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Seeing in the Dark, Part 2

An interview with Michelle Tessendorf, Executive Director of Orchard: Africa

Regardless of where you live on the planet, we are still human. The same needs, the same desires, the same sinful nature, all those things are true regardless of what setting you're in.

What is God doing in African churches?

There is a compassion in Africa in the churches. The Western world has so much. The Western church is so tremendously blessed, and there is so much available. Yet when I'm in an African church in a rural setting where they have absolutely nothing, perhaps they're meeting under a tree or in a shack as a church, the enthusiasm and the love for Christ and the way in which they worship is just profound. Without any musical instruments, without anything but their voices and their hearts and their spirits, the worship is amazing. The love for Christ, the connection to Christ, because he is all they have, is something worth seeing. I believe that every Western church leader should visit a church in Africa just to feel the absolute love for Christ and dependence on Christ.

How can Western churches best come alongside churches in Africa to offer partnership and support? What's the best thing we can do to offer support?

That depends on the church. At Orchard: Africa, we have specific projects in place and ask churches to come alongside. For example, they can sponsor a village. That basically means come alongside a village church as a Western church. They can help support the AIDS prevention program, the feeding projects, the orphan intervention programs, et cetera, obviously with financial support.

But my challenge to the Western church is not just to send money, not to have a kneejerk reaction and say, "Well, now we've got to build orphanages because there's all these orphans." But to find out what that community truly needs. Africa does not need orphanages. What we need are children to be cared for in a community setting, and that is a much more difficult thing to do than to build an orphanage. I'm not against orphanages, and sometimes one is needed. But I think the Western church sometimes has the kneejerk reaction; we go in and build something and we can take photographs and go back and show our congregation what we did. That's not necessarily sustainable. And who's going to maintain that orphanage? Community care for the orphans takes a little longer thinking, a longer commitment, a more intense commitment, but it certainly has a much more profound and long-term, sustainable outcome.

Church leaders need to truly do their homework, their research, get involved with an organization on the ground in Africa that has been working there for many years and understands all the nuances of what goes on in rural Africa and partner with an organization like that.

July22, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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