September Conversation | Podcast

Podcast

This is an interview with Brenda Amondi, a young Kenyan woman who came to Europe four years ago as a missionary.
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Transcript

Billy Graham
We have one task to proclaim the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.

The whole Church must be mobilised to bring the whole Gospel to the whole world. This is our calling. These are our orders.

Janet
Hello everybody. My name is Janet Sewell. I am part of the team that puts together the conversation and impact group material every month. This month we are looking at the mobilisation thread. And we are going to be talking to a Global South missionary who is working here in Europe and finding out how God is mobilising non-European missionaries that are actually working alongside European churches. So I am here today with Brenda Amondi. Hi, Brenda.

Brenda
Hi. Hi, Janet.

Janet
She's also incidentally part of the team that puts together the conversation and impact group material. So we are team members and we're just getting to know each other a little bit better in this conversation. So, Brenda, who are you? Tell me, where are you from? Where are you based right now? What are you doing?

Brenda
Okay, as you've heard, my name is Brenda Amondi, and I am a Kenyan. So I come from Kenya originally, but currently, I'm working in the capacity of a missionary here in Europe, so specifically in England, and I'm based in London, so I work with an Anglican Church. And so we are a team of missionaries from Kenya, who got sent to this side of the world to come up and evangelise Christ.

Janet
That's great. So how long have you actually been here?

Brenda
So this is the fourth year, so we came here in September of 2016. Just in the middle of autumn.

Janet
Oh wow!

Brenda
Yeah you can imagine! Talk of weather shock!

Janet
I was about to say. What was the weather like in Kenya at that time of year?

Brenda
So, we are a tropical country. So you can imagine, we have sunshine most part of the year, we have one month of cold and when I say cold is like 15 degrees.

Janet
Okay, so just to put this in context, I was raised, born and raised in Iceland. We have one warm month of the year and that's about 15-20 degrees.

Brenda
Oh wow it’s the opposite, we have one month of cold and its honestly, if it goes really low, say, 10 degrees? That's really cold for us. So yeah, that was a good experience, though.

Janet
Yeah, I bet. So tell me about the project that you are doing here in London.

Brenda
So, what we're doing here is a partnership between three continents actually. So three churches from three continents. So there's a church in Kenya, my sending church, which is Nairobi Chapel Church. And so Nairobi Chapel has been in partnership actually with a church in the US, in Indianapolis, it's called Grace Church. And I think the partnership has been there for over 20 years. Then recently, those two churches decided to partner with a church in London, actually the London diocese under the Anglican Church so that one of our visions of the church in Kenya is to plant churches. And so the vision was by 2021 to plant 300 churches and out of those 300, 30 of them would be gateway city churches, and London was one of the churches that was one of the cities that we had hoped to plant a church. So hence the partnership between Kenya and the US and London came to be. So yeah, the partnership, it started way before we came. So it was something that was being envisioned and backed and being prayed into, then 2016, four of us were sent here from Kenya and two families from America and our host church was, an Anglican Church, which I currently serve at the moment.

Janet
How has the partnership actually impacted ministry here in London?

Brenda
So our host church really is, I think it's a blessing because it's a church that I'd say it's a multicultural pack, because I think there was a Sunday we had over 30 nationalities represented. So annually, we decided to hold like an event that celebrates all the cultures that we have within the church, and through that so many people felt appreciated and seen and acknowledged. And, again, one of the partner organisations that we have with the church in London is called Lee Abbey London. And Lee Abbey is a hostel that hosts international students. So again, there you get a whole pot of so many people from different parts of the world. And we do pastoral ministry there, so we go there weekly for their weekly devotions. And through that, so many of them came to join our church community. And through that, because these are people who come to London for short term basis, two or three years at most. So these people have immersed themselves in the church with serving with some of them realising their talent in music, or teaching or just being part of the welcome team. And as much as we get to lose them for two, three years, the impact that they have, the living with, is immense because someone goes back to their country and actually decided to continue and then began in London. So we've had so many testimonies of people from different parts of the world. We have from Kazakhstan who have gone back and started a ministry in music. We've had people from Russia, she's she went back and began a women's ministry. We had someone from Brazil who came just for a one year service at Lee Abbey London, joined St. Luke's church. And after he went back to San Paulo and said he wants to train as a pastor. So such testimonies encourages us, for sure. Let me warn you, if you're a missionary, one of the things you wouldn't see is tangible results. Yeah, and that's what they don't tell you when they send you out to be a missionary. But but the long term, the long-term impact that you get to experience is just it's heartwarming, it's encouraging. And to be honest, as much as we currently don't have the church plant that we had hoped to have by now, four years in, I can say so many other churches have been planted through the people that came in and sat with us and they went back to their country. We have testimonies from China. A lady came, she didn't know much about Christ and she went back as one of the people who wants everyone in their family to know about Christ and and when I think of such things, it reminds you why you actually do what you do as much as you can’t see immediate tangible results. Yeah.

