Examples of reconciliation in Kenya
by Jarvis J. Williams
Posted on Tuesday, May 5, 2015, at 4:48 pm
Strenuous racial tensions in the United States between blacks and whites demonstrate that this country needs the gospel to achieve racial reconciliation. But Scripture tells us that such gospel reconciliation is not limited to our borders. John’s Gospel states, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV). And the Apostle Paul says the inexpressible riches of the gospel are that God unifies all things in Christ and Jesus died to reconcile Jews and Gentiles to God and to one another (Ephesians 2:11-3:8).
Since 2013, John and Brooke Schreiner have served in Nairobi, Kenya—a city of more than 3 million people. As journeymen missionaries (a two-year commitment) with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, the Schreiners lead Bible studies and offer discipleship training for African college students from two of Kenya’s largest tribes, the Kikuyu and Luo. John has seen that whites and Africans in Kenya are often at odds, and Africans from different tribes and countries battle each other. Recently, he has seen conflict between Kenyans and Somalis, especially Somali Muslims.
According to John, tribalism is the “biggest issue” in Kenyan society: “Politics are shaped by tribalism and many churches can be [shaped by it] as well.” He noted that the 2007 Kenyan elections “turned extremely violent due to tribalism.”
The Schreiners themselves have experienced racism from some Kenyans because they are white, but John and Brooke have noticed that racism is not the final word in Kenya or elsewhere. They’ve seen in their church that God through the gospel has reconciled in Christ, and to one another, Americans, Brits, Indians, Ugandans, Chinese, and Sudanese. Even members of rival tribes attending the church who normally would hate each other have come to love one another, meeting together in small groups in their communities, sharing meals together. There are several inter-tribal marriages within the church, include one of the assistant pastors and his wife. A soon-to-be assistant pastor at the church is Kikuyu, but rival tribe members are expected to vote to approve his call.
The gospel of Jesus Christ can be powerful in breaking down tribal and racial barriers. And Americans should look to the examples in this Kenyan church for how it can be done.
Jarvis J. Williams
Jarvis is associate professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a former WORLD contributor.