Ubuntu

January 05, 2010

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

“Ubuntu is the essence of being a person.  It means that we are people through other people.  We cannot be fully human alone.  We are made for interdependence, we are made for family.  When you have ubuntu, you embrace others.  You are generous, compassionate...You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others.  You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children.  This is God’s dream.” Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu

It never fails.  I go on mission to a faraway place in order to teach, and I become the student.  My ministry is currently working in partnership with the Baptist Union of South Africa to do unity conferences and pastors’ conferences with churches there.  We have made several trips there already, with another one scheduled for this year.  I have treasured my time in South Africa and, oh, how I have learned from my brothers and sisters in Christ there!

South African symbol of peace and unity

South African symbol of peace and unity

How ironic that God would allow me to teach unity principles in a country so rich with words and symbols for unity.  The majestic white lion is one of those symbols.  And ubuntu is one of those words.

With its origins in the tribal mentality of the very diverse people of South Africa, ubuntu describes the clear sense of living in community with others.  It connotes an interdependence, so that when one member of the community suffers, everyone suffers.  It includes a strong sense of loyalty, such as to family.  It involves belonging to others, and others belonging to you.  It is a word which is so very descriptive of the Biblical concept of unity.

And so, as I found myself discussing unity with a group of pastors just a few miles from Nelson Mandella’s home estate, I was touched by their humility and I learned something about ubuntu. No matter how far apart we may live and no matter how diverse our cultures may be, as Christians, we have an unmistakable bond which breaks down barriers and which binds us together.

Ubuntu describes that connectivity among us.  It is a part of the ethos of the South African church, which I am pleased to report may well be on the verge of genuine revival.  Never before have we (in my ministry) seen churches so eager to learn and practice the Biblical principles of unity.

As I update this “Tuesday re-mix” post, I am planning my ministry Board meeting in two weeks, where I will brief my Board on the upcoming 2010 trip to South Africa in August.  I am looking forward to that trip with much anticipation.

I have found a new home away from home in South Africa, with new friends and “family” who love me and care for me as if I am one of their own.  I have learned first hand what ubuntu is all about, and I will never forget it.  I am blessed.

© Blake Coffee

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