I haven’t had much opportunity to write about either the work I did or the trips I made in African this summer, but the Rev. Jon Richardson, one of my traveling companions, has made a an excellent sermon from the example of one of our hosts in the Maasai Mara. Here is an excerpt:
You can heal the sick six days out of the week, but to heal on the Sabbath is against the rules. And the rules are there to keep the kingdom from shaking – to protect the established order. Rules don’t envision newer, more stable kingdoms, they’re only there for the kingdoms we already know.
James ole Lesaloi, the village elder and our host, was also something of a kingdom-shaker.
The established order – the social norms – of the Maasai culture, including the communities we visited, dictate that girls can be given in marriage so that her family might profit from the dowry that’s paid for her. In the Maasai culture, the primary instrument of wealth is the cow. And the going rate for a wife is 10 cows – valued at somewhere around $2,000. Because girls are so valued, marriage can happen as early as 9 years old – and often to men as old as 50 years old. In the dominant culture there, it’s fine to educate girls, but only as long as it doesn’t interfere with the men and their wishes, or families and their financial stability.
James saw this “kingdom” that stood around him, and imagined another way. He’s come to see that if girls are older and more educated when they marry, the dowry they bring can still provide financial stability for their families, but beyond that, staying in school longer makes them more productive members of their communities. They might even have more of a chance to become leaders.
So to accomplish this goal – educating girls and protecting them from early marriage – he’s led their community school into unprecedented growth: providing high quality education for children that has become the envy of every family. They’ve even established a girls rescue center that, in addition to educating these at-risk girls, protects them from early marriage, or genital mutilation, or anything else that might keep them from becoming strong, educated, and productive members of their communities.
He’s shaking his culture. But only to make it more stable.
That’s the kingdom of God being built. It takes some shaking. But it’s being shaken up to settle down into an unshakably strong community.