When faith is mentioned my immediate response is to think of risk, daring men and women, extra ordinary stuff and all that is associated with miracles. However a closer look this past few days has helped me see and appreciate faith in new dimensions.

The most precise definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11 – the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. From this, it seems to me faith is a guarantee of fulfillment of a promise made. It is a  collateral held in trust that the promise will be fulfilled. I realised that faith is not an idle notion, a wishful thought or a selfish ambition for anything but it is the certainty that God will fulfill His Word. This led me to the conclusion that Biblical faith is founded on God’s word and any emotive or rational thought process outside the remit of scripture is effectively not Biblical Faith.

A lot of what goes round as faith is mere positive thinking and not to say bland triumphalism /heroism branded as faith simply to give mileage to those who ‘possess’ it. It is viewed as a special ability to trust God and ‘get certain things done’ based on our capacity to trust God. Contrary to that I have come to to the conclusion that Biblical Faith is simple (as opposed to complex) and natural. I wish to summarise a few lessons learnt on Biblical faith.  

1. Faith rests on God’s faithfulness. Human faith and divine faithfulness are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. It is precisely because God is faithful that faith is reasonable, for there is no more trustworthy person than God. So, to trust the trustworthy is hardly daring or adventurous – it is plain, sober common sense. Faith is built solery on God’s word to build up expectation and even prayer on what God has not specifically promised is vain and deceitful and the results are often disillusioning and even disastrous.

2. Faith is a gift. We do not believe because we are anymore special than the non-believers. We believe because we are enabled by God’s grace to do so. In other words, faith is itself a response to grace. Faith comes by hearing God’s word and that capacity to hear and respond in obedience and trust is simply a gift from God, not a work of our own for which we can/should take credit.

3. Faith = Believing+Trusting+Taking Action. Biblical Faith is more than merely accepting facts. It involves complete trust that He who said those words is completely trustworthy and he will accomplish what He has said. The big contention for the christian, as was for the Old testament Jew, is – will God fulfill His word? Biblical faith moves individuals to act in obedience to God’s word even though the results are uncertain. James warns that just believing is not sufficient – even demons believe and shudder (Jas 2:19) we need to move to the next level of trusting and acting in obedience.

4. Faith is natural, built on father-child relationship. God is not only the Faithful one but our Father too through Jesus Christ. He invites us to call him ‘Father’ and to share our concerns and needs with him as children do with their parents. Hudson Taylor says: I notice that it is not difficult for me to remember that my children need breakfast, lunch and supper. Indeed I could not forget it and I find it impossible to suppose that our heavenly father is less tender or mindful of His children. God is a good father, He cannot forget His children.[1] I have come to appreciate that great faith is usually simple faith. It is not a secret formula, mantra or code that unlocks God’s promises. It is simple – taking God at His word and living in obedience to it.

5. Faith is necessary in the material realm as in the spiritual realm – both for physical needs as well as spiritual needs. I had an interesting conversation with a friend on the nature of faith. On the one hand was the thinking that we need pure faith and no action for spiritual needs (like the conversion of a friend or nations) and for physical needs more of action than faith (like growing a business). Whatever you think, it seems to me to be a continuum extending from pure faith to pure action where either extremes are not helpful. The thinking then, ought not to be either but both. Faith is necessary for both material and spiritual needs and a fair balance between faith and action needs to be sought.

6. Faith is not incompatible with the use of means. During Hudson Taylor’s first voyage to China in 1853, the vessel in which he was sailing was caught in severe storm. He had promised his mother that he would wear a life-belt but when the captain ordered passengers to wear them, he felt it would be  a sign of unbelief and thereby dishonouring to God, so he gave his life-belt away. Later on he reflected on his action and saw his mistake thus “The use of means ought not to lessen our faith in God, and our faith in God ought not to hinder our using whatever means he has given us for the accomplishment of His own purposes”. Similarly, a farmers trust in God is not incompatible with ploughing, sowing or reaping nor a patients faith incompatible with going to a doctor or taking medicine or a leaders faith incompatible with necessary organisation or fundraising. We must remember that Jesus is Lord over both the means and the ends.

