Impressions from the Hinterland

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April 2001 

Our trips to the outlying villages in Kwongland to teach and preach these last few months have opened our eyes to some frightening realities with profound implications for our ministry. Here are three of them.

  • The Kwong church is worse off than we thought

Mark has been telling people for years that "the Kwong church was planted in the 1980's and we are doing what is necessary to assure the long term viability of the church" (see our philosophy of mission). Our travels through the outlying villages of Kwongland have compelled us to reevaluate our perspective on things. In particular, we found that it doesn't do justice to reality to say that the church is "planted" in most of these villages. The truth is rather that there are one or two strong believers in each village with a a dozen or so hanger's-on around them. These hanger's-on, as Mark has noticed over the years in Chageen, are on a two or three-year rotation through the church, and we question seriously whether most of them are justifiably called "Christian" at all. The upshot of this is that we might better think of ourselves as full-fledged "church planters," rather than the "church nurturers" which has hitherto been our perceived role. 

  • We don't understand Kwong traditional religion very well

Our final realization from our travels is just how little we really understand about traditional Kwong religion. We have known, for example about the "Yamas" that they worship, and habitually translate in French as "idol." It is only recently, however, that we are learning that they really regard these Yamas as a kind of guardian spirit over the entire village to do both good and bad, and not merely the evil fabrication of some enterprising shaman. The comparison with Baal of the Old Testament seems very appropriate (and convenient for preaching purposes). Pray for us as we try to better learn what they really think so that we can preach with the kind of precision and clarity that will cut to the heart. 

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