Yesterday was the celebration of 20 years of Ascension Trust and 10 years of Street Pastors. The occasion was marked in the splendid Southwark Cathedral, packed with Christian celebrities, dignitaries, supporters of Street Pastors and the public. What really excites me about the occasion was Rev Les Isaac OBE’s testimony of God’s faithfulness to both Ascension Trust and Street Pastors over the years. Rev Isaac had seen God’s faithfulness through the number of significant people who have helped serve and shape the vision of Street Pastors to what it is today. Among the people recognised was Rev David Shosanya, regional minister of mission for the London Baptist Association and one of the co-founders of Street Pastors. A host of other people were also invited to the stage by Rev Isaac as he affirmed that without the help of those people, including the co-ordinators from all over the country, he would not have been able to do what he does today.
As we finished the celebration, my wife and I rushed home to welcome my family and a few family friends to a remembrance occasion of my maternal grand father . It was 30 years ago that my mother’s father passed away and my mother thought it would be good to remember her father and celebrate his legacy. What this occasion had in common with the Street Pastor’s celebration was again the acknowledgement that without other people we are not complete. This was firstly expressed through the contribution of exotic Nigerian delicacies that friends and family brought to the celebration, and secondly through the bonds of family and friendship that existed in that room.
As I reflect on these two significant events, my thoughts went to God’s acknowledgement in Genesis 2: 18 that it was not good for man to be alone. This is often interpreted as God creating the first marriage as a sacred institution and that intepretation is correct, but I think beyond that God is also saying to us that he has created us to be in family and a community of people. This will go against being independent or an individualistic spirit that so pervades our global city, London today. Interdendence and living in community is part of the way God designed us and therefore very important. This is why Rev Isaac was right when he recognised those other people who have journeyed with him and this is why my grandfather’s celebration made sense. It is about celebrating in community what God has done or is doing.
African culture is shaped by community of people and this is expressed in different ways in different parts of Africa. In southern Africa, this is expressed through the concept of Ubuntu which asserts that my humanity is only expressed in meaningful relationship with and through others. In West Africa among the Yorubas, there is a proverb that expresses communal living, ” Enikan lo bi omo, sugbon, Igba eniyan lo ba to”. Translation: “It takes only one person to give birth to a child, but requires the whole village to raise that child”. Another Yoruba proverb that expresses community is, ” E je ki ase ara wa ni oshushu owo” Translation, “Let us be one together as a bunch of sticks makes a broom”.
Let us strive to live in meaningful engagement with our community and develop a community of people to journey with us. This will mean we have to invest in relationships as Rev Isaac did. After all our best assets are people and not things. What do we have but people?!