Dear Friends and Fellow Bloggers.
Maria and I have been sitting on some “new news” for sometime now and wanted to slowly introduce the subject. We sense the Lord leading us back to the mission field… to work amongst the poorest of the poor in Africa.
I think this is in many ways a continuation of what Christ did in us and through us during our years in Hungary and then, more clearly, later in Tajikistan.
Let me give you a few details of that!
At the time we moved to Hungary in 1990 we were one of only 2 YWAM families living and working in the Eastern bloc. Communism had been the “great evil” for decades and had brought destruction and fear to millions. In the grand scheme of the Kingdom it was time to be in the Eastern bloc countries but most people were too far removed from there to actually see a way to do it.
For us it what a simple step from living in Vienna, Austria to travel east about 3 hours by car and live in Budapest, Hungary. It seems that God often has us at the forefront of new territories or new movements. We have been told that our ministry is like that of John the Baptist: “a voice in the desert preparing the Way of the Lord”.
Many in our own mission and even top leaders were so surprised to find that we could move in! Some came for a visit and wondered if our telephones were bugged or if we could find enough food to eat, etc. By the summer of 1992 we sensed that our time of being “a voice for the post-Communist countries” was coming to an end. This was brought clear to me one sunny day as Maria and I and Patricia strolled along the walking street in downtown Budapest and were approached by German “tourists” speaking German and handing out Christian tracts and witnessing as freely as any place on earth!
Years later as we headed off to Tajikistan in 2000 we had to deal with another “Iron Curtain”. This one was built up by 100’s of years of tradition in how we “do church” overseas. We did not see it right away but God again would use us again as a “voice in the wilderness”. Working amongst the Muslims and the poor in Tajikistan we felt so compelled to shake off “church-as-we-know-it” and embrace the house church / simple church movement.
At that time, we new of no one who was suggesting something akin to house churches in missionary work but we knew from God speaking to us that this was the way forward. We have spent the past 8 years fully involved in this work.
Now it seems as if that “voice” is no longer need as strongly as in the past. The house church/simple church movement is being recognized by many leaders, in and out of the church, as a new wine skin to be reckoned with and is growing healthy roots the world over. I still fell as though many (most?) house churches still carry too much of the “old church system” DNA but I can’t get stuck there.
Our call, as we see it now, is to be a voice for the struggles of the poorest of the poor in Africa. We see our task as “enabling local Africans to find local solutions to local problems”. I hope to be on the ground in Africa in 6 months and scouting out the land, maybe with one of my older sons!! We are targeting the sub-Sahara countries, but not necessarily war torn and in the midst of civil war (like Somalia).
What really ignited my thinking of how we could help in such a huge area like “poverty in Africa” came from a book I read lately by William Easterly – The White Man’s Burden “Why the West’s efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good”. I sent an excerpt sometime ago and a link to the 1st chapter on this blog.
After reading this book and exchanging a few e-mails with the author, I saw the way forward in helping the poorest in Africa that I had not seen before. He convinced me in the “piecemeal, home grown, local solutions for local questions, ripple effect approach”. Using trial and error for Africans solving their own problems with minimal foreign aid or influence. (see attached picture of a pot-in-pot system that allows produce to last longer: from 3 days to 3 weeks. Thus making a small ripple effect on the local community for good.)
Easterly also writes convincingly that the other approach (UN, World Bank, IMF ) is not working and hasn’t in 50 years. What he calls “the big plan”, top down, “expert driven”, the sexy Bono/Angelina Jolie approach, etc.
Anyways, we would love to dialogue / process with you on our going forward. I felt the Lord lead me to challenge others to go to Africa as well and to go “2 by 2 into the 20 poorest nations for 3 year terms” using the principles from the White Man’s Burden as a foundational world-view, plus of course the Bible!!
We are waiting on the Lord for more and more confirmation. I am quite certain that it is “Africa Now!” for us and that the White Man’s Burden (what Tom Sine calls “the culture of privilege”) is the next institution that will be confronted by the spirit of God and brought down to be replaced by something more simpler, more liberating, more like Jesus!!
We hope to hear from you again. I intend to write the second part of this vision soon and explain why Africa and where do we go from here?
Yours for the least on the Kingdom,
Jeff and Maria
P.S. One important caveat remains: Those we hope to see go with us have to be in their Jubilee years: 50 years of age (plus or minus 5 years!)