The Love Motive
The truck’s wheels were spaced further apart than the rotting logs of the bridge. No way would we ever reach the dirt road on the other side. So the sixty or so Congolese pastors and I got out of the truck and began to walk to the church conference, twelve miles up the road. We were in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where my family and I had come a year earlier to help start a project to translate the Bible into the Mono language.
At each village we passed, mothers, fathers, and children I had never met yelled out the name our local pastor had given me, “Gyaregbo! Gyaregbo!” They ran up to shake my hand, laugh, and ask me to play and sing the one Mono song I had learned on the kundi, an eight-stringed harp. I felt like a rock star. The non-Mono pastors looked on in wonder: “They really love you a lot!”
When we reached the pastors’ conference, I gave my report on our activities in the northwest region of DRC. As part of the report, I performed the same song, to great applause. Even people who didn’t know Mono asked me to play it again. And again. And again.
Another pastor remarked, “They sure love you.”
When it was time to elect a missionary counselor for the finance committee, two Congolese church leaders proffered my name. Fortunately, for the good of all, my nomination wasn’t accepted. But a deaconess leaned over to me and said, “They sure do love you, Gyaregbo!”
But why? Why do they love me so much here? Then this thought struck me: “They love you because they feel you love them.” My interest and involvement in Mono music, along with Bible translation, served as a clear statement of respect and affection.
Reprinted with permission. Original article was published under the title “Why Local Arts Are Central to Mission,” in International Journal of Frontier Missiology 24, no. 4 (Winter 2007): 199–202. Reprinted in Krabill, James R. et al, eds. 2013 Worship and Mission for the Global Church: An Ethnodoxology Handbook. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 192–193.