In conclusion, authentic Biblical faith is not superstition or credulity or lazy inactivity – it rests on the faithfulness and fatherliness of God and is accompanied by sensible precautions and actions. [2]  

When we are afraid we need to hear Christ asking His disciples – where is your faith? (Mark 4:40) Faith arrests all our fears – even the greatest of them all.  What do you think?


[1] Steer, Roger: Hudson Taylor: Lessons in Discipleship,   OMF International /Monarch Publications, Crowborough UK, 1995,Pg 14.
[2] John RW Stott(Foreword); Hudson Taylor: Lessons in Discipleship,  OMF International /Monarch Publications Pg.15 

Monday, 8 October 2012

Fears & Doubts

It is an Air Uganda flight. I had come to attend Bernard's commissioning service at All Saints Kampala and everything seems to have gone well. I am encouraged by massive family support and the local church’s enthusiasm to have Bernard quit his job and head off to England for a year. I am however not sure whether they know what lies ahead of him. Could they be under the illusion that their very own Bernie is about to cross over the proverbial bridge? Are they aware that he won’t be making any money and hence won’t be visiting that Western Union booth. Many thoughts are racing through my mind.

I reflect on my own farewell/fundraiser 7 years ago – all my family were there, we had hired a small room and everyone seemed keen to come along. I am not sure what their real motivations were but they sure did help me raise the 65K (almost exactly) that BA needed for a return missionary ticket for the one year I was going to be away. Perhaps they thought once I am in the land of plenty, there will be no limit to the amount of money I will be sending back, maybe some were genuinely supporting gospel ministry and perhaps others thought of it as a social investment from which they might need a hand in return someday... maybe. I wonder what some thought when I finally returned without a Mercedes Benz to show, not even a plot in Kitengela or a massive investment plan denominated in Pound Sterling.

At least I tried to clarify expectations for poor Bernie’s family. He is going out as a missionary, a trainee missionary actually, without a salary and whose life henceforth will be characterized by seeking and building partnerships for the sake of the Kingdom and not the glory and glamour that the world (sometimes including friends & family) would like. He is going to seek and serve His Lord and Savior  My role here is to reassure family and the church that he is going for a good cause and that we (iSA) are keeping an eye on him.

I now need to return home. Its about 2.30 PM and the afternoon flight takes off from Entebbe at 4.50 PM. I need an hour’s lead to get through immigration and checking in. My host however insists I must have lunch and sure enough it is rude to leave without a meal. So they put me in some room (since the other guests are not eating just yet), serve me a director’s portion and get Celia to sit with me as I work my way through this delicious Ugandan serving. I must gobble it down quickly so we can be on our way to the airport by 3 O’clock.  A friend of Bernards offers to take me and Celia joins us. Its a scenic ride – almost 40 KM but I am panicking most of the way wondering what will happen if I miss this flight. Thankfully we get to Entebbe just before 4.00 PM.

My seat is quite close to the cockpit. I am actually in the first row next to the window. I can see the ground moving J beneath us as we taxi away towards the runway. It is a slow move and as we go along, safety instructions are given - usually a legal ritual before any flight. I do not pay much attention on what to do if we land on water – whatever they mean by that cannot be landing. You don't land in water – you sink or at least swim if you manage to get out of the fireball that is a crashing aircraft. And that if had better be if and certainly not when. Next to me on the aisle seat is a young man of about 21 years. He is light skinned and carries with him one of those sophisticated phones. He had a big rucksack that the air hostess had insisted is too heavy and could not fit into the overhead luggage compartment. She had had it sent to the cargo hold while we waited and for a moment I wondered what was in the bag. Why had he not checked in that bag? My imagination is about to go on overdrive.

As we are about to get to the runway, I notice the papers on my neighbour’s hands. He does not have a passport but has a long letter printed on Ugandan Immigration authority’s letterhead. I manage to read (rudely) at least the subject and a couple of odd lines. My neighbour is being deported from Uganda to his country of origin – surprise surprise – Somalia. This is it now. We are about to take off with an illegal immigrant next to me, with funny looking gadgets in his hand, from Somali and he had a rucksack, which is still with us in the cargo hold. Your guess is right. I thought of him as a terrorist. All this talk about Al Shabab and the recent Ugandan Airforce planes crashing in Mt. Kenya comes to mind. Interestingly he does not switch off his phone even at take off when all gadgets are to be switched off, or maybe he did not understand the instructions in English. Should I offer to explain to him and maybe secure some friendship – may be not. But why is he ignoring such important  safety notices? Does he need his gadget to detonate some stuff in the rucksack remotely? Well, I don’t know and have no way of knowing. Shall I alert the cabin crew of my fears? What if they are unfounded? I will come across as paranoid but what if there is some truth?