Janet
You guys are impacting the world, literally. I mean, people in Kazakhstan, Russia, China, Brazil. I mean, it's incredible. The impact that when we bring multiple cultures together it reaches all the way to their home countries and home cities.

Brenda
Definitely and even coming back to London, we've had people moving from the area that we are in, we are around Chelsea area. But people have moved back to North London or South London and then they've gone to start other ministries, people have gone to train as ministers, people have started discipleship groups and again, it's not just every part of the world but even every part of the city gets impacted in that way. So it is and honestly sometimes I sit back and I realise we need to start looking at church planting in a totally different way, not the traditional way because the traditional way was you come to a community probably you have a building ready for people to come in and and church becomes the building first before the people around but in this way, the way we seen, the impact is that you actually build a community around people. And that community gets to build another community of disciples wherever they go. So that in itself is church planting because you get to go back to the heart of church, which is a community of people who believe in the same faith in Jesus Christ and want to grow together in the things of God.

Janet
Amen.

Brenda
Yeah, I think I think my challenge here I get so passionate I talk about like, people should stop looking at church planting as a building, but to start looking at it as communities coming together and it doesn't matter where you meet, you can meet in a house, you can meet in an open space. Bless you, if you have a building, hallelujah but if not, that should not be a barrier.

Janet
And I mean, COVID-19 and the lockdowns have showed us that church can happen digitally also.

Brenda
Exactly anywhere!

Janet
Anywhere, and we're seeing that also in the persecuted churches, in Iran, and around the globe. They meet on WhatsApp because it's a secure platform. When they're unable to get together physically.

Brenda
Yeah, yeah. And we hear testimonies of these underground churches get to grow way faster than physical building churches. And we get to ask ourselves, what are we doing wrong? I think because they are building communities of people. Yet on this other side, we are so bent on building buildings and maintaining buildings that no one really wants to come into. And sometimes some of these buildings are intimidating, let's be honest. Building like, do I really want to go in and you start questioning yourself: Am I holy enough to go in? But yet it's never about the building but about the community of people that you get to disciple who say, you disciple disciples who make disciples.

Janet
Amen. Exactly. So tell me what is your strategy like? How do you guys actually do that?

Brenda
So we've done basically we've done this basically through relationships and let me just say from my experience the English are not the easiest people to make friends with.

But once you are friends with someone, you are sure that this is a long-term friend because it's taken so much consistency and that aspect of relationship. So, it's intentionality actually, being very intentional. Being an African we are very communal culture. It's in our head is what yours is mine and what's mine is yours. And it's ours because it's our community. So I think that that was an advantage for us because our strategy is through relationships, you make friendships, and through that to people, you get to share your faith with someone and someone also gets to be curious about you and honestly, I have learnt as much as I have taught people, I have also learned a lot. I came with so many misconceptions. To do with faith, to do with culture, and to do with so many other things. And four years down the line, I can honestly say, God has taken me from so far. And I've come to appreciate my culture and other people's culture as well. I've come to appreciate my way of doing church the way I was brought up in from where I was coming from, and I've come to appreciate the way church is being done here. And through that I've known when to challenge and when to actually just appreciate and say, "Wow, I didn't know things can be done this way”. And relearn and unlearn.

Janet
Yeah, that's, that's actually one of my favourite things about about travelling, um, is because you get to understand your own culture by encountering other cultures, by realising “Hang on a minute, I've always done it this way.” But you don't know that there's a different way of doing it until you encounter another culture that does it differently then you go, “Huh! I did not think that way” you know, and it broadens our horizons. That's what I love about travelling and meeting different cultures and different people.

Brenda
Oh, yes. Yes. And and as much as it is, it has its own challenges and other things. So one of the biggest challenges working, because we're working an English team and American church, a Kenyan church.

