Wednesday, September 01, 2004

African Bible Study

Cameroon is a noisy, lively place! There’s certainly nothing romantic about being awakened by a rooster, by the way – especially the one behind our bedroom that gets confused and “goes off” at 3:15 am, then again at 4:15 … and 5:30. From our bedroom balcony, one can also spot a turkey, two abused dogs, and an aviary’s worth of bird variety.

That is what is so compelling about Africa, though. It makes the writer want to use words like “teeming,” “cacophony,” “richness” and so on.

Today was the weekly Wednesday morning prayer group, in which eight or nine area pastors gather for prayer, support and Bible study. Pastor Jean led us into a lively debate over the meaning of II John, verses 8-11, which partially read: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching (about Jesus), do not take him into your house or welcome him.” Jean admitted this was a difficult passage for him. He wanted to know, “What does this mean for us today?” And we were off – bam! – on a fast ride through the theological and Biblical issues that divide and torment every local congregation of believers anywhere in the world! You name it, we touched on it! Biblical authority, inter-religious dialogue, tolerance, Islam, faithfulness, heresy, inclusivism … whew! It was invigorating – at least with what I could keep up with through the translator. In the end, the group came to the hard-fought conclusion that, just as John’s words were meant as warning to the small, struggling early church, so his words have special significance to the small, struggling early Methodist Church of Cameroon. The message is to stay doctrinally close to the gospel, “that Jesus came in the flesh …” Ahhh, you see, the Incarnation!

I came away impressed by the quality and level of theological astuteness and Biblical awareness, and an especially high concern for pastoral issues. What do you tell a witchdoctor who wants to become a Christian, yet continue to practice his magic? What shall our relationship be with the Muslim in our family?

These are the exciting bits of missionary life! I can’t wait to learn French, so I can be a part of it all.

After the meeting, however, Bill pulled Leah and I aside and warned us. “You need to slow down,” he said. “You’re trying too hard!”

It’s funny, but I thought I was going too slow! But my father’s Protestant work ethic just doesn’t fly here. It’s not in the culture. And Bill patiently pointed out that I will burn myself up quickly, trying to check things off lists, setting agendas, and trying so hard to get things done.

I am trying to listen to him. Tomorrow morning, for example, Leah and I have nothing planned, nothing to do. It scares me to think about being bored, but I sense that this is a “good” boredom, a holy inactivity. It’s a way of “letting go” and deprogramming from parish life in the U.S.

I feel my spirit shifting out of fifth gear, down to fourth gear by necessity, and maybe, just maybe – if I let God do so – I’m shifting even lower, to a third or second gear. Trying to relax and slow down. There’s more traction in the lower gears … if only I will allow it!

This I know beyond doubt – we belong here. We are supposed to be here. That fact alone grounds me and keeps me sane.

The rains held off until this evening. It is raining softly now, and a wonderfully cool breeze is chilling the entire apartment.