Tuesday, December 25, 2012


12 year old Jesus with the teachers
Have you received a letter by post or email this season with a photo of an African child in need of sponsorship?   Yet, when you look at the state of Christianity in America do you feel like we need to do something at home?   Then when you read the news from Africa does something just not add up?

You are not alone in your hesitancy and concerns.

Dambisa Moyo
A couple of weeks ago, John Uwimana, a Rwanda Presidential Scholar in a master’s degree program at DePaul University and I attended a lecture by Dambisa Moyo at the University of Chicago.   If you have not read Dambisa’s writing (Dead Aid; How the West was Lost; and Winner Take All), and the above questions resonate, you should.   She’s one of the sharpest economic thinkers in the world.   She has well documented how the Aid industry is actually doing more harm than good in Africa.    After her lecture she fielded questions.     She discussed a conversation with Rwanda’s President Kagame in which he told her the greatest pitfall of Aid as we know it is that it strips the recipient of their dignity.   She then told us she would write letters of complaint to the nonprofit organizations that send her fund raising letters with photos of poor African children.   She pointed out a principle Jesus repeatedly stated.   We should treat others the way we want to be treated.    If photos of poor American children were being distributed around the world many of us in America would write letters of complaint.   Africa should be treated with the same dignity.

March, 1993 - The last time until now we were USA residents
It’s been 20 years since our family has put down roots in the United States.   Many things have changed.   One thing we are reading and observing is that the evangelical church is losing influence (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/opinion/sunday/the-decline-of-evangelical-america.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.)    The American church needs a reboot.    I think the American church needs a new generation of missionaries in her midst.   My thoughts have been influenced by old missionaries.   They defined missionaries as those sent by the Holy Spirit to make disciples and develop churches.   The definition goes beyond nation, race, and sending mechanism.   A friend of mine in Chicago, Emmanuel Tahear with Service in Missions is praying for a new revival in America.   He thinks it will likely come from the influence of immigrants to North America.   He has a point.    America’s historic revivals were frequently led by first and second generation immigrants (I.e. George Whitefield, and Thomas and Alexander Campbell.)    Currently, immigrant churches are growing.   Currently, international students are strengthening the American academic landscape.  Also their presence adds vitality to American churches.    A couple of the churches that are now starting to make very significant inroads in America’s major cities are led by the children of immigrants.

Rwanda Presidential Scholar at Milsaps College, Fabio Pie Ntagwabira
Every culture needs missionaries to come from the outside with a new found entrepreneurial impulse triggered by the Holy Spirit.    Without these newcomers who master culture and then find a new possibility our faith becomes both stagnate to our spirits and irrelevant to our culture.

This Christmas season I ask that you do something practical that will build both the church in North America and the church abroad.

If you are near a university meet some international students.   Have them over for dinner.   Ask them some questions.   Listen.    Invite them to church.   Encourage them to use their spiritual gifts in your local church.   Your church will rediscover old disciplines like hospitality, vibrant worship, and practical Bible teaching when these missionaries are in your midst.

Next, consider writing a check to support a good missionary abroad.    There are many.   In fact, I know many in many different organizations and in many different nations.

ROC Missionaries - Jamie Boiles, Hixsons, Jenkins, Lindens, and Shrecks
Yet, God has given me four missionary families who are my colleagues – Jamie Boiles, Bryan and Holly Hixson, Rusty and Onawa Linden, and Brett and Kelli Shreck with ROC (Rwanda Outreach and Community) Partners.   Of the many missionaries I know these are the ones I know best.   God’s done the remarkable through them.

A Rwandan entrepreneur friend, Clarisse Irabagiza once read a blog of mine on missionaries ( http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2010/07/are-missionaries-most-controversial.html)  and remarked most missionaries she’s know are irrelevant.   Yet, she singled out ROC missionaries as ones making a very significant impact.   Why?

Clarisse Irabagiza
Just lay the ROC missionaries labor next to the words of Jesus.

He told His disciples to focus on the receptive (Matthew 10.)   They’ve gone to a place God is moving, joined God’s activity in Rwanda, and the ministry has gone boom.    Who else do you know who’ve taken a local church from an idea to 350 to 400 in attendance among a nation’s thought leaders in such a short time?   Who else has been able to start and get an international school accredited in such a short time?    Who else has found so many scholarships, taught so many classes and seminars, equipped so many, and participated in so much national dialogue?

Second, Jesus taught to treat others as we want to be treated.   That means those we minister with are friends.   They are not photo opportunities, contacts, nor marketing tools.    Look at the Facebook photos of ROC missionaries.   They don’t market themselves as saviors.   They tell the stories of Jesus as the savior of humanity.    Yes, on occasion ROC missionaries do help individuals in desperate situations.   Those of you in healthy churches in America do the same thing.    ROC missionaries simply embrace the teaching of Jesus.   Children belong in families.    All humanity deserves dignity.   When one is in a difficult situation God’s people respond in ways where joy and hope triumph.   Their photos are stories of God’s triumph and even come with silly laughter.

Third, Jesus’ mission was preceded by two historical events.   One was the Jews who returned form Babylonian exile as builders.   Two, was the Roman Empire which created peace, shared language, transportation infra-structure, and economic markets.   Jesus’ followers were at times persecuted, but overall the systems were in place that allowed the Gospel to quickly spread and put down roots.    Our American predecessors did the same thing.    They built churches, schools, roads, railroads, and businesses on the American frontier.   After the Second World War they ushered America into a new found place of prosperity and influence.    The best African minds will point out that the best missionaries in Africa do the same things.   My friend, Andrew Mwenda summarizes this institutional initiative needed for Africa with the words, “Leaders make things happen.   Institutions make them last.” ROC missionaries are part of this tradition.     They not only care for individuals with the love of Christ, they address foundational issues that build prosperity.   They preach old Gospel messages of adoption.   They teach sound ethics.   They strengthen Rwanda’s business climate.   They build schools.   They help others build educational systems.

Thus I request that this Christmas season you give a little extra to a missionary.   First, give some extra care to the missionaries God has brought to the United States.   Second, give a little extra donation to the missionaries God has called to leave the United States.   Both are building the dignity of man and making lasting changes for generations.

1 comment:

  1. I know and understand the situation of every missionaries because i have a relatives are in the field today and Its not an easy task to stay away from your family but they have to do it and that what they promise to do.

    God Bless you all link to familycare