Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Spirituality – the African way

Yesterday had been a hectic day. Slept about four hours. Then I helped to transport part of a choir at the school where my wife is teaching, to a town about four hours from where we live for a school choir competition. Spent a few hours there and then drove all the way back, to reach the school twelve hours after we had left it. We used five vehicles, one bus and four vehicles which we call “Combis” and which can each transport about nine people – legally (OK, you have to live in Africa to understand the humour in the last remark!) The reason why I volunteered was because my son was also singing in the choir and it would give us an opportunity to listen to them singing. My wife also drove one of the vehicles.
I ended with eight Black children in my vehicle. Afterwards, when sharing my experience with my wife, she mentioned that some of these children are under-achievers, at least one had failed his grade last year. This makes my experience all that more remarkable. Before I share it, I should also relate another experience I had some time ago. This also has to do with a choir. I was travelling with a friend who was transporting a number of children from another (more prestigious) choir. In this case they were all White, from fairly to very privileged homes. I could hardly believe how these children were speaking, the type of shallow discussions taking place, the jokes being shared. The worst of the group was a young boy from an extremely rich family. And to crown it all he boasts a PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens) armband!
In a certain sense I was preparing myself reluctantly for something similar when my wife asked if I would be willing to drive a vehicle to the choir competition. Exactly the opposite happened. A few of them were listening to fairly rhythmic African music on MP3 players (until the batteries ran out) and then they started singing in their beautiful African voices. And they were singing only spiritual songs. Remember, these are normal teenagers and the school where my wife teaches is not specifically a Christian school. I was amazed. In English, Zulu and even in Afrikaans they were singing song after song and I just enjoyed listening to them.
How to interpret the difference in spirituality between the White kids and the Black kids would be very difficult for me to explain. Are these things a greater reality to them in their daily lives? Have we (Western people) become so used to our faith that these “normal” things don’t matter anymore? Have we perhaps become a bit shy to express our faith in public? I don’t really know. What I do know is that I had a great time with these teens yesterday and I think I learnt a lot from them.


Friday, August 17, 2007 - Posted by | Africa, Mission, Worship


  1. This is also changing. When doing camps with black kids I am of opinion that they should lead the worship, since it’s more natural to them, and a great experience to the white people. But on a camp a few weeks ago we had a couple of girls (and the girls I think are generally better at this) from an informal settlement in Pretoria, thus, city folks. And to my amazement these kids couldn’t lead us in worship. They didn’t really know songs! When I asked them to start, thay sang Nkosi Sikelele, and that was the last thing they really knew.

    Comment by cobus | Monday, August 20, 2007 | Reply

  2. Cobus,
    This is probably not so surprising, because obviously they have to learn these songs somewhere – either in their homes, at school or at church. Knowing the situation of the homes and life within the informal settlements I doubt whether they will get this background in their homes. Are they attending schools? If so, they are probably also not being exposed to Christianity within their schools. That leaves the church, which most of them are probably not attending! The challenge would be to reach them with an alternative method – and camps would probably be an excellent way to do this, more especially if “mixed” camps could be arranged where you have young people who have already had some positive exposure to Christianity to attend as well. I think what is empahsised in your comment is that we should not take it for granted that Christianity and Christian churches are “safe”. We will have to find innovative ways to reach these people who have had little or no (positive) exposure to faith issues so that they can start experiencing what it means to be a follower of Christ.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Monday, August 20, 2007 | Reply

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