Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

A new family for new believers

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with someone. The background is that I knew this person when she was still at school (just shortly after I arrived in Swaziland in 1985.) She grew up, got married, moved away from Swaziland for a number of years, led a hectic social life and eventually ended being an alcoholic. Through her mother’s intervention she and her husband returned to Swaziland about two years ago and after some time she came to her senses and came to the Lord, committed her life to Him, eventually got totally released from her alcohol addiction and is really a lovely person today.
What she shared with me however, made me feel really sad. In their “old” life she and her husband had had many friends – obviously people with whom they partied but many of these were also people who really cared for them. On their coming to Swaziland they made some new friends – mostly also people with whom they could party. All this changed when they decided to commit their lives to the Lord. Suddenly they were no longer invited to parties. They were considered to be slightly weird (although they are by no means “Bible-punchers”.) Their circle of friends gradually became smaller and for the most part they spend their time at home (perhaps not such a bad thing as she and her husband have some catching up to do in their personal relationship.)
What saddened me was to realise that the church (I’m speaking of the church in general and not just a specific congregation) was never there to nurture these people. When they were rejected by their previous community, the church should have been there to step in and to welcome them into their new family. But unfortunately it never happened. I don’t necessarily advise people to break with their old friends once they decide to follow Christ. In fact, it would be great if people could still continue relationships with their old friends (obviously within certain boundaries) because this is the place where they may be called to be a light. But in reality it often happens, as in this case, that their previous community do not feel comfortable with them anymore. And instead of becoming part of a new (alternative) community, they suddenly find themselves without real friends.
If we want to be responsible evangelists, we need to ensure that our Christian community will be willing to welcome new believers in their midst. Otherwise it is as good as leaving a new-born baby out in the cold, having to fend for himself.

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Friday, April 4, 2008 - Posted by | Alternative Society, Building relations, Church, Evangelism, Hospitality, Mission, Swaziland

6 Comments »

  1. Hi I have been reading your site and find it very interesting. I am living what that couple are going through and it is very lonely. You often feel that you are a second class Christian

    Comment by Therese | Saturday, April 5, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hi Therese, thanks for sharing that. The good news is that there are Christians out there who will welcome you as part of their family. Try and find them. And make sure that you don’t do the same to other new believers in the future. This attitude has to change and we are the ones who will have to change it.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Saturday, April 5, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hi Arnau,

    Excellent post! This is tragic, but happens often. Providing new (or soon-to-become) believers a real, authentic community, small groups, discipleship, friends to hang out with – that seems so intuitive, but is so often not done, or not done well.

    On a not-exactly related note, I wanted to ask you if you were involved in any way with the missionnal conversations happening in Africa under the name “amahoro”. They are having their next conversation/gathering in Kigali this month. I am very impressed with this initiative. You have excellent leaders in Africa, from whom we Westerners have much to learn. I am thinking, for example, of Mabiala Kenzo, in Boma, Congo.

    Anyway, blessings in all that you are doing, and thanks for your very thought-provoking posts, that I resonate with very much.

    Michel

    Comment by Michel Savard | Thursday, April 10, 2008 | Reply

  4. Hi Michel, thanks for your positive remark. I appreciate it.

    I have never heard of “amahoro”. Can you give me more information? Are you connected with them in any way?

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Friday, April 11, 2008 | Reply

  5. Hi Arnau (and any others who are interested in the emerging leaders of Africa),

    I recommend Amahoro-Africa’s website as a good starting point:
    http://www.amahoro-africa.org

    I am in touch with the person I believe is the key leader, Claude Nikondeha, who commutes between his home in the U.S. and Africa.

    I became aware of this group via the web, after reading about it somewhere, possibly from Brian McLaren. He is an American emerging church leader, who is helping to organize the annual Amahoro gatherings in Africa.

    The upcoming Amahoro gathering in Kigali will include, among others, Trevor Ntlhola and Sean Callaghan from South Africa. You may know these two men. I don’t.

    Here is another useful link, that discusses the upcoming gathering:
    http://www.emergentvillage.com/weblog/annemie-bosch-to-attend-amahoro-gathering-in-rwanda

    My connection is presently only virtual. I would love to be able, some day, to actually come to Africa. For now, I must restrict myself to reading, praying, and encouraging others in my neck of the woods (Canada) to think about what they can do for Africa.

    Blessings,

    Michel

    Comment by Michel Savard | Sunday, April 13, 2008 | Reply

  6. Thanks Michel, for that info. My son (a final year theological student at the University of Pretoria) recently told me about a conference which Annemie Bosch was going to attend, but I never realised that it was this conference.

    I think there’s a lot that can be done at conferences like these. I do have the fear though, after having attended many conferences myself, that little may change in practice. When it comes to the issues of forgiveness and reconciliation and restitution, conferences have a role to play, but most of all the Holy Spirit will have to soften people’s hearts so that true forgiveness can take place. Having experienced the miracle of 1994 in South Africa I also fully realise that we are still years, probably decades away from true reconciliation. Sometimes I feel as though racism is as strong or even stronger than in the past. Many (a great number of) people changed for the better. But those who had been struggling with feelings of racism are as hateful as ever or even more so. And this is not only true for South Africa. I think the same will apply to countries like Rwanda.

    I’ll keep an eye on proceedings there. And thanks for your prayers for us. If ever you feel like it, pay us a visit in Swaziland!

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Sunday, April 13, 2008 | Reply


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