An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Pokomchí, rats, development and worldview

Arturo Cuba was a missionary in Guatemala in the 1990s. Guatemala is one of the poorest countries. He worked among the fatalistically minded Pokomchí Indians.  The Pokomchí are descended from the Mayan, there are between 50 and 70 thousand of them in Guatemala, they are one of the smallest and least developed groups in area. The Pokomchi had been evangelised by missionaries but had been given a gospel message of ‘pie in the sky when you die’. They were waiting to die so they could escape their subsistence farming and living and be ‘with Jesus in heaven’. It is claimed that 90% of them believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Hearing of their plight they were visited by community development teams. The teams worked well and were able to provide investments and resources from abroad. The Pokomchí now had toilets and schools – however, they were little used and there was no long-term transformation. Development is more than providing resources and money.

It was into this situation that Arturo came along. He realised that mission had to take into account the whole person, that the gospel demanded that the Truth of Jesus needs to be applied to all areas of life.

The Pokomoki are subsistence farmers and would harvest plenty of corn but not having proper storage facilities, rats would eat the corn before they were able to feed their families.

Arturo posed a question to the Pokomchí: ‘Who’s smarter – you or the rats?’ This made the Pokomki realise that they’d been outsmarted by the rats. One key question unsettled their fatalistic worldview.

Arturo also asked, ‘Do you have dominion over the rats or do they have dominion over you?’

These subversive questions opened up the way for them to see that they were all made in God’s image and that set them apart from the rats. Their fatalistic worldview was transformed into a more biblical perspective.

The farmers then developed a simple elevated storage system for the corn. By doing so they were unfolding the creation, showing dominion over the rats and so were able to feed their families. Humans 1 – Rats 0.

Children started to attend the schools because they saw the importance of education. The women started to learn to read because they saw that God cared for the women as well as the men.
Arturo writes:

When a seminary professor from the United States visited … he was stunned and overjoyed to see the transformation that had occurred—transformation that was the result of wholistic ministry, based on the power of biblical truth applied to all areas of life. Tears welled up in his eyes and he said, “Surely the Kingdom of God has come to the Pokomchi!”

Cuba, A., 2004, ‘Arto Cuba’s ministry among the Pokomchi in Guatemala’, Disciple the Nations.


Mark Roques said...

Fantastic article Steve. thanks mate.

This is a great way of talking about the cultural mandate theme and how dualism robs people of their God-given potential to sort out the rat problems of life!

David Zwart said...

Thanks Steve for the note. I plan to use it in my Latin American history class (at Dordt College).