We finally take off. Take offs and landings are not anybody’s cup of tea – even for seasoned captains apparently. Even our kind air hostess looks tense seated, all wrapped in seat belts in her position, having just reassured us all will be well. I can’t help but doubt her composure. Does she know what I know about the guy next to me? Has she not read horror stories of flights gone bad or watched movies like Flightplan or Cast Away? We are airborne now. I think the best thing is distraction – it always works with the children to escape from pain or discomfort. I will read the in-flight magazine or some other stuff and shift my mind away from this suicide bomber.

I pick the magazine.Its a September issue. This sends my mind back to Septembers – oh its actually the month I joined full time christian ministry and was sent off like Bernard. But hold on for a moment – today is actually 16th September, 7 years to the date since I lost my father. Oh goodness and here I am next to a random Somali guy who is being deported and who has a suspicious rucksack? This must be it. There is no escape and I have absolutely no control of events whatsoever.   What will happen to my family, how about the work – what if the worst I can imagine happens. My back is against the wall and I feel helpless, almost hopeless.

However, a helpful distraction comes to mind. Prayer. I can call upon the God of the universe who knows all things. I feel a little guilty that I have taken too long before coming to this. But it is never too late to pray. I am a little anxious but I pray nevertheless at least to reassure myself that I have prayed. I am reminded of some guys who were crossing a lake on a boat and then there was a storm. They feared for their lives and panicked a great deal. Among them however, was the One who created the seas, the universe and all the laws of nature. He had stood up and challenged the panic-striken guys – where is your faith? I drew a parallel between that incident and my present circumstance and suddenly became aware of His presence in the flight. Faith takes away fear. Knowing He is in control no matter what may happen allayed my fears.

50 or so minutes later we land in Nairobi. I am comforted to be on the ground – where human beings should be – and can’t wait to leave the aircraft. I am eager to get out but I notice the inflight snacks they had served us. I had not eaten them – Tim will probably enjoy them totally oblivious of the reason I did not have them. I will happily share them with him, conforted to know that I know One who is greater than all my fears, real and unreal. One to whom I can commit all my thoughts and needs for the years ahead, one who says to me...

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Pillipians 4:6

In Him Bernard and other apprentices can put their trust as they step into christian ministry – The Lord will provide for them, has eternally protected them and will bless the work of their hands. Their future is safe in His hands. He has already given us all that we need and hence we need nothing but Him. In Him we can keep going as a young movement working to raise a generation of servant leaders for Him and faithfully proclaim His gospel till He returns. He will provide for His work, we are literally onlookers as He works in and through us to accomplish His purposes for His own Glory.

I will let Him know of requests for you, me and His Kindgom. How about you?


Monday, 2 July 2012

The Blood of the Martyrs

It  is another Monday and again the nation is engulfed in grief. It is difficult to imagine what must be goin on in the minds of the victims of yesterday’s terrorism in Garissa and their immediate kin. The entire body of Christ is hurting as we identify with our brothers and sisters who had gone to church on an ordinary Sunday morning (like you and I did, albeit at different places) to worship. This account particularly caught my attention from The Nation;

“A saloon car drove into the church compound, and two hooded men alighted. They walked the 15 or so metres to where the armed policemen were seated.
They drew their pistols and shot the officers in their heads. They blew off their scalps.

The driver of the saloon car — none of those who spoke to the Nation had the presence of mind to write down the registration number — turned the vehicle to face the gate, ready for a quick getaway.

With the policemen dead, the two turned their wrath on the church and the congregation inside.The men then fired bullets on a window of the church. At the same time, they threw a grenade at the entrance to ensure they trapped those in the church. It exploded.

They continued shooting, pinning their targets on the ground. They walked to the door of the church, still shooting. They then threw another grenade and then another one. All of them exploded. Having accomplished their mission, the men ran outside, jumped into the car and sped off. In the church, nine people lay dead.