Janet
Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke! (laughs)

Brenda
An English church, and American church and a Kenyan church went to a bar…! (laughs)

Janet
And this happened… (laughs)

Brenda
Yeah. So one of our biggest challenges is communication. Coming from a Kenyan background, it's our fastest way of communicating is if it's really urgent, you call, if it semi-urgent, you text, and if it's you're not expecting a response immediately, you just email. We're not an emailing culture. Coming here, it's the other way around, it's email, and then text and then calling like the last resort. And most of the time I would receive emails and someone would be offended because I don't reply as soon as they want me to. And for me in my head, I'm like, if it's really urgent, you could have called, but just talking through all those, you were able to see actually, the small things actually also matter things like communication, we may overlook them but it's the small bits of building a relationship that come to build a big thing. So we were able to work through the communication that everyone put forward their way of communicating, like if urgent, for me, please call me if it's really urgent and you want a response back. But emailing, I'm also learning to email as soon as possible. So it's coming to a compromise and realising you have to also immerse yourself in this other person's world. And they have to be willing to immerse yourself in your world as well.

Janet
Yeah, it's a two way street of being willing to give and take, to being willing to like say “Okay, in this culture…” and realising also that these are cultural differences and not, you know, I mean, that could possibly be viewed as being lazy, you know, “Oh, she never answered the email” but it's not it's just a different cultural way of doing things. And it's stopping and asking ourselves those questions and saying, “Okay, this is happening, and it's a consistent thing. Is it a personal issue? Is it a cultural issue?” And then just being open to having the conversations? Yeah, I think the biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Brenda
Yes, actually, yes, everyone has the conversation in their head.

Janet
Yes. But it needs to be verbally processed!

Brenda
Exactly, you have to spell it out, spell it out in a respectful manner, in an appreciating manner and in a very humble way that you're willing to learn as well as receive criticisms. Yeah, and on the other side, funny stories of difference in culture, a big one for me was food. And our first meal going to, someone invited us to their house, and we are not again a sandwich culture or a cheese culture, cheese and crackers. So we go in and I asked my Kenyan colleagues and friends I'm like, “Wait, is this the food or the food is coming?” I get a sandwich for dinner then like, wait, this is an appetiser. This is not food. Cheese and crackers. We are not a cheese country and I've come to learn how to eat cheese in this country.

Janet
Well being French I love cheese and I can make a whole meal of a really good baguette with a really good Camembert. I just love it.

Brenda
Oh for us bread is only for breakfast and nothing else.

Janet
Wow Okay.

Janet
So okay, so you're here and you're planting churches. What are some of the issues that come up in planting a multicultural or multi-ethnic church?

Brenda
Especially with a church that has more than, actually more than 20 nationalities represented on a Sunday, one of our biggest challenges is ensuring that each one of those cultures feels acknowledged and represented in a way. So I'm really glad that our leadership did reflect that in a way, not in its entirety, but you could see like our leadership and our congregation, they was a merging point. Having said that, during our services, are English lea so that means and not everyone's first language is English. So one of the biggest challenges is trying to incorporate someone who is, for example, Iranian and they don't know much English, but you still want them to hear the message or someone who's coming from Kenya and probably Swahili is more understandable than English. So language it was one of the biggest challenges and still is at this point. So someone who's speaking up front and because I've also done speaking engagements, you have to be mindful of those people who English is not their first language and they will not really grasp as fast as someone who speaks English every day. So you have to…

Janet
Complicated concepts even…

Brenda
Exactly you have to use illustrations that they would understand easily, you have to use English words that are simple enough to understand, and avoid ambiguous English as much as you really want to put your concept or your message across. So languages…

Janet
Even Cultural references…

Brenda
Exactly even cultural references, that’s very true cause an illustration that may be okay to you and some other cultures will find it offensive. So you, you have to really do your research. It's not just a matter of calling your church a multicultural church, or a multinational church, but in the deepest things, how are you doing to incorporate everyone to feel acknowledged and celebrated really. So I'd say language has been one of our biggest barriers. And again, being in the host culture English, you'd find like, over 50% of the things will be done the English way as much as its welcomes all other cultures. Because it's the host culture. So that's how they know how to do things. That's how they have done things most of the times. So there's also the space to learn, but we always go to the automatic state, especially when things are challenging, you will go back to what you're used to doing. So at 50-60% of the things that we do are… they reflect the English culture more than all the other cultures. But one of the ways we have tried to counter that is we, we made sure that annually we did like multicultural events so that people will bring food from their cultures, you dress from your culture, and we'll just come together and eat together. So I get to eat food from another culture, I get to appreciate more. And from there I get to have a conversation, ask questions, ask recipes and in that it opens and door to even meet outside that event outside, the Sunday services. They were like, “yeah, we should have coffee during the week.” And it shows interest. It shows that you're actually really interested in this person.

