Awake Africa I read “Awake Africa” nodding in recognition of well-intentioned but inappropriate generosity.
I read “Awake Africa” nodding in recognition of well-intentioned but inappropriate generosity. Sadly, this scenario in Zambia is also repeated here in Mongolia with some missionaries not only from Western countries, but also from some Asian, quashing local initiative by inadvertently communicating that God’s work is too expensive for Mongolians to do. Moreover, some from foreign countries turn Mongolia into a ministry dude ranch which concentrates too much power in the hands of expatriates, rather than humbly working together with Mongolians.
Yet on one point I was disappointed: education was devalued. In describing a “myth,” Koop writes “this bias (toward education) has led many to believe the cause of a national church’s lack of generosity is merely a lack of understanding.” In the previous section, Koop writes of a visiting teacher having a discussion with two national teachers and their students. The visiting teacher convinced them that Zambians had enough of their own resources to care for their orphans. Is this not education?
Perhaps this thinking has more in common with Pink Floyd’s “We don’t need no education” than Paul, who had discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus for two years (Acts 19:9-10). It is easy for a man like Koop, from “the third generation of a family serving in Zambia” to criticize education. His spiritual heritage practically flows in the mother’s milk and he has numerous books, journals and commentaries available to him. Today’s Mongolian Christians, who trace their history for all intents and purposes to 1990 (Nestorian Christianity and sporadic dedicated mission efforts in decades of centuries past did not leave any visible fruit for today), cry out for education and ask for training. The question is not if church leaders need education, but what kind of education they need. In our school, the Union Bible Training Center, a student asked me if God had sex with Mary. Another asked if we must always obey our pastor. We need education where students are allowed to ask questions, where we are a community of co-learners and where the answers we labor over are not simply answering questions from another place or era. Transformational education is vital.
I have seen the teachings in our school liberating for students when they realize there is more than one way to minister and may be more than one way to interpret a Bible verse. To not have reflective theological education may be consigning Christians to simply imitate what their foreign missionaries have taught them in areas such as worship, church building architecture and leadership patterns. Without adequate education, some Mongolian Christians miss the true meaning of grace. They think the Christian life is a series of mandatory church meetings. In another article in the same issue of EMQ that contained Koop’s article, Ziya Meral in “Toward a Relevant Theology for the Middle East,” had some keen insights “while studying in seminary.” Emergent Christian leaders need time to think. While it is true that education is not the only solution, it is indeed part of the solution.
—Bill Stephens, Union Bible Training Center, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
April 2005 EMQ
The April 2005 issue of EMQ—my first—was both an eye-opener and a heartbreak. That many returning missionaries are so poorly treated and taken for granted back home is unforgivable of the Christian church. Your writers put it bluntly, so much so that I feel embarrassed by my stateside fellow parishioners—and for my own ignorance (until now). You can bet our missions team will strive for more when missionaries visit us. A couple of us are attempting to begin a prayer ministry/strategy for our congregation. Your article “Awake Africa!” was a good description of the weak condition of American prayer habits compared to African Christians. Still one more eye-opener.
Everyone told me EMQ was a must read in the missions field, and it surely is, even as I find my first exposure so painful. Keep administering the “medicine” that we need. Keep opening my eyes!
—Ronald E. Keener, Mesa, Arizona
Christian Response to Islam in America
Thanks for your service to us through EMQ. I really appreciate the articles; however, I need to point out one error in "A Christian Response to Islam in America" (January 2005). Warren Larson mentions a statistic about Indonesia which he took from Stan Guthrie's Mission in the Third Millenia: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century. I am afraid both men have got the numbers right but the anthropological information wrong. Indonesia has about twenty million Christians, but almost none are from Muslim backgrounds. The twenty million Christians in Indonesia are from animistic backgrounds. Dutch colonizers were allowed to proselytize the aboriginal and animistic peoples in East Indonesia, but they agreed to a social and political contract with Muslim rulers not to preach to the Muslims in Sumatra and Java. The Muslims in Indonesia did not hear the gospel for the 300 years the Dutch ruled Indonesia. Only since 2000 have both foreigners and local Christians started to reach the Muslims. They do this under threat of persecution. In conservative estimates there are only a few thousand Muslim background believers in Indonesia.
—Manikkam Balasingham, missionary to Indonesia
Correction: In the October 2005 issue of EMQ, the bio which ran with Randy Friesen's article, "The Long-Term Impact of Short-Term Missions," was incorrect. The correct bio should read "Randy Friesen is general director of MBMS International, the international mission agency of the Mennonite Brethren Churches of North America. This article is based on his research data for a doctorate of theology in missiology at the University of South Africa. Randy and his family live in Abbotsford, BC." We apologize for the error.