Notes from a Kenyan Diary | CBE International

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Notes from a Kenyan Diary

On August 15, 2012

Holding the fruit carried from his adventures, Caleb said, “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit” (Num. 13: 27). Like Caleb, we too celebrate the fruit carried home from our conference, "Equal to Serve," in Kenya as over 20 lectures exposed how patriarchy undermines not only the gospel and the message of Scripture, but also the health of families, marriages and communities. The epicenter of gender injustice is patriarchy guised as a biblical or religious ideal. Because religion offers the most exalted and irreproachable authority shaping gender relations in cultures around the world, "Equal to Serve" took on the challenge to uproot patriarchy as a biblical ideal and as a long standing practice among Christians.

Thus, speakers addressed both practical and theological issues from sexual harassment to HIV/AIDS to Scriptures used to defend male hierarchy. What was the result? Questions from the audience reveal how Scripture had been misinterpreted to further female subjugation. Comments were made like, “You mean Eve wasn’t cursed?” or “Adam was with Eve when she ate of the tree?” or “The 'he will rule over you' of Genesis 3 is a result of sin and is not God’s design?” Clearly, ideas have consequences and biblical teachings have a colossal impact on the daily lives of girls and women. Accuracy in interpreting Scripture is critical in building families, churches and communities where females are treated not as responsible for sin and therefore incapable of moral virtue but as created in God’s image for shared dominion (Genesis 1:26-28). Despite sin—a failure shared by Adam andEve (Gen. 3:16-19)—both males and females are equally welcomed as joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17, Gal. 3:28).

As Scriptures were interpreted consistently and as caricatures were corrected, attendees jumped to their feet singing and dancing, declaring God’s healing power in action. The hunger and exuberance of attendees for God’s truth for women and men was uncontainable. If you haven’t had an opportunity to listen to the conference recordings, they’re on sale for one more week.

Before ending our sessions, Kriste Patrow, CBE’s conference coordinator offered three challenges:

  1. Read every book and journal included with conference registration.
  2. Pray for opportunities to implement biblical equality.
  3. Challenge females to use their gifts often.

As we headed off, some of us traveled to Bondo, one of the most economically challenged regions of Kenya and home to our conference partners, the Ekklesia Community for Advocacy. Here we encountered close-knit Christians, proactive in addressing the daily consequences of patriarchy in their communities. Working with schools, community centers, and church groups, these activists labored with great intention, pooling their resources to fill many gaps. In village after village, I met devoted Christians who refuse to let their orphans wander the streets. What did they do? They organized their collective talent to develop afterschool programs where orphans learn to read, sew, and farm. They believe that this training leads not only to greater competence and success in school, but also to additional adult support for family systems that are fractured and frail.

One group after another followed this pattern from community centers organized to support youth with HIV/AIDS or those widowed and orphaned by the disease, or families struggling with the impact of polygamy. Yes, the issues were enormous, but the intentional communities that surrounded them were equally powerful. While I was often asked to pray, or to give a homily, or a word of inspiration, I was compelled to declare my admiration for the wealth of community they enjoy despite their economic challenges. While we in the West may have some degree of material comfort, too often this can isolate us from one another, and create a false sense of security. For these amazing Christians, faith was a daily practice, exercised on behalf of neighbor, and never an abstract exercise left in the hands of academics. It is rarely a solitary effort. And God did meet their needs! Their lives of love and their commitment to community became a model to me—one I will always treasure and strive to follow. Circumstances can be deceiving. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:3-5).

Join me in thanking God for bringing so many vibrant partners into our work and our lives. 

Mimi Haddad
President

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Barring women from using their God-given talents is an injustice that diminishes the gospel and its impact in the world. CBE International works to inspire and mobilize Christians with the Bible’s call for women and men to co-lead and co-serve as equals.

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