Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Nigeria

Missionary hymns

I think the old missionary hymns leave many of us feeling a little uneasy. Those references to carrying the gospel to every dark land  – was there a deliberate inference that lands where white people dwell are more enlightened and the lands where darker skinned people dwell are in spiritual darkness? I fear that idea seemed self-evident to white people 100 to 200 years ago.

It’s not so evident today and I think we should stop singing those hymns. I don’t believe that we should stop missionary activity, but perhaps the greater need in our day is right under our noses. While Christianity has taken root on other continents, it is in danger of being uprooted in Europe and North America.

That leads me to the other concern I have with the old missionary hymns – many of them take it for granted that missionary activity can only happen in lands that are across the ocean waves.

Churches in Nigeria have taken note of the increase of unbelief, paganism and idolatry in Europe and North America and are sending out missionaries to do what we seem to have forgotten how to do. In our nearest city, Saskatoon, three Nigerian denominations have placed missionaries and are establishing congregations.

I wonder what kind of missionary hymns they sing in Nigeria?

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A new cruiser for the information highway

owl-158414My wife has been in need of a new computer for some time, hers was still running Windows XP. She has been receiving warnings about XP’s obsolescence for several years, but it continued to work. More or less, anyway. Now it seemed the time had come to replace the old clunker.

So we went around kicking tires at computer shops and found what we wanted at the shop closest to home. A little shop in a little town (pop. 2,200) not too far from us. They had a number of gently used computers, in good shape and with all the accessories we needed (especially Windows 10). For a modest sum they would transfer data, install programs and send it home ready to go. At least the sum seems modest if you average it out over its expected five year life span – then its only a few dollars a month.

We had to do a little more set up at home, like getting it to recognize our printer. Apparently a five year old printer is too old for a newer computer to recognize. By now the new jalopy is running smoothly, and a little faster than her old one.

On her old computer, she was using a pair of speakers that I bought at Dollarama. The sound quality was excellent and they had an on-off switch and a volume control. The new computer will not recognize those speakers, but it does have an internal speaker that is a lot better than most.

I bought the computer I am using a few years ago from a national office supplies retailer. I don’t think I’ll do that again. They are just too big, with too many people involved. The person who sold me the computer was not the one who set it up for me and that technician wasn’t available when I went to pick up my computer. I found that I had to transfer data and install programs myself. It would have been too much hassle to keep hauling the computer back and forth to the city. With a small town shop you always know who you are dealing with. And who to complain to if something isn’t right. I think that makes them feel a lot more accountable to the customer.

I told the young Nigerian lady at work that we had replaced my wife’s computer because it was still running Windows XP. “XP!” she said, “that’s what I used in junior high!” Let’s see now, XP first came out in the fall of 2001, and this lady is, well I’m not going to say but it sounds about right that XP would have come out just before she started junior high. So Nigeria was right up to date and my wife was using this ancient version until the day before yesterday. Nevertheless XP was pretty much problem free, which is more than can be said for most Windows versions between XP and 10.

Don’t listen to them

Eight or nine years ago, Minister Isaac Akinyombo of Nigeria was in one of our Canadian congregations to assist in revival meetings. An invitation was given at the end of one of the meetings, and as brother Isaac was giving the invitation he added these words: “Be aware that there is someone right beside you, you can’t see him but he is there, and he is telling you that ‘Of course you need to repent and get right with God, but you don’t need to do it tonight. Tomorrow will be just as good, or next week. Take time to think it through clearly.'” He went on to warn that if someone was clearly hearing the call of the Spirit that night, there was no guarantee that the call would be as clear tomorrow, or that the person would even live until tomorrow.

The messengers of the enemy of our souls are very sly and speak to us in words that promise comfort, but leave us with our burden of sin. They are present in every worship service to point out the faults of the preacher and the inconsistencies of the people around us in the pews.

Yes, the people around us all have their flaws. But other people’s flaws don’t lessen my guilt. I am a sinner by nature and if the preacher is telling me that Jesus died for my sins I shouldn’t criticize him for not choosing exactly the right words, or the right tone of voice, to give me that message of hope.

The messengers from the realm of darkness want to entice us into the darkness where there is no hope. They want to convince us that everyone around us is in that darkness, that there is no hope. Yet when we step out into the light, we are able to see the light in so many of the people around us. Even though we are weak and sinful by nature, we can walk in the light and have fellowship with our Saviour and with others who are walking in the light.

What if?

Many North American Christians appear to believe that separation of church and state only applies one way.  They feel it is part of their calling to try to fix what is wrong in government.  Yet cries of  outrage are heard when government shows an inclination to try and fix what is wrong in the churches.

There does not seem to be a realization that any organization that puts itself in the position of trying to influence elected officials, or elect the “right” people to public office,  has effectively entered the political arena and thus become subject to political scrutiny.

There are cogent sounding arguments made in favour of Christian political involvement and the irresponsibility of those who abstain.  But have these arguments ever been borne out by the results of Christian political activism?

Nellie McClung was one of the leaders in the movement to extend voting rights to Canadian women.  She believed that women were naturally more gentle and nurturing and once they had the vote they would be able to shut down the liquor industry.  She never foresaw that women would use their vote to obtain the right to join men in public drinking establishments.

The enactment of prohibition in the USA was another victory of the churches.  The result was an increase in alcohol consumption, in speakeasies and other illegal venues, accompanied by a dramatic increase in the power and influence of organized crime.

