Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Signs of Maturity in the Indigenous Church

I didn’t have the time to spend on blogging yesterday. But actually this is what I want to write about today. About three weeks ago I visited the coordinator of one of our Home-Based Care projects in the south-eastern part of Swaziland. She informed me that there was some problems within the group which was making it very difficult for her to do her work. However, she did not want to tell me what it was, only that it concerned money. This was a bit upsetting to hear, because I know how easily money can become an issue and I was really afraid that an issue about money could drive these volunteers apart. I therefore made an appointment to see them last week, which was cancelled because the location which they use for weekly meetings was unavailable and eventually I went to see them yesterday.
We spent some time discussing issues about their work amongst the HIV/AIDS patients but then I informed them that I had actually also come for another reason, which was to help facilitate a discussion about the problem which had cropped up amongst them. And then a strange thing happened – I was asked to leave the room as they needed to discuss some things in private. I was slightly worried wondering if the problem had anything to do with something I had done wrong and which had upset them. Unable to think of something, I left the room and spent the next 30 minutes or so speaking to my American friend, Tim, who was very curious about the Swazi custom of having to leave a discussion.
After some time the coordinator came out. Although the door of the room was closed and I couldn’t make out what was being said, it was clear that it was quite a heated discussion taking place inside. She sat down with us and told us what had happened. Someone had given her a donation of 500 emalangeni (the Swazi currency) which is about $70. One of the caregivers had developed a serious personal problem and she then decided to give this person 100 emalangeni ($14) to try and help her. However, she had made this decision on her own and failed to inform the rest of the group beforehand about her plan. And this then led to some tension as they felt that she did not have the authority to make this decision without consulting them first.
But the thing which amazed me was when she said to me that the group felt that there was no need for me to facilitate the meeting to solve the problem. They had chosen a committee before to lead them and they felt that the committee was totally capable of handling the situation correctly. This, to them, wasn’t such a serious problem, as to make it necessary for myself to help them to solve it. Someone said to me afterwards: You mean to say that you drove 270 kilometres (170 miles) only to hear that it wasn’t really necessary! To which I answered that this was truly exciting, because it proved to me that this group of people had reached a stage of maturity which I had not given them enough credit for.
As Westerners it is often difficult for us to recognise maturity amongst non-Western people (specifically amongst Christians, in our case). Yet, the aim which Paul had in Colossians 1:28 was to preach Christ in order to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus or as it is alternately translated in the RSV, that we may present every man mature in Christ. If spiritual maturity is one of our aims in the church, why are we afraid to admit that young Christians have come to maturity?
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen things like this happening in Swaziland. But it sure was gladdening to realise that this group had already proven that they are able to solve problems, even though they were a bit reluctant at first to address the situation. I went in afterwards and complimented them on their attitude, not because I wanted to flatter them but because I truly believe that their conduct had revealed a sense of maturity which I hadn’t quite been prepared for.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007 - Posted by | Church, Culture, Dependency, Home-based Caring, Indigenous church, Meetings, Mission, Swaziland

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