Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Things We Discuss In Class

By Anthony:

I figured it was time to update all of you on some of the good class discussions I've had with students since this new semester started in January.  These are from the three classes I'm teaching: Homiletics (preaching), Church History 2 (mostly the Reformation), and Development (poverty alleviation), as well as the discussion group I lead on spiritual growth once a week.  Also, I always give the students a 5 minute break in the middle of each 2 hour class session to walk around outside, go the bathroom, etc.  Sometimes I join them and we get talking.  Strangely, some of best discussions happen while standing around outside.  They can be quiet in the classroom, and then completely open up with their opinions, struggles, and questions when outside.  Because of this, sometimes I let the 5 minute break turn into a 30 minute break!

Some of the interesting class discussions:

- I learned that for most of the students, Sara and I are the first Western missionaries they have ever met.  This is shocking to me because when we came, the students didn't act like it was a new thing to see us.  And we see missionaries all over around Kenya so it's strange to think they haven't interacted with other missionaries.  It's a bit overwhelming or disconcerting when you realize that the students are basing their perceptions of missionaries, or Americans, on their interaction just with the two of us.  Most of the students are continually asking us to find them an American wife or husband.  When we ask why, they say that they like how Americans act, but then we try to help them realize that Americans are very diverse and they do not all act the same way we do.  But they don't believe us, and they keep insisting they must have a mzungu wife!  Then we learned that some of them want a mzungu wife because they think that is a ticket to riches.  Sigh.  We hope they are joking!

- We've had some discussions about titles for pastors and Jesus' warnings against titles in Matthew 23.  Yet in the Anglican Church there is an abundance of titles.  I'm not against church positions and using titles in a small way.  To me, there is a difference between having a title to differentiate our different tasks in ministry, and insisting on people using your title for your honor and glory.  In our discussion, we agreed while Jesus warns against titles, it's hard to even keep track of all the titles in the Anglican Church:  Archbishop, bishop, lay leader, archdeacon, deacon, doctor, honorary, provost, suffragan bishop, canon, reverend, right reverend, the most right reverend, vicar, etc.  The students said there is a problem that a lot of church leaders want titles for power and prestige.

- In Church History, we had a great discussion about the Reformation, about the corruption, the pride, the greed, and the sexual immortality present in the church and priests of the Roman Catholic Church of that time.  It led to a practical discussion about the Anglican Church of Kenya.  They saw that many of the same problems are here, albeit to a lesser extent.  We discussed whether the reforms could be made from within, or would a new church be necessary.  They are hoping that change is possible from within the Church first, which I also advised them to try to do.

Teaching class outside for fun:

- In Development class, I found out that almost all of their churches have no Benevolence ministry to give anything to the poor, and most of the students themselves have never given anything to a poor person or to help the poor.  At least this is what they told me.  It was quite a shock.

- Over lunch with some students one day, I received an excellent compliment.  They said they noticed how Sara and I do our cooking together, washing of our clothes together outside, and they really appreciate it.  They want to have marriages like ours where the husband and wife do work together and try to serve one another.  They said, "that is the way to have a happy marriage, we want to do it the same way you are." In the culture, as in Uganda, women and men have very divided work roles, and often the women do way more work while the men sit around.  So it's awesome that these students want to make change.

- We had a very honest and blunt discussion about pornography during one class period.  It came up because we were talking about how true born again Christians will still sin, but they won't live in sin, they will repent and confess and keep on fighting against sin.  One student asked a very important question about how to think about a Christian who keeps trying to fight pornography but keeps failing.  It led into a good discussion about the nature of addiction and the need to get real help from others when fighting this sin.  I encouraged them to come talk to me privately if they are struggling and I could help them and not tell anyone else.  But so far no one has come.  I'm sure many of the students are struggling with pornography on their smartphones, but it's hard to admit it when you need help!