This example, however, leads me to muse about what might happen if Christianity were ever prohibited in the USA or Canada.  Would the Christian faith be as powerfully attractive as liquor was?  Would Christians still meet in unauthorized gatherings for worship?  Would they become even more effective in leading others to the faith?

That has happened over and over again in other ages and other nations.  Why couldn’t it happen again?  There is a systemic weakness in North American Christianity today, a lack of real acquaintanceship with the Word of God and what it teaches, a lack of earnestness and perseverance in prayer.  We have had it too easy for too long.

Isaac Akinyombo, a minister of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite in Nigeria, once suggested that since we in North America do not experience persecution from outside, perhaps we need to persecute ourselves.  I believe his meaning was that we need to be shook up and if outside events aren’t happening to do that, we will need to do something ourselves to shake off our complacency.

I don’t believe we could do that by abandoning all the teachings and structures  that exist in the church today.   However, we need to examine them all in the light of God’s Word and in the light of the faith of fervent brethren in ages past who maintained and spread the faith in times of opposition and persecution.  The way forward is to go back to the true foundation that stood the test in those times.

 

 

Brotherhood aid

The Church of God in Christ, Mennonite began mission work in the Philippines about thirty years ago (I couldn’t find an exact date).  A number of small congregations have been established and ministers and deacons have been ordained.  While the numerical growth has not been rapid, there has been real spiritual growth in the members and the leadership.  Last year the General Mission Board approached the Filipino church with the question of whether they felt ready for the Mission Board to withdraw from the country.

There was some trepidation at first, but the conviction grew that the church in the Philippines was ready to become indigenous.  However, the ministers and deacons requested that there could be revival meetings for themselves before they were left to shoulder this responsibility.  In response to this request, a minister from Nigeria and another from the USA came and all the Filipino ministers and deacons, with their wives, gathered in a central location for several days of preaching and fellowship.

This opened the way and in the early months of this year the remaining missionary families began saying their good-byes and disposing of mission property.  By spring the Filipino church was on its own.

This fall two disasters occurred, first an earthquake on one of the islands, then the typhoon that hit the island of Leyte, causing damage beyond the financial resources  of the local membership.  Fifty homes of our Filipino brothers and sisters have been destroyed, plus ten chapels.  The damage is so extensive that the ability of these brethren to earn a livelihood has been compromised.

The Filipino brethren formed a committee to guide and supervise the rebuilding of members’ homes.  Several North American brethren, acting as liaison to the North American churches, have participated in the planning.  The work has begun and a collection was announced today, probably in most all of our North American congregations, for funds to assist this work.

It was observed that houses built of hardwood stood up the best in the storm, so the new houses will have concrete block foundations and the framing will be of Canadian Douglas Fir, which is readily available in the Philippines.

Though this project involves only brethren working to help each other replace destroyed homes, the church is involved in other aid work.  Filipino brethren are helping in cleanup work and the humanitarian aid agency of the North American church is also at  work (their mandate is to help the general populace and not to favour church members).

Time is NOT on my side

Minister Isaac Akinyombo of Nigeria, while preaching in a Canadian congregation, told the story of a lady in his country that got converted and wanted to be part of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite.  There was a little problem, however: she intended to dance at her mother’s funeral and she was told that the church in Nigeria considered that to be a sin.

Her mother wasn’t dead yet, mind you, or anywhere near to being dead.  But in their culture it is terribly important to follow all the right procedures at a funeral so that the spirit of the departed one can find rest and not return to trouble the living.  It is not just dancing, but that is a major part and it involves serious non-Christian beliefs about death and the life hereafter.

This young lady could not face opting out of the tradition which her family would expect of her.  So she said, “OK, I will wait until my mother dies and I will dance at her funeral, then I will come to the church.”  Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?  There would be lots of time, she was young, her mother was old.

Brother Isaac paused momentarily, then sadly added, “The poor lady died before her mother did.”   Time was not on her side after all.

I attended a small town school here in Saskatchewan, about an hour and a half from where I now live.   I graduated from high school at the age of 17.  Four of my fellow students died over the next four years.

One was driving way too fast in a snow storm and rear ended a semi.  He had been drinking, but even when we are sober it’s easy to make foolish choice in the reduced visibility of a snow storm.  I recall a time when I had been visiting my future wife and was making the return journey to the town where I worked.  The semi in front of me was driving way to slow and I pulled out to pass.  I got about halfway past when I saw headlights coming toward me through the swirling snow.  I hit the brakes, hard, and got back into my lane just in time to let the oncoming semi go by.  From there on I contentedly followed the semi  in front of me.

Another young man was helping his father dig trenches for water and sewer lines to their house.  They were digging deep trenches, entirely by hand,  a wall collapsed on him and his life was over.

Another boy wanted to escape the flat Canadian prairies and see the world, so he enlisted in the US Navy.  He went through training and specialized in radio communications.  The day finally came when he boarded an aircraft carrier and departed on his dream of seeing the world.  A day out from land an electrical problem caused a fire in the communications cabin and he died.

Then there was a young lady, only 9 or 10 days younger than me.    She was a slim, active, clean-living young lady, a preacher’s daughter.  There was no advance warning that anything was wrong, yet she suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 21.

Nevertheless, we still tend to think that we have all the time in the world to consider God’s call and decide what to do about it.  Of course there are cases of people getting converted late in life.  One of those, a lady who was born again at the age of 90, was asked what was the greatest sin she ever committed.  Without hesitation she responded, “Refusing the call of God when I was 17.”

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7

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