Meanwhile, another saloon car was parked on the road to Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church, about three kilometres away. Two occupants alighted and moved to different locations along the church’s fence. They threw two grenades but one did not explode. They ran back to the car and sped off.

The man who threw the grenade that didn’t explode had got into the compound and after hurling it, jumped over the fence and got into the car that sped off. Those interviewed could not remember the car’s make or model.

At the hospitals, seven casualties were operated on. Two had multiple gunshot wounds to the chest while another two had shots in their abdomens.
Three other victims suffered multiple injuries in several parts of the body, multiple gunshot to the head and soft tissue injuries respectively.

Thirty-three victims admitted to the provincial general hospital were in stable condition. Twenty three were treated and discharged at the sub-district hospital and the nursing home.1

One cant help but feel vulnerable to this kind of extremely heinious act of terrorism. However, I have a few raw reflections (general wonderments) from the incidence;
  • -        How does this event fit in the grand scheme of things?
  • -        Is this an event in isolation with nothing to do with end times and everything to do with Al Shabab/KDF issues?
  • -        Will these incidences increase in our time or decrease? This is not the first attack in a church this year.
  • -        How prepared are we as a body of believers to face increased hatred, even persecution, at the academy (ideological), in the marketplace, public square and in the street corner?
  • -        What spiritual resources do we have to draw from in times like these? Will the man-centered feel-good-you-are-great gospel equip the church for difficult times?
  • -        How ready are you and I to face such an event should it occur to you or someone you know/close to you?
  • -        How should we respond at these levels: Personally, Missiologicaly and Theologically?

I do not have the answers but my heart goes out to our brothers and sisters who had to face such violent deaths and injuries in the place where they had gone to seek solace for their weary souls. I am however encouraged by the words of an ancient North African theologian – Tertullian, who lived during an era of great persecution of the church, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”. 

1. Zadock Angira, The Daily Nation, 2nd July 2012

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Missio Dei - Part 2

Distinctives of iServe Africa in the Mission of God. 

1. An indigenous African organisation
 iServe Africa has its roots firmly in Africa but it is reaching out under the modern mission banner  ‘from everywhere to everywhere’. The organisation is registered in Kenya and the leadership (board) is largely Kenyan with only a couple of expatriate missionaries on the board. Through the training and placement of apprentices from all over the continent and finding placements for the all over the world, iServe Africa embodies the concept of modern missions as being from everywhere to everywhere. The thought that it is Africa’s moment to missionize the rest of the world has no place in iServe Africa as she sees her mission as a complementary effort that will be best achieved in partnership with other players rather than in isolation.

Martin Goldsmith argues that mission needs to move to the place where all are givers and all are recievers as we need each other in mission and everybody has something to bring to the table.  He goes on to say that such intermix of nationalities and backgrounds in missions will bring international benefit, enhancing the life and growth of God’s people.  iServe Africa has a British national on the staff team and has current apprentices placed in England through international partnerships. Over the past 3 years, 5 international apprentices have served in Kenya from Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. There is clear intention to continually recruit international apprentices and then release them back to their countries at the end of their apprenticeships, better equipped for mission in their own contexts.  This gives iServe Africa a global outlook and it is equipping workers for global mission.

2. A Short Term Mission Movement.
There is clear understanding within iServe Africa that the nature of its ministry placements (mission engagement) is largely short term and hence the main concern is in doing it right.  There is therefore care not to override ongoing mission activity especially in contexts where there are Least Reached people groups such as the placements in Moyale, Garissa and Wajir. We work closely, and under the supervision of the existing missionaries drawing lessons from past experiences and integrating them for effectiveness during the relatively short period of apprenticeship. iServe Africa recognises that short term mission is shaping the mission of the future and in this I agree with Goldsworth in asserting that short term mission is now not only a real possibility but has indeed become the norm. He contends that although short term mission has its unique challenges, it seems to be the typical model of mission in the 21st century and that it is the short termers who gain most from their term of service, they learn a great deal and amazingly mature both spiritually and personally.   In order to do this well, iServe Africa has an internal operation procedures and manuals and is also  subscribes to best practice in short term missions.

3. A Member Care Movement
One of the challenging areas of African mission enterprise has been lack of sufficient member care for missionaries in the field. Although the nature of iServe Africa apprenticeship is essentially short term, great care and support is given to apprentices straight from recruitment all the way through the apprenticeship and into debriefing to integrate the lessons learnt. Deliberate effort is also made to encourage alumni after they leave the programme to enhance ongoing missional lifestyle and involvement at local church or market-place level.

