On my way to St. Louis to speak at the Urbana Student Missions conference, I had the opportunity to re-read Jean Vanier’s book, “Finding Peace”. If you haven’t read this little gem – go get it and read it! In its pages I was again inspired, revitalized and focused to continue our bridge-building work as an expression of the peace-making heart of God.
Vanier says, “The world is divided into many thousands of more or less hermetically closed groups. If each group is sure that it is better than others, how can peace ever come? It is difficult to dialogue with others if we cling arrogantly to the idea that we are right or that our power and technology are a sign of our humanity and goodness. Walls and barriers exist between people because of language, but also because of fear – each group fearful of those who are different, fearful of losing its identity. People resist opening up to others. Aren’t we all in one way or another enclosed in a secure group, in our culture, our religion, our family, our network of friends? Family and different types of groups are needed for human growth, but when they become sealed they engender rivalry, conflict, elitism.” (p. 16 emphasis mine)
Last night I heard Oscar Muriu from Kenya speak at Urbana. He spoke about the incarnation and the movements that Christ embodied in this choice to enter our world vulnerably as a newborn child. The movements from pride to humility, from power to powerlessness, from position to poverty (and he had one more which I’m not recalling) are the incarnational postures to which we are called as those who seek to nurture shalom. Here was a passionate African leader challenging 16,000 students to lead the way through vibrant expressions of incarnational mission, to extend grace to the generation before them who made lots of mistakes but who did the best they knew how in obedience and faithfulness to Christ, and to lead by forging a new and radical path that refuses the way of empire, colonialism, power and money. How grateful I was, how hopeful I was to think about partnership and engagement with our African brothers and sisters who embrace and embody such incarnational paradigms.
I continue to have many questions about how to best engage the situation in Uganda. I am keenly aware of our tragic legacy of colonialism and the danger of imposing western culture into their unique context. One of my deepest personal core values is to not be patronizing in my engagement with others – but to extend ho