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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

“Work With Our Children”

Written by: on November 8, 2014

The words I kept on thinking about while reading Nullens and Michener’ book The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context, are the title of this post. While visiting with one of the mothers in a village Uganda, she shared with me during conservation, noting “son, if we are going to influence our nation and continent, work with our children”.

Since I have long been intrigued by ethics and their place in the lives of people on the African continent, I was set on a journey of thinking and praying about what the wise lady’ counsel would entail. Although the term ethics for the most part is interchangeably used to mean morality in most African contexts; ethics fundamentally have to do with one’s character.

Behavior is a prominent barometer through which character is gauged. Often times, the measuring process and evaluative process of ethics, starts with one’s family and upbringing.  For example, at the site of an unruly child, many observers might ask, “how was this child raised?” For some people who are already subscribed to postmodernity, the above discussion seems antiquated.  However, people’s family backgrounds matter in the world of ethics. Nuller and Michener write:

In specifically Christian-centered ethics there is a constant cycle and interplay between society, the church, and our inherited religious values. As we have noted, there is also an ongoing transfer of values and value evaluation as these are handed down from generation to generation. Values do not remain static but are dynamic. We do not get our values simply be following the Bible and the church; culture and society influence our interpretation of values stemming from these sources. There is a vast network of factors at work that shapes and governs our moral decisions and behavior.[1]

How then might a person work with our valuable, precious and also at times vulnerable children in Africa? I am here reminded of the beautiful faces of the children I recently met in Khayelitsha, a black township outside Cape Town with over 1.8 million residents in Cape Town, South Africa. It is as though Khayelitsha and Cape Town are two different places.  Khayelitsha means “new home” and that can sound endearing only if one doesn’t stop to reflect on the reality of a shanty town is like.

What are ethics like in Khayelitsha? How do ethics in most ‘new homes’ help children to grow in a manner that their “conscience is developed as it submits to the influence of Christ, Scripture, and the faith community…?” [2] Children in Africa are so important and considered a blessing to families, villages and nations. Leaders of today and tomorrow certainly emerge from children. I am full of questions and I think that’s part of the impact from studying ethics. I will not be able to ask and reflect on all my inquiries here. Yet I also found myself wondering about some of the possible ways children in a place like Khayelisha might benefit from information like Nuller and Michener’ helpful categories of:

Collect relevant information, formulate the particular ethical problem(s), consider the problem in the view of the matrix of commandments, values, character and consequences, consider alternative solutions, make a decision, evaluate.[3]

Do you have any questions?

[1] Patrick Nullens and Ronald T. Michener, The Matrix of Christian Ethics: Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context (Colorado Springs, CO: Paternoster Publishing, 2010), 7.

[2] Ibid., 187.

[3] Ibid., 226-230

About the Author

Michael Badriaki

6 responses to ““Work With Our Children””

  1. mm Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Michael
    I always appreciate reading your blogs. You know, I think in challenging circumstances, this question of ethics becomes clearer in one sense. It’s easier to see what is right from what is wrong. Whether the circumstances are in places like Khayelitsha, people’s death beds, or drug-infested communities (as is my church context). Here our young are committing suicide from hopelessness, dying from drug-related incidents, and so on. What is the ethical thing to do in such situations? It’s not complicated. In life-and-death situations, the opportunities to make an impact are more prevalent. May God give us the wisdom to bring ethics and morality back into our communities.

  2. mm John Woodward says:

    Michael, what a wonderful way of approaching this whole topic. As one who works with children (especially orphan and Roma children in Eastern Europe and Lakota Sioux children in South Dakota), I can appreciate your thinking. I have become very aware just how influential the family is in developing the values and morals of children. We have a children’s home in Moldova where we have had 10 children we’ve brought out of orphanages and off the streets and out of horrible home situations (if you could call it a “home”), and for over the 10 years that we have provided a stable Christian family environment. Those children are now developing their own healthy and solid families, serving their church and their communities. On the other hand, the children we work with in the orphanages in Romania that we can’t get out of that unhealthy and degrading environment, we see a lot of rebellion and distressed lives. Rarely do they grow into well adjust individuals. It suggests that parents do play a significant role in the lives of children. So, my answer from my experience is to find ways to strengthen and encourage parents to be able to provide for their children, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Where families hurt and suffer, the community will ultimately hurt and suffer (we know this big time in the USA in many of our inner cities). So, if we hope for a better future (as you suggest, our future leaders are children today), we need to make sure our children have opportunity to be nurtured and loved, to have a place to grow godly morals and values that will benefit future generations. Yes, children are a great place to begin looking at this process. Your woman friend was so right. Thanks for your wonderful insights, Michael.

  3. Richard Volzke says:

    Michael,
    You stated, “Values do not remain static but are dynamic”. I think part of the ethical dilemma facing society is that we don’t ensure that our values strengthen over time and that we continue to develop our moral compass. My own moral failures in life were at a time when I went to church and had knowledge of Christ, but wasn’t being diligent to maintain a close relationship with Christ and to stay grounded in Scripture. My value system was flawed due to a life of influence through my upbringing and work environment. Today, we see many pastors with moral failures…so, what advice do you have for helping pastors to continuously make ethical choices?

  4. mm rhbaker275 says:

    Michael,
    Thanks for your comments. We share your concern and desire to reach our children. Often when speaking about child nurture, Carol has made the statement, “I would rather build a child then repair an adult.” Jesus invited the children and he lifted up the simple faith, giving spirit and the loving, accepting heart of a child as an example for all. We readily acknowledge the value of education in the life of our children and youth. There is no greater avenue of service than to disciple the children.

  5. mm Clint Baldwin says:

    Michael,
    “New Home.” I didn’t know that Khayelitsha meant this. Wow. A term in this context that at the very least holds possible: eschatological orientation; recalibration of difficult current realities — re-deeming hardships to a certain extent…finding strength in a structure that was meant in many ways to be constraining; an ongoing critique, through irony, of the overarching system that “forced” the creation of this community in the first place.
    Like with you, I believe families can make a difference. However, also like you I believe, I think the structures our families find themselves placed in can facilitate or detract from making positive differences easier and the systems that tend to make and perpetuate structures need considering too.
    Thanks for your post. So good.

  6. Michael,

    Wow. You took me back to South Africa in your post, the real South Africa, not the touristy one. To this day, I have not thoroughly processed our 2014 “Advance” to Cape Town. Why? Probably because I still feel guilty for where we stayed while there. The one part of our trip that I most related to was Khayelitsha. However, I felt impotent while I was there. I wanted to build relationships with the people but didn’t know how. I didn’t know what to do, what to say, how to feel. So I just observed, and then when we returned to our lovely hotel, I would sink into despair. What a disparity of cultures! What a culture clash! I wonder if I was the only one who was feeling this way? I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one.

    Let’s debrief this trip when we get together — hopefully, that will be soon.

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