Tuesday, November 21, 2017


In our daily routine at the conference, we take a  break during the midday to have a lunch. I accompany the various pastors who are attending the conference, and we go to the pastor’s house to eat together.

In the house, there are two low and long tables set up between two rows of wooden sofas with pads on them. This takes up about half of the pastor’s house. You will remember from the previous post, that another quite large percent of the pastor’s house is taken up with the room for the orphan girls.

If the question is coming into your mind, “Where does the pastor and his wife live?”—that is a good question. They also have two small girls, one of them perhaps ten years old and the other maybe four.

The entire building is about 20ft X 20ft, or perhaps slightly more. The room where we are sitting and eating takes up one entire side and is maybe 10 feet wide. The girl’s room is about 10 X 12, leaving the pastor and his wife, along with their two little girls, a small room of 8 X 10.

I asked pastor Joel about this and he told me that they are praying that they could construct a separate building for the girls, similar to what the boys have. In fact, at this present time, this is the most important project for them.

It is this time of eating with the pastors when they eagerly ask me all sorts of questions. The questions may be theological, they maybe doctrinal, they may concern church practices: “What is the correct form and frequency of taking communion?” “Who should be allowed to take communion?” “What about baptism?” “Who should be baptized and which is the correct form?”

I tell them straightaway that I was ordained to the ministry in a Baptist denomination, and I still mostly hold to those views as my own preference, but that I have also worked with many different denominations and I have also come to appreciate some of the perspectives of other churches. Some of my formerly more strict Baptist views have been modified.

We talk through each of the questions and we especially had a good discussion concerning communion and baptism. I hope what I left them with is that in general, we as a church have done a very poor job in teaching these two most important ordinances of the church. Jesus instituted them to demonstrate our unity in the body of Christ, despite the many other differences we may have.

We have turned the intention of Jesus completely on its head. Instead of these practices demonstrating our unity in Christ, we in the church have used these two ordinances to bring division in the body of Christ. This has long been my lament and I have written much about it before, so I will not do that here.

But the fun questions are the cultural ones:
“I have heard that if you feed your dog table scraps in the US, you will be arrested. The only food that they are allowed to eat is the food that you buy special in the store.”
“I have heard that it is against the law to walk on the roads in the US.”

One fellow asked me about the keeping of animals. He had heard that it was against the law in the US to have a farm animal unless you had an actual farm. When I told him that it was true that most cities and towns had ordinances against the keeping of animals, but in the rural areas there are no restrictions, and even many towns allow you to keep a few chickens.

This they could not understand. The questioner began talking with the man next to him, and they were having quite a discussion. I was already talking with someone else and they were having their conversation in the local language, so I do not know what they were saying. But in the end, they reached what they thought must be the reason for this strange law.

The questioner grabbed my forearm to get my attention. “Is it because they do not want the neighbors to be jealous of you if you have a cow and they do not?”

We may smile at this idea, but I have also been amazed at some ideas we, as Americans have of the customs and the cultures of other countries. Before I left for Kenya, for instance, more than one person that I spoke with thought that Kenya was a city or perhaps a county in the country of Africa.

I think that we would all benefit from some dinner table questioning.

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