For the apprentices in any one given year, there is a dedicated staff team that does visits in placements, supports the apprentices in their discipleship and ensures the well being of the workers among other member care initiatives.

4. A Missions Mobilising Movement
iServe Africa sees missions as a present involvement and as a possible next step for its apprentices. Through the 1 or 2 year apprenticeship, young men and women are challenged to think about longer term involvement through faithful going or faithful sending. Recruitment to join the programme takes a great deal of mobilisation with staff and volunteers transversing the country to make presentations in colleges and universities, encouraging students to step up and take the challenge of missions. Through the national student movements, more are recruited every year and taken through this discipleship. Eventually this mobilises young people towards missions.

Among our alumni,  some have joined longer term Christian ministry. Others have gone into the marketplace and are honouring the Lord in their jobs while supporting missions and bearing witness to the Lord Jesus.

5. A Locally Supported Movement (Partnership Development)
iServe Africa apprentices and  staff are all supported with gifts from partners, largely local. The apprentices are encouraged to meet the costs of their ministry half way while their placement provides the other half. They are trained on models of mission support and are expected to carry out Partnership Development in order to raise the requisite support for their yearlong mission. Staff are also required to raise their full support from partners who may be individuals, churches or other Christian organisations.
Whereas this model is vulnerable in the sense that it depends very much on the charisma and personality of particular staff/ apprentice, it also ensures longer term sustainability of the organisation since staff costs are the single largest expense item to mission agencies. As an intervention, careful training is provided to ensure success. Many Christian organisations have faced challenges in the area of fundraising and iServe Africa is by no means an exemption. However, the leadership believes that African mission will be African supported (funded) and that we have to grow an awareness of the need to support mission locally if we expect to be at the forefront of the mission agenda in this century.

I see iServe Africa right at the cutting edge of Missio Dei in the 21st century African continent and beyond. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Missio Dei

That the church in Africa is rising to the challenge of global mission is not in doubt, what is not new however is a close scrutiny of both missions to and in Africa, in his book, the missions on trial, Walbert Buhlmann argues that missions in Africa have for many years been in the crossfire of criticism. In an earlier age they were much admired but later they are attacked and accused by radical Christians, cold atheist and by black nationalists.[1]  Certainly the need for greater involvement cannot be over emphasized. It has been stated again and again that “Christianity’s centre of gravity has shifted to the global South”[2]. This is the amazing fact that within just one century, Christianity grew incredibly 70-fold from a mere 7 million to 470 million such that now approximately one-out-of-five Christians in the world are from Sub-Saharan Africa[3]. Surely this is tremendous advance of the Gospel.
Congruent with the general growth of the Church in Africa is the slow but certain growth in mission engagement. The African church has diverse needs and chief among them is qualified workers to engage with the current generation.  Thankfully,  there is an emerging vision for missions among African churches and communities. One such movement is iServe Africa, an indigenous African organisation that seeks to recruit and train fresh graduates on the basics of missions through the apprenticeship model. This paper seeks to explore the nature of iServe Africa and its contribution in the mission of God and especially her role in the emerging African mission enterprise.

