Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

When will the job be done?

You may notice a new blogroll on the right under the heading: Mission Resources. These are some websites I regularly visit with interesting information on mission – statistics, maps, prayer programs and others. If you are aware of websites which you think should be included, please let me know and I will have a look at the site.
While busy with this, I had a look again at the website for the AD2000 & Beyond Movement. A few things caught my attention as I was looking at the website. First of all their vision: A Church for Every People and the Gospel for Every Person by the Year 2000. Secondly, a remark on the website which reads: The AD2000 web site is no longer being updated. Thirdly, another remark which says: The AD2000 International Office is now Closed.
I’m all for being purpose driven. I agree totally with Rick Warren that lack of purpose or vision in churches is one of the greatest problems Christianity has to cope with. But then a vision has to be realistic and I wonder if AD2000’s vision was realistic. For more than a century the desire that the whole world be evangelised within a certain period of time was heard. In 1871 Dr. Joseph Angus preached a sermon at a meeting of the Baptist Missionary Society with the theme Apostolic missions; or, The Gospel for every creature. He then said that if 50 000 missionaries should go out with financial support of $50-75 million per year, then the entire world could be evangelised within a period of ten years.
In 1881 Arthur T Pierson published an article in the Missionary Review with the heading: Can this world be evangelized in twenty years? In 1888 the Student Volunteer Movement adopted their slogan: The evangelization of the world in this generation. In 1900 a Norwegian missionary with the name Lars Dahle illustrated what the church had to do in order for the entire world to be evangelised by the year 1990.
The fact is that none of these programs had the desired effect. This does not mean that they were a waste of time or totally useless. But the vision that the whole world be evangelised within a certain period of time is not realistic and I am sure not Biblical. We were never called to count the numbers. We were called to sow the seed and to water the seed. Perhaps we should start formulating visions in order for this to happen in our churches. Perhaps a more Biblical vision would be to develop our church members so that each one of them would become a missionary – regardless of where they are.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - Posted by | Mission, Theology


  1. Hi!
    I just came across your blog, which is surprising because I’ve been googling Swaziland for a week now in various manners. Anyway, I”ve bookmarked you now!
    I am doing a presentation tomorrow night at our church on a missionary couple we support. I can’t reach them, so I’m asking you: what would you say is the amount (cups or something tangible) a typical Swazi eats of food per day?
    We are having a Missions Week where we have a presentation, snack, craft and game relating to the country the missionaries work in.
    I’m hoping you’ll see this in time!


    Comment by Mindy | Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Reply

  2. Hi Mindy,

    If you are interested in Swaziland, please let me know. I can help you with a lot of information.
    About the food, it really all depends on the income of the people. Porridge made of maize meal is really the staple diet of most of the Swazis. But those in the higher economic bracket (usually living in larger towns such as Mbabane and Manzini) eat a much more Western diet (and are paying the price through diabetes, high blood pressure, etc!) Those in the more rural areas where I am working as missionary tend to keep to the more traditional food stuffs. A typical breakfast would consist of a fairly large plate of watery porridge (by large I mean more than I could eat – perhaps 2 cups) with milk and sugar, if this is available. Lunch would usually be porridge as well, but then of much thicker consistency so that is more like a lump of porridge on a plate – I would guess at least 2 cups. In the more fortunate homes they may have a small piece of chicken to go with this and some gravy. Otherwise they may have something like cabbage or spinach or more traditional stuff which we know as “marog” (pronounced maa-roch) which is almost like spinach and usually harvested from the fields. In the evenings they may have something which is actually sour porridge in a liquid form. The maize meal is usually left overnight in water where it ferments and gets the much-loved sour taste. Again about two cups would be more or less what they would drink.
    But there are homes where three meals a day is scarce. In a survey which I conducted a year ago in two rural areas, only around 35% of the homes indicated that they never went hungry. About 24% said that they were often hungry, which was at least once a week and 14% in the one area and 35% in the other area indicated that they were hungry every day.
    I hope this helps.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Reply

  3. Oh, yes!! This helps tremendously! Another Q about the food: is Swaziland currently receiving food rations from organizations? Or was that last year/year before?
    My heart just breaks for Swaziland as I study it. 40% HIV! That’s so sad. The stigma is quite a problem, I gather. How careful have you had to be about ministering to those infected? (I will be reading all of your previous blogs, but haven’t had time since I ‘found’ you! My 5 kiddos keep me hopping!)
    20 years there is a long time! I will add you to my prayer list!
    Here’s another Q: what work do people in the cities do? I see that most Swazi are substinance farmers or herders, but what do the others do?? What kind of unemployment rate is there, or can that even be a number when so many are local farmers?
    Anything you would like to say, I’m more than happy to share with my church tonight!
    in Christ,

