update, links

Grace and I will be spending a big chunk of the summer in Southwest Florida … a great place to unwind and to write after a somewhat over-busy spring … and a great place to celebrate our 30th anniversary!
I’m still recuperating after a whirlwind trip to Africa. I wish I could have stayed for a special celebration with the Batwa of Burundi. My friend David Shook explains the celebration (after the jump), and will be blogging about it here.
Speaking of Africa … you can get a taste of the amahoro-africa.org event here. The talks can be downloaded as well.

From David Shook:
Monday 15 June 2009
First, a confession. I grew up the son of Baptist missionaries in Latin America, often translating for short-term missions team members on sacrificial mini-vacations, employing rote evangelism techniques and ignoring the physical needs of those they intended to serve. The celebration that will soon begin is different. Its participants do have an agenda, but that agenda is significantly different than those we’re accustomed to associating with cross-cultural engagement on behalf of the church. That agenda is the making of friends, the building of relationships.
In just a few hours thirty Texan suburbanites will arrive in Bujumbura, Burundi, via Nairobi via Amsterdam, arriving close to forty hours after they left. And so begins their celebration of friendship, with a few hours of sleep.
Tomorrow afternoon forty-two Batwa men and women will arrive at Hotel Club du Lac, on the white-sand shore of Lake Tanganyika. The Batwa are Burundi’s indigenous population, oppressed since at least the migration of the Hutus to the region at the turn of the first millennium. Formerly called pygmies, a term they now reject, the Batwa live subsistence lifestyles, growing meager crops and making traditional pots on government land, susceptible to the sudden whims of the Burundian political machine, which moves them often.
In socio-cultural terms, the two communities could hardly be more different. In some zip codes of Cypress, Texas, over forty percent of the population earns greater than $100,000 per year. An entire Batwa family is lucky to clear $3 in a week. Burundi’s inundation with cheap, imported plastic pots has devalued their primary source of income, so that a Mutwa potter might now earn $.30 for a pot one foot in diameter, that takes nearly an entire week to make. Cypress residents are almost uniformly educated through the university level. So far, only two Batwa students have completed their undergraduate degrees. The Texans enjoy golfing and shopping in their spare time; Batwa workers are routinely jailed by their employers—not having committed any crime—because it is a cheaper alternative to the paycheck.
The gospel that promises an afterlife mansion on a gold cul-de-sac is as compelling to the Batwa as a pair of free rollerblades for a cripple. It’s easy to forget Christ’s good news to the poor when that news might make us question our own sense of wellbeing. These Texans are taking those risks. They’re entering—together with their Batwa counterparts—the process of mutual transformation. In uniting these two communities we invite cultural struggle for both parties. We open ourselves to the possibilities of misunderstanding, of discomfort, of shame, and at the same time, of beauty, of love, and of brotherhood.
If we are the church then their work is more valuable than spending a week abroad repainting a parsonage. If we are the church we will grow stronger as our relationships deepen, as we grow in awareness of our own and exposure to others’ worldviews, lifestyles, and faiths. If we are the church we should not operate according to the imperialist tendencies of the world, to the systems that oppress and marginalize, or to the false charity of the guilty rich.
I believe we are the church.
How then should we operate? I believe that the God’s Kingdom operates by different mechanisms than the power systems of this world, whether that means feeding multitudes with five fish or making space for relationships to grow between two of the world’s most diverse communities. I believe that a genuine friendship between two communities, one outside our usual power systems of domination and benefaction, is a sign of the Kingdom of God.
I praise God for the willingness of both communities to engage in a real friendship, based not on money or moral appeasement, but on our commonality as children of an awesome king.
Please pray for our Batwa Celebration. For the travelers from Texas and from throughout Burundi. For our facilitators, translators, and speakers. For our vulnerability, for our mutual compassion, for our cross-cultural reconciliation.