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Partnering with God in what he is doing

Helen Harwood interviews Wonu Adefala, a first year African Christianity MA student, a pastor at Salem South London and Intercultural Engagement Coordinator at Global Connections.

Thank you, Wonu, for agreeing to be interviewed. Your mum studied with us almost a decade ago, and now you are here too. Can you tell us about your journey to study at CMS?

I attended an event with my mum at CMS where I first heard Dr Harvey Kwiyani speak about colonisation and how Africans were demonised because of the traditional religions and that sparked an interest in wanting to understand the history of Christianity in Africa.

Following that, I worked with him on some Missio Africanus events which increased my curiosity on how Christianity developed in Africa. I also currently work as the intercultural engagement coordinator at Global Connections where I am confronted with issues surrounding the decolonisation of mission and engaging with second and third generation diaspora children.

After a couple of months on the job, it was apparent that further training would have me steward the new post well and engage with academics and practitioners better.

My work with Global Connections has opened doors for me to contribute to the ongoing conversations about intercultural church and mission as well as the issues the second and third generation of diasporans face in engaging with the faith.

After one of those talks, I was pulled aside by Cathy Ross who said she had heard me speak about this subject area before but encouraged me to study as she felt it would add more substance to my lived experience.

I spoke to my mum and Dr Harvey about my developing interest and was encouraged to do the course. Financially it is a stretch, but I have found the course to be value adding.

How have your experiences of study been with us?

The sharpening of the missionary or pastor is essential to the execution of God’s mission. Since embarking on this study, I have received a lot of knowledge in areas I have been ignorant about.

It has helped me better engage with people that object to Christianity as a white man’s religion or that it was used to enslave. These people are mainly outside the church, on the streets during evangelism or on social media.

I have also been able to equip those within the church that also have faced those challenges but did not have the historical context and biblical text to defend the faith. So, I share with them about how Christianity was in the North of Africa before colonisation. I show them prophecies in scriptures that God wanted the nations to be reconciled back to him, showing them the presence and mention of Africa in scriptures etc. This is something I believe everyone in ministry should be trained in, it will help them to be able to give a defence for their faith.

I have also a better understanding of African traditional religions which is helpful when engaging with people from those cultural backgrounds. Zeal without knowledge can make one miss the way (Proverbs 19:2).

Though I have been challenged while studying, I see its benefit in practice, in the way I explain scriptures when teaching or engaging with those that have not yet received Christ.

Being on this course has broadened my contextual knowledge of the Bible and has taught me to understand the scriptures within the historical context in which they were written. To not just focus on what was happening in Israel or Rome but to have a healthy curiosity of what was happening in other parts of the world.

I have had to use some of the things I have learnt as a preacher in speaking to young diaspora African people. I have also been able to engage better with my uncle, who is a practitioner of the Yoruba religion. What I learnt helped me not repeat the mistakes of the past.

I know you never used to consider yourself a missionary, but it seems your views have changed over time!

I thought a missionary was someone that travelled to remote places to share the gospel and helped build homes or dig wells. However, I have come to know a missionary is anyone who is partnering with God on what he is doing wherever he has called them.

Now, I see myself as a missionary, on God’s mission whether in my country of residence or away.

Since working with Global Connections, I have engaged with various missionaries and mission agencies and I see different people have a different meaning of what mission consists of.

I believe in the integral approach to mission, that involves the sharing of the gospel through preaching as well as taking social responsibility.

While I appreciate the presence of mission agencies that are independent of churches, I would love to see more local churches mobilise themselves to get involved in mission both in their local areas and away. It would be great to see more collaborative work between mission agencies and local churches.

The concept of missional churches is being rediscovered but in my line of work with Global Connections, I have spoken to a number of mission agencies that have shared with me that part of their priority is to build better working relationships with churches to support them in the mission they are called to.

I also have discovered that some churches are focused on the local mission and prioritise that over the global mission as such there is a misalignment in what is deemed as priority.

Some church leaders also feel that mission agencies are transactional when it comes to raising support and not collaborative.

These issues are not insurmountable but require humility, listening and commitment on both parties to overcome what has been causing the divide.

Can you tell us more on your views on pioneering?

Pioneering is the unique way the Lord calls an individual or people to carry out his mission.

As a pastor of a church that is part of a branch system, I knew the way the branch I came from operated and that I would be expected to operate in the same way. Yet when seeking God about the branch I was to pastor, there were specific things that I was instructed to do that were different to the pattern handed down.

I didn’t know if it would work. I didn’t know if it would be accepted but I prayerfully chose the path of obedience and I have seen the reward of obedience and while I was questioned, I was encouraged.

Pioneering requires courage to obey what God says. If part of a branch, it also requires accountability and humility. I have learnt so much and grown so much, holding on to what God said to Joshua to be strong and of good courage.

Can you tell us more about the specific things that you were instructed to do, that were different to the pattern handed down.

For example, implementing things like conversational church – an interactive style of sharing the word together, knowing that people have different learning styles. Also introducing the church to group studies and Bible study tools during the Sunday service, which is not the norm in other Salem churches, though they may be done at different times.

The impact of this was that members felt more equipped to engage with the Word of God and assimilated more.

Thank you for sharing so much from your context. Please do tell us how we can pray for you.

Grace to finish this course well. It is a challenge: one of the first feedback comments I received on my assignment was not to write as if I was preaching!

Also, I find that I am in a privileged position to help and add to the move to intercultural and intergenerational church. Please pray for wisdom and favour for me to utilise the doors God has opened for me in Jesus’ name.

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