Two weeks ago, we heard from missionaries who described the process of adjusting cultural traditions in ways that are pleasing to God. Here’s another perspective on the same theme, submitted by LBT Scripture Engagement missionaries serving among the Komba people of West Africa –
GOD AND THE KOMBA CULTURE
Although Ghana has over 70 languages, Komba (the language we are working with) is the primary language spoken in our small area of Ghana, which means that if people are going to engage with Scripture, they will do it using the Komba language.
We recently held a Scripture Engagement Workshop for the leaders of all the Komba churches. Although not everyone came, we had over 60 people attend the day and a half workshop. The goal of the workshop was not to tackle language issues; rather it was to encourage church leaders to address cultural events with Scripture.
Although there are innumerable cultural events we could have explored, the leaders felt that the most pressing ones to address were death, funerals, marriage, sickness, and witchcraft. When a Komba Christian is faced with one of these, they are naturally inclined to revert to their traditional ways of handling the situation.
The point of the workshop was to acknowledge that as humans, we are part of a culture. Since God created culture, there are things in each and every culture that are good. However, because of sin, each and every culture has things that lead us away from God. Often, new Christians are tempted to believe that the culture of the missionaries is the best, but as you and I know, that is far from the truth.
At the April workshop, we tackled the issue of death and funerals. Kombas die only once, get buried once, but they have two funerals. During our time together, we walked through the cultural practices associated with funerals. As a group, we discussed the meaning of each practice in order to determine why it was needed. What purpose does it fulfill in the culture? We came up with a pretty long list of things that had to be done, such as: washing out the deceased person’s mouth, deciding which direction the deceased person’s head should face, and how many times a widow should be carried around her husband’s house. We then went through the list and determined which things were absolutely against Biblical teaching. Some practices did not violate Christian principles, so it was determined that those practices could be continued. Those things that were not Scriptural were discussed in depth to determine if they could be replaced with Biblically appropriate practices in line with the culture’s underlying intent.
The workshop was lively and very good. Overall, the church leaders of all denominations felt that the workshop was very helpful and they look forward to the next one. Did we make headway in addressing the culture with Scripture? I believe so. Things will not change overnight, but the leaders that were part of the workshop will certainly be thinking through their culture with a critical eye to seeing how the Word of God can be applied to it in order to help their flock navigate through tough situations.