This is an article from the March-April 2002 issue: Putting Church on the Back of a Camel

Church on the Back of a Camel?

Church on the Back of a Camel?

From the Foreword to Peoples on the Move

“When you can put your Church on the back of my camel then I will think that Christianity is meant for us Somalis.”

This statement from a camel herder in northern Kenya really grabbed my attention. For 20 years I had been looking in East Africa for the most marginalized people. Almost invari­ably they lived in dry and remote areas herding animals and doing little, if any, cultivation. I also found that they were the least likely to have heard the gospel of God’s love for them.

I must have come across half a dozen separate ethnic entities before it dawned on me that these were nomadic pastoral­ists. They did not lay claim to any particular piece of land, as what was valuable to them was their animals. When drought or an enemy raiding party threatened, they readily abandoned whatever crops they had to save their cattle, sheep or goats. They were usually very colorful and resourceful people, periodically fighting with the neighboring tribes over the diminishing amount of grass and water available to them as farmers and government projects invaded their essential grazing areas.

The more I studied them and read about them, the more they fascinated me. From my engineering point of view they were obviously technologically backward, but socially they were exemplary as they cared for those within their extended family or clans. Their national governments either ignored or sought to annihilate them. What surprised me most of all was that Christian missionaries did not under­stand them and their unique worldview...


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