Monday, April 16, 2007

Uniqueness of African Americans in World Missions

Christ's call to make disciples of all the nations is a compellling motivation for all of us who call Jesus Lord. God's desire to see worshipers of Himself represented in every culture of the world is woven throughout Scripture -- from Genesis to Relevation. Within the United States, we have been blessed with some great experiences and a wealth of resources. Part of being blessed so greatly also leads to a great stewardship of what we've been given. As Americans traveling the world, we are able to easily get into some countries and have difficulties entering others.

For those of us that are white Americans, our ethnicity may work against us in places where the gospel has gone forth along with cultural imperialism. Though most missionaries have been devoted and sincere in their efforts, there have been some that have misrepresented Jesus to the very people they were seeking to reach. Fortunately, this is not the case everywhere in the world, but it is true in some locations and it has made it more difficult for those of us with white skin to be trusted and accepted. Not impossible...just makes it more difficult sometimes.

But because of the diversity that exists within the United States in the body of Christ, we (followers of Christ) are literally able to go anywhere. Because of the variety of physical characteristics as well as other cultural and linguistic differences, we can travel to countries where we have a shared history that can be advantageous in sharing the gospel. I've seen this no more prominent than for African Americans that travel overseas. Since many in other countries have never met an African American in person, there is an intrigue in meeting someone that is black and is an American. Particularly on the continent of Africa, there is a receptivity and openness to hearing what black Americans have to say.

The following is from Shaunika, a student who was involved with The Impact Movement during her time in college in the States and is now studying abroad in the African country of Tanzania. Check out her experiences as an African American living in Africa and how the Tanzanians have responded to her:
"I feel like I should clarify someting about my last email since people seem to be a bit confused about why my roommates parents were shocked to find out I was black. Maybe shocked is not the right word...just surprised. It's because it is very rare for people to meet a black American here. Of the close to one hundred students that are studying abroad here this semester including students from all places in Europe, Asia, America and Canada only three of us are black Americans.
People usually assume we are Tanzanian when they meet us , and are always surprised to hear us speak and find that we are American. Most people just flat out don't believe me when I tell them and they assume that I must have gone to study in America and am back home now so I usually have to explain to them that I was born in America, and so were my parents and grandparents. When they finally believe me the responses vary. Some people have procedded to tell me all the slang words they know and I just laugh and tell them they have seen too many music videos. I have actually had one guy tell me "Oh, you're black American. I have never met one of you before. I used to wonder what you were like over there."
It has been a little awkward at times. for example I've come to my room more than once and found my roomates friends there waiting to meet me because they didn't believe her when she told them I was a black foreign student. They usually ask me to speak in English to prove that I'm an American. I've even come across people that I have never met before and had them say to me "Oh, yeah, you are the black American girl. I've heard about you. Another good example is that I'm taking an African American literature class in which I am the only foreign student this semester. On the first day of classes, the teacher pointed me out and told the class, "Luckily we have the privelege this semester of having an African American student in class with us to provide us some insight to our discussion."
It's not a bad thing or anything its just very interesting and unexpected. So when my roommate told her parents that she was bringing her American roommate home, they automatically assumed that if I was American I would be white. From their experience all the Americans they've met have been white. I hope this clarifies a little."
This is just one example how the uniqueness of our culture can be used in opening doors as we enter into other countries. Let us all continue to use the way God made us for His glory!

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