- We had a great discussion in Homiletics about political sermons.  In this culture, it is extremely common for churches to acknowledge politicians in church and let them speak to the church if they happen to attend a church service.  We discussed how it is favoritism in a way since they don't let other visitors speak, and also how dangerous it is to have a church appearing to support one political party.  In addition, sometimes pastors are asked to preach at political functions, and some of the students have already done so.  The danger there is that instead of preaching the Word of God, you might preach that people should vote for a certain person.  I am not an expert on all the complicated issues concerning the Church and politics.  There are hard decisions to make.  You have to be apolitical often in terms of supporting one candidate over another, but at the same time, also be willing to speak out on the issues.  When I encouraged them to be careful about mixing up their church with politics, they asked a very fair question - "but shouldn't we preach about corruption and speak out against the specific abuses happening in our community?"  I think our country, the USA, is struggling with many of the same issues right now.  How do we speak about abortion, immigrants, poverty, homosexuality, racism, and refugees without becoming too political, or too attached to a political party?  We become ineffectual and even guilty when we fail to speak out the truth on the important issues of our day.  Yet we want the Church to be a place that welcomes people of any political party.  Tough things to sort out.  We had a long discussion about such things.

- We had a fun activity in Development class.  I wanted them to realize that in doing community development you need to hear the voices of the voiceless, to get opinions from a wide variety of people in a community since they all have different wisdom and knowledge to share about the assets and needs of their community.  I divided up the older students into 1 group, and the younger students into a 2nd group.  I told them to imagine there was a gift of $2000 for Berea College, and they should discuss and write down what they thought the money should be used for.  I was happy to see that the answers were very divergent, illustrating well the point I was trying to make.  The older students wanted to use the money to pay salaries that haven't been paid yet for staff, and to increase the security at the school, and help some needy students with school fees.  The younger students wanted to give cash to each regular student (but not the modular students), and then use the rest of the money on a party!  With age comes wisdom and maturity it seems :)

- Also in Development class, we had a discussion about how to overcome corruption in Kenya.  I showed them these two videos below which explain that an audit of the government showed that only 1% of the government's money is spent according to the law (the rest is "eaten" through corruption, or used on good things but not the things it was intended for).  And also they give the statistic that on average, each citizen in Nairobi gives 16 bribes per month.  The two videos are below.  I was highly disappointed by their reaction.  Some of the students immediately said the videos were political and that they were "all lies."  They just dismissed it.  They know corruption is a huge problem in Kenya, but there is so much tribalism that often, people don't want to admit that leaders who share their tribe might be corrupt.  Unfortunately we've noticed tribalism among the students as well, as those from minority tribes are not treated as well sometimes.  This leads me to remind you that the election is coming up in Kenya this August.  Pray for peace and that there would not be violence again this time as there was violence in 2007.  Pray for Kenya, especially for an end to corruption!  Very little development can happen in such a corrupt place, and the students tell me the corruption is coming into the church as well.

If you can't open the video directly, here is the link:

And the link for the second video:


  1. Very interesting article. Thank you.

  2. Outside class- how nice. I suppose you could do that most days though. Seems you are developing good trust with your students. How wonderful your marriage is a model for them. PTL! Thanks for the update!

  3. Thank you both for the appreciation!

  4. May God continue to use you to bless and impact these students. It sounds like you have already caused them to think about many things in a new way! And bless you, Anthony, for your willingness to have honest conversation with your students about addictions. Even if they don't take you up on your offer, you have shown them that you care.

  5. Thank you! I appreciate the affirmation and the prayers.

  6. Anthony, Thanks for sharing all the diverse topics and conversations you are having with your students. It really helps us to understand our similarities and differences when working in a different culture. I'm so encouraged that you are bringing them back to the truth of God's Word, which is useful to teach us what is true and what is wrong in our lives. Keep going as a faithful servant!

  7. I understand the weight you must feel in being the only missionaries with whom your students have ever interacted, but I cannot think of any two people I would rather represent missionaries, Americans, and the Church on foreign soil. You are such deep thinkers, and -- more importantly -- you act on what you believe. May God continue to bless your conversations, teaching, and example.