Sawanda: "If anyone has not been baptized, then you need to be baptized next time Rick is here."
Rick: "Why don't we go right now?"
Sawanda: "They don't have a change of clothes."
Rick: "Ok, why don't they go home and when they come back, you can baptize them later today."
Sawanda: "We will wait until you come back."
Sometimes, as missionaries in Africa, the color of our skin causes problems. Because of the history of Zambia, white people are considered "better" by the Zambians. When we are shopping in town, everybody calls us "boss." This even sometimes happens when we are among brothers and sisters at church service.
Therefore, we are constantly avoiding this perception. We do our best to appear as equals, but this is impossible to achieve completely. Everything from our homes, our cars, our clothes, and our food displays an economic difference.
However, with appropriate attitudes and policies, we can prevent many problems. Here are some actions we try to avoid:
- Giving Items Away - This increases the gap by making people feel like beggars. We will not build a church building or do anything that the Kaonde should provide for themselves. Also, we are very careful about giving away Bibles: We will do this through the church leadership when appropriate. A great sign will be when people start to buy Bibles for themselves. At that time, it will be obvious that they are investing themselves and serving God with everything.
- Taking Authority - Once a church is planted, they have their own leadership. We may attend with them, and we will teach when they ask, but we will not make decisions for them or otherwise control them.
- Separating Ourselves - We want to become like the Kaonde. We should learn how to communicate properly in the Kaonde culture, learn KiKaonde as well as possible, eat food that is offered to us, establish friendships, and spend time with them.
- Appearing as Special Christians - We constantly encourage people to know that we are equals in God's sight. Those of us who have come to Christ and accepted his forgiveness, are all brothers and sisters.
Another policy I will set for myself will hopefully confront and correct the attitude about baptism. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, Paul said he was glad that he did not baptize many so that they could not claim they were baptized into Paul's name. He wanted the Corinthians to follow Jesus, not himself. Therefore, I have decided that I will not baptize anyone myself. Instead, I will ask one of the Zambians to do it. Baptism is a promise made between that person and God, and the one baptizing has absolutely nothing to do with it. If someone wants to be baptized by the white preacher, then they are missing the entire point.
Next time I return to Kankuwa, I will need to teach about this. Hopefully, they will understand that Baptism is in the name of Jesus not in the name of the white person.