Going to Zimbabwe


Recently, I had the privilege to lead my second short-term mission team to Zimbabwe, Africa.  The purpose of the mission was twofold: train pastors and church leaders in theological education and model racial reconciliation.  The team consisted of 8 African-American pastors and 5 Anglo pastors.  The team was not only diverse ethnically, but also demographically.  We had team members serving in the inner city, suburbs and rural areas of KY.  We had the privilege to partner with Nick and Kyndra Moore, IMB missionaries serving in Zimbabwe.

No one on the team knew every team member of the team (well).  In fact, the day we left for Zimbabwe was the day some of our team met each other for the first time.  We arrived in Zimbabwe and hit the ground running.  Spending the first night in a central location, the next day (Sunday) after the team split up for worship in two local churches, we grabbed our bags and loaded our vehicles and ventured out into twelve different locations throughout the country.  Some of our team members stayed in larger cities and enjoyed more modern accommodations (such as warm bread pudding and ice-cream), while others stayed in huts with hammocks and dodged giant moths, just being grateful they were not bats!  Regardless of where our team members stayed, they loved on the people of Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe loved on them.

Each team member was responsible for teaching a set curriculum in partnership with World Hope Bible Institute.  The material consisted of courses ranging from hermeneutics to expository preaching to soteriology to New Testament to Systematic Theology to Ecclesiology.  Each location received teaching in three courses.

Relationships were built and churches were strengthened through the teaching ministry of our team.  Even more impactful were the lessons learned by our team as they observed the hunger and passion by the Zimbabweans to the learn the Word of God.  As always, our team received more than they gave.

 

While the whole mission was designed to intentionally create an environment for multi-ethnic cooperative missions, our team spent intentional time at the end of our week discussing what that looks like for churches today.  We used the new book Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention as a springboard for our discussion.  Kevin Jones, one of the book’s editors, who also was on our mission team, facilitated our discussion.  While much was said during our time of dialogue that was extremely beneficial, what stood out to me the most was that relationships are key to racial reconciliation in the Southern Baptist Convention and Kentucky Baptist Convention.  We must live life together and do ministry together before the ills of racism will truly crumble.  So, let’s not just talk about racial reconciliation, let’s live it out together for the cause of the gospel and the glory of God to all nations.

Cooperative Missions and Racial Reconciliation

I can’t remember a time in my life when the tensions between “races” has been so high.  The hatred at times seems like it is swelling to the point of bursting.  From politicians to athletes, everyone seems to have an opinion and a response to the injustices and protests against inequality.  The church of our Lord must not remain silent on this issue.  More so, the church of our Lord must not remain passive on this issue.

 

In 2015 the Kentucky Baptist Convention passed a resolution on cooperative missions and racial reconciliation.  In essence, the resolution affirmed our creation by God from one bloodline and our command to make disciples of all nations.  The resolution further confessed our misappropriation of “race” as sinful against black, brown, and yellow image-bearers throughout our nation’s and state’s early history.  In fact, we erroneously “defended the right to enslave African peoples, treating them as chattel, stifling their ability to pursue life, liberty, and economic autonomy.”  Because of our racialized thinking, we hindered multi-ethnic cooperative missions for the first one-hundred years of Kentucky Baptist existence.

 

Therefore, as a convention, we are resolved to unite together for the advancement of the gospel as a “symphony of multiracial voices who glorify the slain and risen Lamb (Rev 5:9-10).  In acknowledging our past sins of racism, we further resolve to live out the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit “in relationship with black, brown, and yellow brothers and sisters in our great Convention.”  Furthermore, we commit to “intentionally pursue at least one ethnic minority congregation in mutual friendship and love in order to reach our world for the glory of God.”

 

Resolutions are good insomuch as they have feet.  The gospel of Jesus compels us not simply to place ink on paper for resolutions, but to link arms and to serve together for God’s glory among the nations.  It’s one thing for us to vote on resolutions or even to “amen” the truth that Jesus breaks down the dividing wall of hostility that exists among differing groups of people (Eph 2:11-22).  Yes, the world needs to hear our denials of racism (all forms of racism) and our affirmations that all people are created equal and are thus image-bearers of God.  But it is altogether different for them to see us live these denials and affirmations out to a watching world.

 

Our brother James was pretty plain about truth without any action.  He said the two are not mutually exclusive.  Rather, they go hand in hand.  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).  In other words, it’s one thing for us to pass a resolution; it’s another thing to live it out.

 

I am encouraged by what I see among Kentucky Baptists seeking to live out not only a resolution, but what gets at the core of the gospel.  Jesus “reconciles us both (all groups of people) to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph 2:16).  What the world needs to see in the midst of continued hatred across differing ethnic groups is the change that the gospel brings.  The world needs to witness the joining of arms and the serving of feet that are red, yellow, black, brown, and white.  For indeed, each of these are precious in His sight.  Kentucky Baptists, let’s live out the gospel by serving together as one new body in Christ, and demonstrate to a watching world that Jesus restores what was once broken.

Written by Doug Williams,  Kentucky Baptist Convention Missions Strategist.