Being an agricultural, educational missionary is incredibly rewarding. It’s funny how life works out. I’m sure God enjoys turning the tables on people and sending them off in unlikely directions. Jonah had a whale of a time running away from God. There’s plenty of evidence of God’s ‘interference’ in people’s lives in the Bible so it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that I should end up here doing this. I think God was setting me up for Kenya years before I became a Christian.
I am absolutely useless at drawing. After accidentally becoming an IT teacher in the 1980s I began to really appreciate all the great things that computers could do – like clipart. Art was one of the lessons at secondary school I never really looked forward to. I never seemed to make any progress. Despite my inability to draw or paint I was able to draw a map of Africa in great detail when I was about nine. I was at a school in Suffolk at the time and remember drawing lots of maps of Africa. My Mum, brother and sister and I had recently returned from living in Singapore for two years. During that time my Dad, (who was in the air force), took us round the most off the beaten track parts of Singapore, (which was going some as it’s not really a very big island), and through some interesting bits of Malaya. It gave me a sense of adventure, a desire to see new places and an awareness that a lot of people lived in very poor conditions.
A number of years later, as a sociology student in Northampton, I really enjoyed studying development issues. The Report of the Brandt Commission (North South), was a very influential book while I was a student and had a big influence on my thinking, politics and conscience. The report is another book, that was written over thirty years ago yet still has a very contemporary message. Willy Brandt, (the German Chancellor at the time), prefaces the book by saying:
“This Report deals with great risks, but it does not accept any kind of fatalism. It sets out to demonstrate that the mortal dangers threatening our children and grandchildren can be averted; and that we have a chance — whether we are living in the North or South, East or West — if we are determined to do so, to shape the world’s future in peace and welfare, in solidarity and dignity.” It was, (still is), stirring stuff.
I think, (with the benefit of hindsight, age and a rewired spirit), that it leaves out an essential ingredient for world transformation. All the economic change, technological change and social readjustment that the world can make will come to nothing it they are not informed by a spiritual transformation. I think I must be a very slow learner. I took a long time to pick up all of the clues that God put in front of me to get me here – 42 years in fact.
The struggles that are so much a part of life in this part of Kenya are played out against a backdrop of influences – Christian, Muslim, secular, ancestral and animistic. As a Christian it has the feel of a very Old Testament society – where religion is a kind of insurance policy. In these circumstances it makes sense to have a variety of policies. There is a widely accepted view that in Africa Christianity is a “mile wide and an inch deep”. As a Christian development worker Kosele is a very challenging place.
Because Christianity is so widely accepted and adopted here it is easier to live out my faith in Kosele than it is in England. None of the staff think it is strange to fast and pray before making important decisions. Prayer is a normal, rather than unusual, activity in and around Kosele. The concept of a spiritual battle, with real winners and losers, is a part of everyday life here. It has some very scary consequences. People, (usually elderly) are burnt for practising witchcraft with predictable regularity around Kisii, (a town about forty minute’s drive from our place).
In the Bible it says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 - NIV Bible). It is easy to pour scorn on such mumbo jumbo from a comfortable seat in the developed world. It is less easy when you live amongst the evidence.
The battle against inflation, poverty, climate change, the forces of globalisation and the Chinese will no doubt, continue for many years. Debate will rage about the most prudent, practical (and, ultimately, populist) measures that can be taken to ensure the future health and prosperity of planet earth’s people. There are many economic and political measures that can, and should be brought into the fight. Out here in Kosele we will watch with interest as events unfold. We would be stupid to ignore current development theory and practise. It has moved a considerable distance since the Brandt Commission Report.
But before we consider all of that we will fast, pray and win the spiritual battle.