This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not
that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A mile wide, an inch deep

Last week I decided to dive into Rick Warren's book on Bible Study Methods. I've never really investigated different methods for studying the Bible; instead, I usually just open up my Bible, start reading and scribble down my thoughts as I go. I'm enjoying learning about various study methods that I've never really considered, but I've found that the things listed in this book are a bit out of reach even for me- a person living on a nice compound in Kenya with a small library full of Christian literature and access to the internet. Let me pause here and say that I'm not criticizing Rick's book at all. I've obtained some very useful information from this book that has helped improve the way I study the Bible. This book was written for people in his community, church and culture. You simply can't take what is written for American culture and apply it to a third world country- it doesn't transfer as nicely as we'd like it to. 

What it comes down to is: the people of Kitale will probably never have access to such material at all. Without their basic needs being met how can these people who live just down the street from me obtain this vast list of resources recommended for an in-depth study of the Bible. Concordances, commentaries, word studies, Bible encyclopedias, or even a single translation of the Bible when having 2-3 various translations is suggested. Putting Bibles in the hands of people here would be amazing! But at the same time not always useful because many people I spend my time with can't read. More of them can read swahili, but almost no one can read English. Only very few people living at this poverty level have ever been to school and probably none have completed school passed a primary level. It's hard to imagine not going school. It's so integrated into the fabric of our society that having mass amounts of people who don't have the privilege of education seems unreal. Of course almost everyone living in poverty would love to go to school, but they can't. It's hard to explain the complexities that hinder their ability to find a means to becoming educated. Yes, a large part of it is money, but there are so many other aspects that have deep-rooted affects as well. The necessity to stay alive. The need for older children to watch younger children. The need for house help. The need for children to fetch water. The need for laborers. The need for firewood collectors. The need for help on the farm. The need for help cooking. The need for children to clean. The need for boys to work. The need for so many things. I could spend days trying process and explain the ways that poverty affects the ability for children to attend schools. Some things, like a widow raising 9 children, are obvious hinderances to a child's opportunities, but others are difficult to uncover and even more difficult to explain. 

I'm continuing to pray that our work in the slums, including our weekly Bible study for the women of Shimo, will create and nurture both spiritual and intellectual growth. I don't want any endeavor we've started here to fade away once we leave. I don't want them to think that since the white missionaries are gone their Bible study must stop. I want to empower them to keep on going.  I want to encourage these women to do this on their own. I want the one who can read to help those who can't. 

Once again, I've wandered off topic. Surprise, surprise.  

I started this blog post to talk about the fact that people here don't have access to Bible study resources- not even a Bible. This is humbling as I think about the number of Bibles I've had in the course of my 23 years of life. I find it amazing that in America, even though we live in a culture so rich in Biblical tools, our churches and communities have become so spiritually dry. 

A few weeks ago, while I was chatting on the phone with my sister, Lauren mentioned a quote she had recently heard regarding churches in Africa-- the church is a mile wide and an inch deep. While this phrase could also be used to describe churches in countries and cultures all around the world, I would agree that it fits much of what I've experienced since arriving in Kenya. This phrase is intended to describe the areas that, although they are highly populated with churches, have not developed deep spiritual maturity within the church. Now don't start to think that there are churches all over the place in Africa because that certainly isn't the case. But it is important to know that some areas- such as Kitale- have many churches. I am not writing these things to discourage or even complain about the churches in Kitale. I'm writing these things to emphasize the potential that exists. These pastors have little, if any, access to materials that we are overflowing with in America. Things that for years I, a person who is neither a pastor nor a theologian, have been able to access with ease. They have their Bible, but rarely do they have the ability to utilize concordances, Bible encyclopedias, historic texts, theological book, word dictionaries and other Biblical resources. I really believe having these materials here in Kenya would help strengthen and develop the spiritual maturity of people and churches. Simply giving pastors access could potentially do wonders-- helping pastors grow their congregation and continue to shepherd them to a life of loving Jesus. 

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