i refuse to tell anyone i’m a Christian

Wow!  I can’t believe it’s already the end of the summer.  I guess this blog finds some of you back in school, and others getting ready for it.  I’m probably interrupting some of you as you make plans for the long Labor Day weekend.  Still others of you are trying to get in one last trip to the lake for skiing before college football starts.  And speaking of football, I know that a whole bunch of you are preparing your fantasy football draft cheat sheets.  As for Christie and I, we’ve also been busy of late (Christie with her fantasy football stuff and me with churchy opportunities), and will continue to be this week.

We graduated from language school on Friday, August 14th, and then drove 1400 kilometers to Kigali, Rwanda, for a conference on Church Planting Movements. It’s sad that we spent the week after completing our Swahili course in Rwanda, where no one speaks Swahili — we weren’t able to practice anything we’d learned.  But the conference was great.  I’ve taken several short courses and individual classes on CPM, but last week it seemed that all the bits and pieces of information I had were joined together to make one big, coherent idea and system.  We’re really excited about getting to incorporate what we’ve learned into our ministry in Geita.  I don’t want to bore all of you with information from the conference, but if some of you are interested in knowing more, please shoot me an email.  I would love to tell you what God is doing all over the world, and explain a little bit how it’s happening — how people are coming to know God through the Bible, led by His Spirit, and how we’re learning to get less in the way of that process, and instead enable it.

After the conference we returned to Mwanza, Tanzania, where several of our good friends are doing mission work; we’ve been here a week, staying with Jason and Emily Miller (with whom I went to Lipscomb).  During our stay in Mwanza, we’re trying to take care of everything that needs to be done before actually moving to Geita, 100 kilometers and 3ish hours away.  A sampling of what we’ve been up to is below:

  • getting some minor repairs done on the truck
  • getting some paperwork from a government office and copies made, etc, for the truck
  • comparing prices on appliances
  • buying one appliance
  • ordering a couple of other appliances
  • meeting together with our team (minus the Georges) concerning all kinds of things; our three families have not all been together as a team for probably eight weeks until now
  • packing and loading a big truck with the Groen’s belongings in Mwanza
  • buying several small items that are hard to come by (or expensive) in Geita

The Groens and McNeals left Mwanza yesterday with a large truck full of boxes and furniture.  All of those things are being put into a house that the Groens have rented for the next several months.  Then the Groens are returning to Mwanza for about a month while Calvin does paperwork with the government concerning registration for the orphanage.  Carson and Holly are staying in Geita… permanently — the first of us to actually move there.  But Christie and I hope to be not far behind.  Christie has a dentist appointment tomorrow morning, and we have some appliances arriving here in Mwanza Tuesday or Wednesday.  Then we’ll be on our way!

Initially, the McNeals and Harrisons will live together in the house the Groens have rented, during which time we’ll be looking for housing that’s a little more permanent.  The rest of our time this next month will be spent meeting people in town, building relationships, practicing Swahili, and learning to live in a place that has electricity a little more than half the time.  In our next update, then, we’ll be able to tell you all about the place God called us to over four years ago.


In other news, I suppose not all of you have heard yet that we’ve decided on a name for the little girl coming in November: Baylor Adelaide Harrison.  And she’ll go by Baylor, though Christie is really fond of the sheep sound that her initials make.  We still don’t know if we’ll be going to Dar Es Salaam (here in Tanzania) or Kampala, Uganda, for the delivery.  But we really ought to be deciding soon.

We’ve decided not to tell people

we’re Christians!

I really wanted to type that sentence, because I thought it would catch some of you unaware.  Really what we’ve discussed is how there already exists here a preconceived idea of what it means to be a Christian.  And we seriously question whether that definition is at all what God has called us out of our old lives to be.  So when someone asks me if I’m a Christian, our conversation will probably go something like this:

Some Guy: Hey, white man, you must be a missionary.  It’s true, isn’t it.  You’re a Christian?

Me: Well, it depends.  What do you mean by that word ‘Christian.’

The Guy: Oh, you know, those people that go to church on Sunday and don’t drink beer.

or You know, the ones who give money away.

or Well, I knew this one guy who led a really good choir, but also beat his wife.

or The people who wear cross necklaces around their neck.

or I’m not sure.  They seem a lot like everyone else, but sometimes talk about sin.

Me: Uhm, no.  Then I’m not one.

The Same Guy (but with a strange look on his face): Then what are you?

I then have the opportunity to share the gospel with this man.  Not only am I able to disassociate myself with those “brands of Christianity,” but I’m able to begin a meaningful conversation with this guy, who basically has asked me to explain Jesus to him. I get to encourage him to think about what it means to be a Christian.  I even am able to give him a quick picture of who God is, and how I live my life as a response to that.  Plus it really stretches my Swahili…

Prayer Requests

  • Christie and Baylor’s health
  • wisdom in deciding where to go for delivery
  • a safe and easy move to Geita
  • that we will find people of peace in Geita, who will be open to the gospel message
  • relationships in Geita — from government officials to neighbors to vegetable-sellers in the market to children playing soccer
  • further Swahili language acquisition
  • Kasey George and baby’s health
  • Holly McNeal and baby’s health
  • paperwork for orphanage, etc
  • I guess it’s not appropriate to ask for prayers for my Auburn Tigers, huh…


Filed under updates from geita

2 responses to “i refuse to tell anyone i’m a Christian

  1. James; first congrats on Baylor or BAAAAAA whichever fits. 🙂 Second, maybe i am missing something here. you just built a house and are living in it. but here you say you will be looking for a place more permanent. Am I missing something?

  2. well bill, this post was from august of 2009. how did you get to it? it seems like a lot of people have been reading this one recently, and i don’t really know why…

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