Monday, November 10, 2014

Life in Abundance

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

Life in abundance, in a world run by power.

I try not to talk about my spiritual life or thoughts much through directly using the word "God" or the Bible, because of the perception of Christians and Christianity in the US (and because I already have enough of your bugging me about seminary and the priesthood) but I think given the context I'm living and working in right now I might make an exception in this blog post. We'll see.

Recently I went with a team to Makamba, a province at the southern tip of Burundi bordering Tanzania, to do research and talk to people about their perceptions and beliefs about masculinity and SGBV. What we discovered will be used to help the Provincial  Office of the Anglican Church to design programming for the future.

The context: People in Burundi are generally very religious. Church is an all day affair. A simple prayer after a meeting can take 5-15 minutes. The phrase "only God can know" is used so often. Additionally, because people are so drawn to their faith and churches, churches and pastors have the power to have a very big impact on the lives, mentalities and support of their parishioners. They have another advantage too that churches are everywhere. They reach where NGOs cannot reach. They're everywhere, and everyone goes to church. I think this is one of the big advantages of the church here. It can be a great tool to do amazing work.

This network and the possibilities I see in the church gives me so much hope for the opportunity for the coming programs to make a huge impact on the lives of many people.

But some of the beliefs that I heard from pastors is really what shocked me while doing this research.

A lot of the people we talked to -- not just the pastors -- gave us answers that we wanted to hear. But sometimes they were honest. One of these times was often when talking about the Bible.

We asked everyone if God created men and women equal. A great deal of pastors -- and others -- told us that God created men superior to women. This was often explained by the verse in the Bible that states that the woman was made from a bone in Adam's side, and if God wanted them to be equal he would have taken the bone from the head.

Of all of the Bible verses to rationalize this thought process, it surprised me that they used this one. Had I not been trying to be an unbiased researcher/observer I would have retorted asking them what it meant then that men were created from the dirt on the ground.

There were also positive connections however that I was able to make in the Bible in relation to gender equity and relations during this trip. In Genesis 3 God places burdens on Adam and Eve for the sin they had committed. These burdens also create the first difference we see between men and women. Eve must bear the burden of childbirth and her husband will rule over her and Adam too will suffer. These burdens, I realized, in relation to this work, are also the burdens placed on women who suffer from SGBV.

But what does that mean for us when we read Paul's letter to the Galatians: Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (6:2)? If these are the burdens given to use in the beginning, then what does 'bearing one another's burden's' look like? What does living life abundantly look like? And how can we expect women to "live life in abundance" when they are living lives that reflect a Bible teaching that tells them that they're inferior to men?

While I know that given the context of pastors reaching and influencing so many people is horrifying with these kinds of teachings, there is a great opportunity to change this mentality and create a new theology with these pastors and the people they are serving.

While in conversation with people at the beginning of my time in Burundi someone said, "The church has to be counter cultural if it wants to succeed". I think that is really true here and speaks a lot of truths about this work. Get ready pastors and churches!

Shout out to Prabu for being an amazing facilitator, mentor and friend. 

Freshly transplanted kitchen garden greens not living life in abundance...

Cute sad monkey friend

So happy to be creating a new water point to supply clean drinking water to many hills

Joyful work

Umugenzi (friend)

Rice workers weeding away!


  1. Hey! I am totally glad I google searched your blog and found your posts! What an interesting understanding of the research you're doing and the viewpoints you are able to capture. You must be well read to incorporate many biblical quotes in your posts, so congratulations! Love your photos, thanks foe keeping us posted on your shenanigans in Burundi! Be well, from America.

  2. Your pictures are beautiful, as always! Really interesting and thought-provoking blog post. Hope everything continues to go well - lots of love from Cleveland =)
    Allison Paetz