I had two interesting conversations recently with two different women. One of them a Kenyan, the other a German. Both doing NGO work here in Mwanza, both unbelievers.
The Kenyan lady is doing research for an HIV/AIDS relief work. Come to find out we often go to one of the same villages (Igekemaja), me for ministry and her for research. She started sharing how surprised she was at how "village" many of the people still are, stuck in many of the same traditions and beliefs that their tribe has believed for 100s probably 1,000s of years. Then she started talking about the new "fad" these days of getting religion. She said, "Everyone's saying they've seen the light these days. Everyone has a church they go to... Catholic, AIC, SDA, Pentecost, Baptist."
She was getting more and more animated while I silently prayed, "Lord, what's the best way to reply?"
I started by agreeing completely. "I know. Everyone has religion! The problem is that for many it hasn't changed their life one bit. It's just the thing to do these days. That's where my heart is with teaching the Bible to children. I want so much to see changed lives. Jesus is the Savior and when I accept Him He washes my heart clean. I'm completely changed! SO many people go to church, but they've never been CHANGED!"
She kind of paused. We talked about how difficult it is to change a culture, to change the way people think. We both agreed in many ways we're teaching for the next generation. Then she said, "Well, maybe what you said about change... maybe that kind of religion could be helpful."
A few days later I found myself chatting with a German pediatrician who trains interns at Mwanza's main hospital. She's been here about 3 years like myself. We started talking about change as well. She said many from her mission would like to raise money for high-tech equipment for the baby ward. She said, "It's just not practical. Let's raise money for some more beds so that patients don't have to share. We need to wait till the hygiene level is good enough to properly use such high-tech equipment." She makes a valid point. I asked, "So where you see things lacking like hygiene... is it lack of training or?" "No, I don't think so. Some things I have told them over and over. I guess they just really don't BELIEVE some things, for example... that washing hand between patients is important."
My mind was spinning. Thinking back to the conversation I had just had with the Kenyan lady, I said, "You know we missionaries see the same thing in our field of work. We teach and teach. People go to church but we often don't see change in their lives. Now, you've hit on the heart of the matter... belief. It's one thing to listen, one thing to agree by mouth... it's a different matter entirely to truly believe."
Right then I remembered the lesson I had just taught that Sunday about Abraham... Gen.15:6 "And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness." It's easy to please God... BELIEVE! How often do I just consent by mouth without truly believing? Wherever I see lack of growth in my own life or defeat... root cause? Unbelief!