I’ve been back from Africa for a week now. The jet lag is slowly wearing off, but I still find myself going to bed before 9:30 and getting up around 4:30 or 5. Over the past week I have been reflecting on this journey and I realize that it has been the most challenging of all of the trips to Africa that I have made.
The challenges were not just limited to this journey, but they are indicative of some of the challenges that lay ahead. These are all issues that I will be committing to prayer going forward. I look forward to returning to Africa again in the near future, but I also realize that I will need to structure my future journeys much differently to be more effective.
The first issue I am seeing is the need for stability. There is little infrastructure in the region to support ongoing mission work, so the need for raising up stable leaders is critical. Time and time again I saw challenges that came about due to leadership issues. Grooming leaders takes ongoing interaction. Determining how best to create this interaction is one of the challenges ahead.
The second issue also relates to leadership, but deals with making the best use of available resources. On this trip we ran into issues of budgets that were not followed, schedules that were modified without consideration of the consequences and promises that were not kept. One of the challenges for leaders in this region is that they are often unwilling to say “no.” In an effort to accommodate others, they will disregard financial resources, time availability and other critical factors. In our own circumstance, even though we had covered the agreed on budget, more money was still requested. There were days that we would spend 8 hours in a van to speak for 1 hour. The cost in both time and fuel was a poor stewardship in our resources.
The next issue is that for many church leaders, status is more important than personal growth. The intent of this journey was to conduct conferences with leaders. Instead we found ourselves speaking in church meetings that were meant to bolster the “reputation” or “credibility” of a pastor, instead of building up the leaders who would build the church. In 3 weeks I only had about 8 hours of one on one time with the church leaders I came to spend time with.
The next issue deals with the integrity of church leaders, particularly in Kenya. As I travel through the region I learn of leaders who charge their churches 20% of the giving and demand special offerings for things like vehicles. I learn of leaders who are continually found in immoral relationships. When these leaders are given money by Western missionaries and organizations, they squander it and quickly return to a place of demanding more from their churches.
The final issue deals with foundation. Each leader I was able to spend personal time with identified a need for foundation. Many of the issues described above come down to this issue. Without proper biblical foundation, these leaders are developing theology and practice from conferences and television. With the growing advance of Islam into the region, the need for knowing your foundation has never been greater.
I believe my work in the days to come will be less about speaking in conferences and more about spending extended periods of time with leaders, laying a solid foundation. To do this will take both time and resources.
My final 5 days were spent with Pastor Nimrod Masau the bishop of Faith Ministries East Africa. Pastor Masau is an indigenous pastor working to accomplish many of the same tasks that I am. We both see the need for the West to be a catalyst, but we both agree that the work needs to be entrusted to indigenous leaders. Pastor Masau recognizes the same leadership and character issues as being the greatest challenge to this model. It is my hope to spend more time with Pastor Masau in the days to come as I believe the Lord has connected us for a greater purpose.
I was initially going to return to India at the end of February, but felt as though the timing was not correct. This past Sunday after speaking at 4CI, one of the men I attend church with asked me if he could accompany me on my next journey to India. As we talked we set a target date of September and will be praying towards that.
I’m not sure when I will return to Africa, but it is my hope that I can be there again later this year.
Click here to view all of the videos and pictures from this journey to Africa