Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Report from Tanzania & Kenya--Part 2

Jonathan and Philemon Bokyo

Ernest Mwilitsa and interpreter

George Kariuki

The EPI team at the conclusion of the Kilifi conference

Following completion of our TOT and Biblical Stewardship conference in Tanga, I proceeded to the island of Zanzibar. Zanzibar is about 96% Muslim. The churches, and Christians in general, on Zanzibar are oppressed by the Muslim majority. I had visited Zanzibar last year, since it is a strategic location. Our host and primary conference organizer is Philemon Eseka Bokyo. Philemon has been on Zanzibar approximately 20 years as an evangelist and church planter. He has been imprisoned for his faith, but maintains a good, Christ-centered attitude, and has earned the respect of all who know him, including the Muslims.

We did two conferences back-to-back: 1 Timothy and Biblical Stewardship. I observed that, although the churches constitute only a small percent of the people, nevertheless there was a lot of division along denominational and other lines. I strongly urged that they start building closer relationships among each other, and begin working more closely together. In a place like Zanzibar they cannot afford not to. Further, the demonstration of unity is one of the basic missions and purposes of the church (John 17:18-21). I think that this message was heard. Since I require African-initiated follow-up for the conferences I do, we will see.

From Zanzibar I took a 13 1/2 hour bus ride (which should have been about an 8 hour ride) to Mombasa, Kenya. The bus was supposed to have left at 2:00PM, but was an hour late. It then broke down shortly before we got to Tanga. Ultimately, we had to change buses. This is Africa.

In any event, we held a conference on Biblical Stewardship in Kilifi, Kenya (north of Mombasa) for approximately 95 Pentecostal pastors. The teaching team consisted of myself, the conference organizer Ernest Mwilitsa, and pastor George Kariuki from Murang'a, Kenya. I have worked with Ernest and George before. They have each gone through TOT training, and are both good teachers and good men. The people of Kilifi appeared to be eager learners. Indeed, the conference seemed to affect many of them quite profoundly. EPI's Stewardship course is both a theological "eye-opener" and a very practical course. It deals with applying Christianity to many facets of life: stewardship of the environment, the mind, time, the body, money and possessions, and stewardship of the church (the basic mission and purpose of the church, the church and finances, and the church's responsibility to the poor and needy).

As a part of the course, I did a critique of the so-called "prosperity gospel" (i.e., the idea that if you simply "sow a seed of faith" [i.e., gives money] to some prosperity teacher, then God will give you back 100-fold). Unfortunately, this money-centered "gospel" was invented in the US shortly after WWII, and has spread largely in Pentecostal circles so that it now exploits the people of East Africa. Most of the Christians there have never been exposed to a sound biblical critique. Our Stewardship notes include more than 20 pages on that subject, because it is such a corrosive teaching. When I finishd with the critique, the elderly bishop who was hosting the conference gave a spirited affirmation of what we had taught, and (in a sincere but jocular way) urged that God bless EPI "100, 200, 300-fold!" May God, indeed, bless the churches of East Africa as they apply the Bible's teachings to all areas of life.

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