Towards an Understanding of Mission
Missions in Africa has been understood as an event, a short term, usually week-long series of meetings with door to door witness in the morning and an open air crusade in the afternoon. Once the event is over the volunteers from different backgrounds head off to their homes until the next mission event. This has largely been the case with university students who hold ‘annual missions’ on similar understanding with the emphasis on the unreached/less reached people groups in the rural areas. The model is no different in towns where mission typically means  door to door witnessing, an open air meeting in the afternoon and a 'revival' in the evening. 
Whereas this understanding of mission has seen thousands, perhaps millions won to Christ, little or no discipleship has followed leading to lack of follow through on those commitment and an eventual need for another ‘mission’. Again, this model has failed on many fronts where longer term cross cultural activity is concerned. Besides this has led to a limited understanding and ultimately involvement in world mission. Long term cross cultural mission has traditionally been associated with a white man, sent and supported from Europe or America and usually with some developmental interest. To many in Africa, a missionary is not an African, without a considerable amount of wealth and can by no means expect to take the message of the gospel to other lands, not least among a racially different community. This, unfortunately, is the predominant view of mission.
In his book, The Mission of God, Christopher Wright defines mission as Mission: Our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation. [4] Essentially the meaning of mission is not what churches, missionaries or agencies do but what God is s doing. Missions need to be thought of in terms of God’s redemptive actions in history. [5]
Wright argues that a biblical theology of mission finds its genesis all the way back at creation and the subsequent call of Abraham. “In the call of Abraham God set in motion a historical dynamic that would ultimately not only deal with the problem of human sin but also heal the dividedness of the nations” [6]  I agree with him in asserting that the first Great Commission was Abraham’s commission to “Go . . . [and] be a blessing . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:1–3). He shows from the Scriptures that when God entered into a covenant with Abraham, he had in view the rest of the nations as well. The church of Christ, therefore, is nothing less than the fulfillment of the hope of Israel—that all nations will be blessed through the people of Abraham. The people of God are those who are sent to “be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2) and not simply to share a message of blessing. “When God set about his great project of world redemption in the wake of Genesis 12, he chose to do so not by whisking individuals off up to heaven, but by calling into existence a community of blessing[7]   
This understanding of mission as the mission of God or Missio Dei places God and not the task or the missionary at the centre of the mission enterprise. Mission is therefore a work of God through and through and human agents are mere instruments at His will and disposal.  It also clearly captures  the intentionality and purpose of God in the mission task and especially the creation of a community of faith – this places discipleship at the core of mission and not separate from it as has been understood in Kenya type missions. Wright goes on to say   "There is one God at work in the universe and in human history, and ... this God has a goal, a purpose, a mission that will ultimately be accomplished by the power of God's Word and for the glory of God's name.  This is the mission of the biblical God" 

It is of this holistic understanding of mission that iServe Africa comes into being.

TBC next week.

[1] Buhlmann Walbert: The Missions on Trial, Orbis Books, MaryKnoll New York 1979, p9.
[2] Jenkins, Philip : The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity Oxford University Press 2002.
[3] The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life- Study on Religion in Africa, 2010 available at
[4]Wright, J.H Christopher  The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative, InterVarsity Press
[5] Caleb Chul-Soo Kim et al: African Missiology:Contribution of Contemporary Thought, Uzima Publishing, Nairobi 2009,
[6] Wright J. H. Christopher. The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s MissionBiblical Theology for Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.P 41, 73
[7] ibid

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Only One Life

As we think about the events of the last few days, I am drawn to reflect on the fickle nature of life and reminded the words of David in Psalms 90:12 ... “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV) and in Psalms 39:4 "LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered--how fleeting my life is.” (NLT). CT Studd arrests my thoughts in the words of his poem, only one life....

Only One Life by C.T Studd
 “Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
— extra stanza —
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
                                                                                - C.T Studd

C.T. Studd (1860-1931) was an English missionary who faithfully served His Saviour in China, India, and Africa. His motto was: "If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him. More on him here.

Only what is done for the Lord will remain. Have a blessed week ahead. 


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Discipleship = Discipline Part 1

I have meditated over and over again on the question of discipleship and what it really means to be a follower of Christ.  It seems to me that the key to life is discipline. That restraint from excess, that desire to do right, that strength to say no, that ability to keep going, that will to trust. I don't suppose that I could cover the breadth and length of the subject in one short e mail but it is becoming all the more clear that discipleship has a lot, perhaps everything, to do with discipline. Training in godliness, which is what iSA apprenticeship is all about, is a discipling –nay-disciplining process. The word of God over and over again challenges us to be disciplined in speech, conduct and just about every field of our being.

The harsh reality, however, is that discipline/discipleship is never a piece of cake. It calls for tough decisions, sheer hard work, keen determination and at times gritting of our teeth through somewhat unpleasant experiences. It is never all sweet and happy, oftentimes it is bitter but its got to be done if we are to enjoy the fruits of it. Come to think of it: No athlete can claim any victory without discipline, no student has excelled without discipline, no army can win a battle without a disciplined force, we cannot expect any less in any field, not least in gospel ministry or even in our personal/family lives. 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

from June 2012. Moving my weekly sharing with iSA apprentices to this forum.