Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Apostolic Men Empowering the Nations

The biennial AMEN conference starts this week.  Eight Multiply leaders will arrive by Friday: Matthew from Nigeria, Desmond from Sierra Leone, Gregory from Kenya, Rukundo from Rwanda, Stephen from Zambia, Daniel from UAE, Colney from India, and Mark from Switzerland.  Their interests all also extend to surrounding countries.  I've met - and shared conferences - with five of them, on their home turf.  Brilliant.  Two years ago we took a big move forward and set up a Fund to share resources and decisions to move the Network forward.  This year we want to build on this partnership foundation.

Western Christians have earned a reputation for "gospel colonialism" in their approach to global churches.  The first world - in any manifestation - just doesn't grasp how arrogant it comes across.  Now I don't go along with the thesis that all our wider Empire - and later Commonwealth - involvement has been a disaster.  In fact, a lecturer I met in Delhi insisted that the foundation for modern India was laid by British legislation.  It meant they could trade on a par with rest of the world.  He also provocatively added that, in this regard, the British did more for India in 90 years than 900 years of previous Muslim administration had achieved. 

Then I met the contrary opinion, and somewhat more formally, in Zambia.  At the national museums, in both Lusaka and Livingstone, an unfavourable comparison was drawn between the typical standards of living before and after independence in 1964.  I understand the political desire to assert a positive self-identity for the people of a recently-emergent nation.  And the  battle for self-government wasn't pretty.  But it seemed too easy a pass-off to imply that everyone would otherwise still be living in destitute squalor.  (They have a more pressing current issue in engaging with China.)

Well, it makes it clear that we need to move with humility.  A pastor (also in Delhi) explained that Westerners - especially Christians -  wishing to do something for the plight of the disadvantaged should place their generosity in the hands of local on-the-ground churches.  He was preparing us for heart-tugging sight of beggars, street kids, and the like.  So, that's what we seek to do with Multiply.  My plea with the guys is, "Please don't take everything in the church in the West uncritically."

I've been busy researching how to get a minibus to Freetown, Sierra Leone.  It's Desmond's no1 priority from quite a bunch of projects he has ambitions to promote.  First we'd need to get him a suitable vehicle.  Although we run a over 40 Transits, the technology has got so baffling that you wonder if a decent de-fleeted one would do any favours.  The standard Toyoto mutatu, fixable with hammer and screwdriver, may be a more durable offering than Ford's drive-by-wire engine management system.  Desmond must decide!

There's an option to book half a container and just export direct from UK.  This is over £3,000, and you feel it must be more sensible to add it to the donation so they can simply source a vehicle in Africa.  Problem is, some things aren't available at any price.  Or, you can drive to Algeciras or Tarifa and ferry over to Tangier.  Then you take the coastal road (N1) right round Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, and Guinea.  "And ideal job for some retired bod", quoted Kelvin, the transport guru from Darlington.  Google says 4,250 miles; 80 hours of driving.  I also found a ferry route from Lisbon into Freetown if we want to half-and-half it.  You can fly back from Freetown for £250.  We're going to have fun with this one.

Gregory and Daniel have already arrived, and Rukundo told me he flies today (Wednesday); Colney arrives on Friday.  I'm intending to stay around in Northants/Warwickshire for the duration, ending up taking the Sunday meeting in Coventry on 2nd June. 

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