Report from Kapchorwa by Charlie King
Kapchorwa is a delightful place. If you have ever been to upcountry Maui, you would recognize the high altitude, tropical, volcanic mountain environment. Consistently in the 60s and 70s, hot sun in the afternoon, breezes almost all the time, torrential rains in season, cool nights, and absolutely stunning flowers and trees. Although farmers here fertilize, I don’t think it’s all that necessary. This is a food exporting area. It is as Africa should be – feeding the world.
On a mundane note, here are photos of James and I shopping for the cook at the Study Center: cooking oil, bananas, bread, rice, and flour. Not a lot of variety.
Unfortunately it is also a place that is known for its back-biting, litigious, insular, and not particularly well educated people. So the idea of planting a reformed Christian school and community here is a challenging one. But we are making inroads, teaching the Gospel that transforms, not just make us feel good. (At the next note, I’ll tell about the clinic here and its leader.) Victor Nakah, the Zimbabwean pastor and theologian, who heads the African missionary efforts of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, puts it this way: “what sort of Gospel do we teach that does not transform?” When one surveys the magnitude of the dysfunction with which one is surrounded in Africa, and then considers that the majority of Africans are Christians who both readily self-identify as such and report religion as being of great importance, there is a huge disconnect. It doesn’t add up. Nakah says that there are about 3000 churches a year being planted in Africa, yet the ranks of the most corrupt nations in the world are filled with African nations, and as with most any other measure of dysfunction you wish to pull up. Indeed, as Nakah says “what sort of Gospel do we teach that does not transform?”
One of my more pleasant tasks this week is to walk the perimeter of the Study Center and visit all our neighbors. The first one on the list is the local Sheikh, Ali Musabo, to whom I went bearing gifts of sugar, tea, and soap. The community here is Muslim, and their sheikh sold us the land for the Center. He is far from being a zealot, but he is a keen observer and he made the same claim that Nakah is making. Show me the effects of your Christianity here in Africa…
Meanwhile, in Rwanda the state is becoming either the enemy or the savior of the church – depending on who you ask. The prosperity gospel is an acknowledged assault on the Gospel, yet the orthodox Christian church can’t seem to tame it (and that’s true in the US as well as in Africa). So the Rwandan government has claimed the right to step in and do so. Almost half of the churches in Rwanda have been shut down by the government for bureaucratic violations, but it is – their story at any rate – an attack on the health and welfare gospel which is an epidemic in Africa. The attached article is the latest about the ongoing campaign against these churches in Rwanda. (I am a bit more cynical about the government’s motive than the author of the CT article. The government in Kigali is all about control, and the churches, particularly the evangelical ones, were slipping out of their grasp. Rwanda is very much of a police state – one with velvet gloves, but a police state nonetheless.) While I have no love for prosperity preachers, those who cheer at an authoritarian, technocratic state taking on the prosperity gospel preachers may regret allowing Caesar to legislate the Cross. Far better that we do it ourselves. And so we teach all the Gospel, as best we can…
Cheers and blessings,