Last fall, I had the opportunity to sit down with Martin Onen, the pastor of Gulu Bible Community Church, one of our church partners in Gulu, Uganda. I wanted to get his take on the four themes that our church has identified as core to our community: Identity, Family, Mission, and Sacrifice. As one of our church’s pastors (by extension), his different perspective on these themes might give us a glimpse into our blind spots and lead us to imagine the application of these elements in our church differently.
Martin Onen, Pastor of Gulu Bible Community Church (Photo: Andrew Richards)
When we talk about identity as one of our four markers, what comes to mind for you?
When we talk about identity in our cultural identity, we talk about who we are. I am Acholi. (Pronounced ah-CHO-lee) My identity and my blood is Acholi. But what makes you Acholi? It is common, shared, goals and values that we share with our community that make you either to be Acholi or not Acholi. We say there are certain things that Acholi must do or Acholi must not do.
What would be some of those things?
For example, it starts before a child is born and as you raise a child. For a mother, when she is pregnant, she cannot touch a razor blade or any sharp thing, She cannot jump over bamboo, or there are certain types of food that you are not supposed to eat, especially when you are newly married. It is a kind of initiation. And when the child is born, they cut your umbilical cord using the sharp thing from the grass, so you grow up with the identity formed in that culture and shaped by the shared value. And there are certain things that Acholi people are known for, like in Uganda, they are best at cultural performance like dances, poems, and stories and those kinds of things. But also known as people who can cook good food, so people identify with these things. And also they are known as strong people. That is why when the British came, they divided Uganda into many parts. Like the central, Kampala, they are supposed to be administrator. The northern, they are supposed to provide security for the whole nation because they are strong and they are courageous. So when you talk with Acholi people, their identity is formed by A, B, C, 1, 2, 3, the things that they do.
But in the Biblical perspective, View full article »