International Ministries

When two elephants fight

November 29, 2007 Journal

The Union of Christian Evangelical Baptists in Italy, our partnering group here, held a conference last week to study the work and writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You may wonder why Italian Baptists are particularly interested in the work of Dr. King at this moment. As we have written before, immigrants from Eastern Europe and Africa are streaming into Italy looking for a better life for themselves and a means of support for the extended family they left behind in their homelands. These immigrants sometimes encounter prejudice and discrimination in Italy. Their lives are often hard and their status in Italy insecure. Italian Baptists feel a deep calling under God to care for and advocate on behalf of these people. They feel that the teachings of Dr. King can guide them as they fulfill this calling. They invited to their conference guests from America who participated in the civil rights movement, hoping to learn from their experiences as well. The program committee juxtaposed images of the American civil rights movement and immigrants in Italy to help people make the connection between the two.

Kelseynov1They invited Dr. Henry Mugabe, president of the Baptist seminary in Zimbabwe, to participate in the program as well. (Italian Baptists have a partnership agreement with the Baptist convention in Zimbabwe. In particular, Italian Baptists help support and supply a medical clinic there.) Dr. Mugabe shared about being faithful to the Gospel in his very troubled homeland.

Debbie and I had the joy and privilege of hosting Dr. Mugabe in our home for several days. We showed him Padua and Venice, and then he and I went to Rome to participate in the conference. It was fascinating to visit these cities of such great power and wealth (more past than present) and then talk about their history with Dr. Mugabe. He was very appreciative of all he saw, but he saw it through different eyes. I saw it all through the eyes of a white, male, Westerner. Dr. Mugabe saw it all through the eyes of a post-colonial African. I was reminded anew of how important and powerful it is to talk with people of different cultures, to hear in their own words how they understand and experience life. There is no substitute for the living presence of the bearer of another worldview.

Life in Zimbabwe is very hard right now. One person at the conference suggested that Italians pressure their government to pressure the government of Zimbabwe to institute reforms to improve the lives of its citizens. In response, Dr. Mugabe shared this African saying: “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” His point was, although you mean well, what you are proposing will hurt average Zimbabweans, not help them. And again, I was reminded of the importance of cooperation, not intervention; of dialogue, not monologue; of partnership, not charity.

Our lives were enriched and broadened through our time with Dr. Mugabe. There is no richer treasure than to come to know another person in all their depth and wonder, to feast for a while at the table of their experience and wisdom.

Please remember the following concerns as you pray:

-Dr. Mugabe and his wife Hermenia as they minister under difficult circumstances in their native Zimbabwe

-Italian Baptists are they reach out to immigrants and show to them the love of Jesus Christ and the power of faith in him

-Ben and Luke as they attend their school, make friends, and find their places in this new life

-Jim’s mother as she has hip replacement surgery at the end of the year

We celebrate the engagement of Debbie’s brother, Lenny, and his fiancée, Lynn, who will marry in December in South Carolina and live in Georgia. We also celebrate that Colton, Lynn’s son, becomes our nephew and a cousin for Luke and Ben!

Thank you for your prayers and support. You are truly full partners in ministry with us.

Grace and Peace,

Jim, along with Debbie and Ben and Luke Kelsey

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