Today’s reading for Koinoniarama is taken from the book “Christianity Rediscovered” by Vincent Donovan, a missionary to the Masai tribe in Africa. He had spent a year making the gospel message clear to them. He wrote:
I had taught them everything I knew about Christianity. Now it was up to them. If they did accept it, of course, it required public baptism. So I would go away for a week or so and give them the opportunity to make their judgment on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If they did accept it, then there would be baptism. However, baptism wasn’t automatic.
When Donovan returned, they told him that they accept the gospel message. So Donovan proceeded to try to determine who can be baptized and who cannot be. He stood in front of the community and said:
This old man sitting here has missed too many of our instruction meetings. He was always out herding cattle. He will not be baptized with the rest. These two on this side will be baptized because they always attended, and understood very well what we talked about. So did this young mother. She will be baptized. But that man there has obviously not under stood the instructions. And that lady there has scarcely believed the gospel message. They cannot be baptized. And this warrior has not shown enough effort …
What happened next would be a big lesson for all of us:
The old man, Ndangoya, stopped me politely but firmly, “Padri, why are you trying to break us up and separate us? During this whole year that you have been teaching us, we have talked about these things when you were not here, at night around the fire.
“Yes, there have been lazy ones in this community. But they have been helped by those with much energy. There are stupid ones in the community, but they have been helped by those who are intelligent. Yes, there are ones with little faith in this village, but they have been helped by those with much faith.
“Would you turn out and drive off the lazy ones and the ones with little faith and the stupid ones? From the first day I have spoken to these people. And I speak for them now. Now on this day, one year later, I can declare for them and for all this community, that we have reached the step in our lives where we can say, ‘We believe.’”
The “We believe” of the Masai tribe reminds Donovan and reminds us that our Westernized individualism has crept into our Christian beliefs so that we fail to see that we are not just individual believers, but we have a responsibility to our community of faith to help the weak and encourage each other in the faith. Our goal is to get to the point where we can truly say, “We believe.”