Earlier today I introduced what will be a new post theme on my blog: Missionary Predicaments. Occasionally I will attempt to explain to you some recent (or ongoing) dilemma having to do with being a missionary in Tanzania. And then I’ll ask you guys what you think the proper Christian missionary response would be. Then I’ll do whatever you say. Well… maybe not. But I do welcome all advice — especially if you’re over 50 years old and have grey hair. Today’s predicament:
Our strategy for mission here in Geita involves Bible studies. In short, I am helping Tanzanians form Bible study groups, and then mentoring a leader to facilitate that group. These groups use a 3-column format in the context of a Discovery Bible Study. We emphasize in these groups the importance of sharing with others during the week what we’ve learned together. This is happening already; and we are on the verge of starting a second study just from those involved in the first study telling their friends what they’ve learned. If and when that second study starts, that group’s facilitator will then be mentored as he leads a new group in studying God’s word together.
But there’s one small problem. There are barely enough Bibles to go around for the study we’re having now. We were sharing two per book yesterday, and before we left the meeting several group members arranged a plan to swap Bibles at midweek — so each person would have the opportunity to read more from God’s word. It would be nice for there to be a Bible for every person, but that’s just not the case. And if we begin a second group, we may be looking at one book for every four or five people.
Factors in Making a Decision
- One of our goals for these studies is that they reproduce quickly, as this one already looks like it might do. We’re praying for multiplication and not addition. For this to occur, our methods need to be easily reproducible.
- A mentor or group leader purchasing Bibles for everyone is not easily reproduced; it’s stops with the white missionaries.
- Christie and I have enough money that we could buy each person in this first group or two a Bible.
- We do not have enough money to buy everyone in an entire church planting movement a Bible.
- It’s really difficult to have a study without several Bibles, even though some of those present are unable to read.
- Each study is based out of a single text (usually about 15-20 verses), so the entire Bible is not necessarily needed each week.
- If possible, we would like to encourage those who desire to read the Bible during the week to do so.
- It might be important for people to invest their own money in a Bible, showing that this is something of value to them.
- At the same time, though, should we expect non-Christians coming to their first or second Bible study to go out and buy a book that costs more than a day’s wages?
- We don’t want people to come to our studies simply because we’re giving Bibles away.
- We don’t want to further the perception that white people come to Africa to give stuff away.
- But also, in Tanzanian culture, friendships are often based on helping one another with money and material items. If you have money, you should use it to help others. And this is important.
So, what should we do? I invite your wisdom.