El Jefe and I have a very close friend who grew up in Nigeria. His father was killed in the Biafrian War and his impoverished mother managed to get him accepted at the local mission school, run by Presbyterians from Canada. He subsequently made his way to the US where he entered the University of South Carolina for premedical studies. The local Presbyterian Church there adopted him, and his sister, and made it possible for him to get his medical degree. He has established free medical clinic in his home village and members of that church are among the doctors and nurses who accompany him on his missions there. He has always says that he is a proud "product" of the mission school. Today he is sought-after internist in Houston and an elder in his Presbyterian church.
Which brings me to the testimony of two other Africans who spoke at the PGF conference about the importance of overseas mission. Urgessa Biru grew up in Ethiopia in a Muslim family and clan. He came to faith in Christ because of his education in a Christian mission school. Although he was estranged from his family after his conversion, they have since reconciled and he has returned to his hometown to build better relationships between Christians and Muslims. Dr. Amon Kasambala is a minister of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa and is now Director of Partnership Development and Africa Initiatives for Focus on the Family Africa.
Both of these men echoed the story we have heard for years from our Nigerian friend: the importance of partnership in mission with people in Africa. Dr. Kasambala said, "We've lost our inspiration and motivation" for mission in the West. "When a congregation closes its doors on mission, it is heading to its demise." He also stressed that there is no shortcuts in mission, but rather effective mission partnership requires a long-term commitment.
Here is Dr. Kasambala's prescription for effective mission partnership:
1. Equal fellowship
2. Reciprocal interaction
3. Mutual respect and interdependency
4. Love for each other
5. Keen interest in what each other is doing, and offering to help in practical ways
Truly we have as much, or more, to learn from our African friends as we have to teach and share.