Look closely at the objects in these photos. What do you see? These were both taken in the same big old workshop built some decades ago by the previous generation of missionaries in Obo, Central Africa Republic (CAR) where I visited for eight days this Dec 2011. I was gripped by this view. The old tractor and that biggest-band-saw-I’ve-ever-seen-in-my-life could perhaps be refurbished to function once again with skilful hands. Meanwhile without the presence of a missionary community to supply the spare parts and the power sources to keep em running, they have both sat idle, collecting dust and rust for decades. They are worthless.
Do you see the three stone fire pits? This cooking method is as old as mankind. These fires are where the UPDF (Uganda armed forces) are cooking their meals as they use the former AIM mission compound as their headquarters. The UPDF are in CAR to fight the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), a brutal force of bandits from Uganda who have moved to Congo and CAR for the past 3-4 years.
Modern day objects of technology expensive but worthless side by side with age old, low tech, low budget objects of great value. What can I as new mission leader learn from these objects as I grapple with the way forward for our current missionary generation? Transformational Development, Sustainable Development, Appropriate Technology, are some buzz words we are using. The tractor and band saw are not sustainable in Obo. The three stone fires are sustainable but hardly represent development.
At another center in CAR, the Church Christian Education Department pointed to the broken photocopiers, and broken mimeograph machines as “of course” evidence for their lack of progress in Christian Education. What kind of development does that represent?