    Comment by Mindy | Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Reply

  4. I think this is a case of well-meaning human agendas trumping G-d. It probably happens within the Church a whole lot more than we know, but in much subtler forms. I agree, we need to have purpose and a vision, but for it to be a sustained effort, it needs to come from G-d rather than ourselves. I know when our organization was in its infancy stages and we were praying and putting together the main parts of it, we were all too aware that if we just made decisions on our own that we could end up shortchanging the ministry by limiting ourselves unnecessarily. The very wording we chose in our mission statement had to be carefully chosen so that we weren’t short-sighted. This has paid off in various ways over the years and I am thankful our founder, of blessed memory, was so wise in this respect. Thank you for your article. Well said. 😀

    Comment by Maya | Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Reply

  5. Mindy,
    Swaziland is receiving food through the World Food Program (WFP). Our orphan feeding project also gets (got) its food through the WFP. do yourself a favour and click on the document on the right (under HIV/AIDS Documents) with the title: On Becoming the Hands and Feet of Christ. To our shock we found out last week that the food from the WFP is no longer being delivered in the southern part of Swaziland! The reason, I was told, was because of “transport problems”. I have taken the matter up with two members of parliament who are both very sympathetic towards our work and we just hope and pray that we will be able to get food once again.
    I always recommend that people are cautious when working with those who are HIV+ but there has to be a certain balance. I have never worn gloves and I touch people, sometimes even put my arms around them and hug them if I want to. The virus does not jump from one person to another. Obviously the whole scenario changes when one works with open wounds or sores or whenever any form of bodily fluids are involved. So we do advise our caregivers to wear gloves when they work with the patients.
    Many of the young people are moving up to Mbabane and Manzini (as well as the industrial area between these two cities known as Matsapa) in order to find employment and the unemployment rate in these areas are definitely lower than in the south where I am working. Subsistence farming occurs all over the country but many of these farmers do have another form of income. In the southern region there is less opportunity for work. In our survey last year we had two questions about this. The one question was whether the male head of the house was alive or dead. In the one area 38% of these men were dead and in the other area 51%. This should not be taken as an indication of the situation in the entire country, but is definitely shows us a very dark picture of the reality. The other question was directed towards occupation, whether the man (if he was still living) was working and in this case, in both places, 64% of the living men were without work. Subsistence farmers are exactly what the name says, that people have a house with a small piece of land and that they have to survive by planting maize and keeping a few cows and possibly a few chickens and some pigs. More or less enough to survive on. You can also have a look at our website which is http://www.swazimission.co.za and then you click on the English tab and go to the interactive map. From there you click on Shiselweni (which is the southern region) and you will find some information on our church. You can also click on the AIDS ministry tab on the left. This particular page has just been updated, so you should be able to find something there worthwhile to read. You should also take some time to read the other two documents, the one “Why are we losing the battle against AIDS?” and the other “Towards a Theology of HIV/AIDS”. Both of them have links on the right side of the blog. Well, this should keep you busy for the rest of the day. Please let us know how it went with your presentation at your church.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Reply

  6. Hi Maya,
    Great to hear from you again! When writing the original post I was considering whether I should include anything about Bruce Wilkinson and his attempt to work in Swaziland. In the end I decided against it as I didn’t want to sound as if I am downplaying other people’s attempts to make a difference, but as fewer people will be reading this comment I think I could mention that he also came into Africa and created the impression that he was going to change the country in a few years with the “God’s answer to AIDS” video. I had a bit of a heated discussion with people from his office in South Africa before the program started and said that I think that the way in which everything was being marketed was extremely presumptious. I, together with a number of well-informed Swazis tried to convince them to make a few changes if they wanted to give it a better chance to work. They refused. In the end (I don’t even know how much was written in the USA about this) he left the country, deeply humiliated and in anger (so I gather from the local newspaper reports). I think this is a good example of a vision which was probably not correct for the circumstances.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Reply

  7. Oh man, I had never heard about the Wilkinson situation. How arrogant to waltz into town, not sincerely consult the people who have already been in place and working and think you’re going to, quite literally, be G-d’s gift to the people?


    It is this kind of spiritual arrogance (and irrational thinking) that really chaps me. I was discussing missions with a friend of mine who is a Nurse Practitioner and has worked in Somalia and Ethiopia as well as with children needing respite from Chernobyl in Belarus. She told me of numerous instances of doctors and missionaries who would show up to the camp where they were working thinking they were going to “save the day” only to burn out fighting against the cultural norms. They’d either isolate in their tent (!!) or return home. Many wouldn’t associate with the nationals at all in a social setting (!!!). I asked her what accounted for her stamina in the position (and in really awful conditions) and she said she and her co-worker were flexible, ate and visited with the nationals and lived among them. She said she had no interest in changing every aspect of their culture, but learned what worked for them and why. What a MATURE way to go about it, eh?

    Comment by Maya | Thursday, August 2, 2007 | Reply

  8. You can read a fairly comprehensive report on what happened at http://www.religionnewsblog.com/13222/american-preacher-leaves-swaziland-in-a-huff

    Being involved in missionary work teaches one a lot of humility. We all have dreams of making a difference. I definitely have dreams. But these dreams have to become reality in accordance with God’s plans.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, August 2, 2007 | Reply

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