In Brief: Good News to the Oppressed: Friends’ Witness in the 21st Century

By Eden Grace. Southeastern Yearly Meeting Michener Lecture, 2019. 39 pages. $6/pamphlet.

In case you are wondering about the title of this lecture, Eden Grace tells us that there is a “construct which continues to place the power to control the narrative in our hands,” if we think that we privileged Westerners are the ones bringing the good news. She recognizes the urge among contemporary Quaker missionaries to analyze our work with antiracist and anti-colonialist understandings, and to do better than earlier generations.

Grace also explains how missionaries of today ought to ask who is vulnerable rather than who is marginalized, because “[i]n describing people as marginalized, are we not still ‘othering’ them, gazing upon them from our place at the center of the page?” (The “we” in this pamphlet is European and North American missionaries, without distinction as to racial identities.)

The last section of this pamphlet, originally delivered as a lecture, describes some of Friends United Meeting’s (FUM) current work in Africa supporting girls’ higher education. Quaker communities in Kenya initiated this focus, and FUM has supported it in collaboration with local meetings. Grace tells us that “[t]he meeting knows [the girls], believes in them, prays for them, and stands by them.” Meetings send visitors to the girls and give them internships when school is out of session. This relationship is better than one where a girl has a sponsor, an individual whose picture and name she has, which can create a savior–saved relationship. This lecture must have been wonderful to hear. Grace tells stories about Mary Fisher, the maid who became one of the Valiant Sixty and ministered to the Ottoman royal known as the Grand Turk. She also relates the story of the Quaker mission started in 1902 in Kenya, which was progressive for its time (published as an excerpt, “The Place of God’s Own Choosing,” in FJ Oct. 2019). Through examples stretching from the 1650s until today, Grace reminds us that all missionary work is participation in God’s life in the world: “God is already at work in every place and already has a relationship with every people group. We are invited to join and participate in God’s mission as witnesses to God’s love.”

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