Janet
One of the things that we've learned also is inviting people over to your home.

Brenda
Yes.

Janet
That is a huge thing, especially for people in the majority world. Where I mean, just I mean, being married to an Iranian realising how much they’re so much into each other's lives, they’re constantly at each other's homes. And, like in Iceland, growing up in Iceland, that wasn't necessarily the case. Um, like we would go over to their house here and there, but it was more of an official thing. It wasn't this constant, kind of coming and going. And just one of the things that we've realised just moving here to London is the importance of having people over to your home, because in a sense, it makes you vulnerable, having a person over and it in a way, it opens up the possibility of a conversation that a coffee shop conversation wouldn’t. It’s more intimate.

Brenda
Yeah, actually, that's one of the things I found very, not really weird, but I was taken aback because people are not readily open to inviting you to their homes. While in Kenya, especially with your group of friends, you did just tell someone please just popped by my house anytime. And if I'm not there, I will leave the key for you and you just go in and cook, I was used to that!

Janet
I love it!

Brenda
Yeah, when I used to invite people over to my house, they would find it a bit weird and then prefer a coffee shop than a home. But eventually, more and more people, they came to accept the invitation and some of them invited me to their homes. And honestly, that's when you become as you say, vulnerable and open, someone gets to see you beyond the pulpit or beyond the Sunday service or beyond just the face value and they appreciate you more because they see “oh my goodness, we actually have similarities” or “Oh, I like the difference that you have, I can learn from that”. Yeah, just that invitation, inviting people into your space and them allowing you to be in their space… it’s an uncomfortable thing…!

So anyway, Brenda, I think that's probably all the time we have for today. Thank you so so much for being willing to open yourself up this way and sharing your experiences. Do you have any final thoughts that you want to share with everybody? Before we finish here today?

Brenda
I think my parting shot is to the rest of Europe, me included because now I live here, is as a host continent or as a host culture, I think one of the things that we can do to the people coming into our spaces is to be men of peace, and to actually be open to allowing such partnerships to happen because actually Jesus calls us to do this. And I'm fascinated Jesus did it so well with his 12 disciples even outside his 12 disciples. They were from different backgrounds, different careers, you can imagine putting a tax collector and Simon the Zealot was against the Roman Empire… And, you know, the ways Jesus called them and he called them under one culture in Christ and I think that's what God is calling us into, between them, our racial diversity, be it with our cultural diversity, be it our faith diversity, whether evangelical or Anglican or Pentecostal. I think we are all called under the umbrella of Christ and we need to go back to the heart of that and it's time to really put unnecessary differences aside and come together and work together as I church, as the body of Christ, to bring people to Christ and, yeah, to the great commission is he didn't call specifically, he just told his disciples go to the rest of the world, and the rest of the world is all of us. And honestly, if they hadn't done that, you and me would never have had the message of Christ. So it's, it's upon ourselves to pay it forward. Continue what Christ left for us to do.

Janet
Yeah, so unity and diversity, I think I think that's the the key takeaway from this, is universal unity and diversity. We are diverse, we come from different cultures, different ways of doing things with different understandings, different basic instincts and it's just being open to communicate with one another, to being open to learning from one another and to include one another in in our home culture. Brenda, thank you so much. And yeah, thank you everybody for listening. We hope that you enjoyed this month's mobilisation thread podcast. And we will be talking to you guys soon.

John Stott
It comes more natural to us to share the gospel of people from a distance than to involve ourselves deeply in their lives, to think ourselves into their problems and into their culture and to feel wisdom in there.

Discussion Questions

  1. What examples have you seen in your situation, of God mobilising his people from across the world to share the gospel in Europe? What have been the challenges and opportunities of this for your church / organization / workplace?
  2. Is there a church or organisation in your area, or elsewhere in the world, with which you could partner in a similar way as what you heard in the podcast to foster mobilisation for mission in Europe today? What would be the strengths or weaknesses of such a partnership?
  3. What are some of the issues that have come up in your church / organisation / workplace due to cultural differences and how did you handle them?
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