Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Ministry of Presence

The following is an article by a new aquaintance of mine, Pastor Edward Simiyu of Kenya. Edward is involved in the Amahoro Africa gathering in Uganda in May and in his article speaks of a concept in mission that I think is difficult for western Christians to understand.

I have taken this same approach with the partnership I am involved with (the link is at the top of the sidebar, to the right) but I have found that those wanting to come on the short term trips I lead to Rwanda struggle with this idea. Most people want to go and do, rather than go and be. I find it difficult to communicate the significance of this - that we don't want to build or erect or fix when to do so would take a wage from a capable local, but we do want to go, to encourage, fellowship and to experience God at work in a different culture in a different part of the world.

I hope you enjoy Edward's article as much as I did.

The Ministry of Presence- Say nothing, do nothing; Just show up!

Recently I heard an American pastor friend lament that his African pastor friend had not replied to his e- mails for a long time. He said “why can’t he check the browser to make sure his inbox is working well?” You can bet that this happens only in American! The rest of the world’s ¾ hardly know what a browser is! They don’t read or write they just know one way of communication: Talking and as simple as it may sound, it is loaded. The cellular telecommunication industry is now the most profitable and fastest growing business in Africa because it is giving Africa a treat to what she does best-Talk! However, talking among the oral cultured people now carries more than mere words.

We are an oral culture in Africa. This calls for face to face contact. We talk much, not write. People cannot still read or write. Less than 2 % of people aged 60 and above can read or write. Our generation received teachings and moral lessons at the fireplace with parents and then grandparents telling us stories that carried moral teachings. In fact we would look forward with excitement when visits to grandparents would be announced! I sense the same craving in my nine year old daughter when she pleads that I tell her stories while on her bed waiting to sleep. The values of our cultures and society were passed on that way. In the final analysis, our formative years were not so much shaped by what we read or acquired in the well staked libraries full journals, books and magazines but by what we heard from our elders. That is why we say in Africa that when an elder dies, a whole library is buried with him! We passed on and still do pass on things from one generation to another by Word of mouth. Understandably the physical presence of one in order to communicate face to face quickly took a new dimension. It was not long before we all understood that ones attendance to a funeral for example, without even saying a word signalled an expression or show of sympathy and solidarity with the bereaved. This spread to all spheres of the African social and spiritual life. Now, presence has acquired such a great value so much that when one doesn’t show up in gatherings like weddings, funerals, and Sunday services people get very worried or even offended!

The church around the world would benefit immensely if she realised that while it is good and very important to send the much needed gifts and donations to support their brothers and sisters in Africa; that is only one side of the story, their physical presence through visits will minister even more powerfully! The visits don’t have to be the high sounding mass crusade type events, just show up and “hang out” on low key visits! You may say well that is pretty expensive to do, but guess what? That’s what I call the ministry of Presence!


Shannon said...

Wow, what an interesting article. I would agree that westerners at large don't get it. Myself included sometimes. The Ministry of Presence, now that has got me thinking! "_"

Glenn said...

Don't we all hunger for the same things, a sense of purpose and relationships? If times are hard it means all the more to know that we are not in things all alone. At least for Americans, we are all about getting the job done, but what if our "job" is the encouragement of listening and just being there?

The Creature said...

Shannon -

Ministry of Presence is an interesting concept - I like the way Edward put it. It is particularly applicable to cross-cultural ministry. I wonder if or how it can apply to intracultural ministry.

Glenn -

I don't know if we all do hunger for these things but I know that I do. I didn't always understand it in these terms though.