Friday, July 18, 2003

The Church: The "Only Infrastructure" in African Rural Areas

While the role of the church has faded dramatically in the West, it is not so in many parts of the world, where it may serve as the only functional infrastructure.

PCUSA News, in a July 18 article by Alexa Smith titled "Don't Mention it," reports on the vital role the church has in Africa.

"The African church is very credible," said Caryl Weinberg, a Presbyterian Church (USA) missionary serving as a regional AIDS consultant in Africa who worked as a nurse in rural Ethiopia in a previous appointment. "It may be the only infrastructure in certain areas. In rural areas, there's not much else there. The leaders, too, are often respected in communities; when they speak, people listen."

The article also reports that "no other institution can reach as many people on a continent where congregations often have thousands of members."

Here, then, is another reason why we can lift up the Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship focus on planting vital, growing, indigenous Christian movements in cultures for which the gospel is new: a primary and perhaps the first and only infrastructure backbone to serve the culture comes into being with the birth of a church movement.

Think of it. Take away the other infrastructures that come to mind - the police and justice system, the public welfare system, the telephone system, the medical network... we're left with what huge portions of the world's cultures have to cope with - no organized structure at all. The best hope for non-infrastructured cultures is the gift of the Church, which can and will build the rest of those valuable systems through its continually expanding care for the needs of the whole person growing out of the love and service of Christ.