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Decolonizing God with Kenyan artist and missionary Martin Salano Avoga

“The question has not been fully answered, but the history revealed that truth may have a double morality standard; the white man petitioned history to argue his cause and state his case, to represent the truth as he saw it; he invoked the aid and the blessing of God in subjugating the black man and dispossessing him of the land. It was impossible to understand history, it showed a truth I could not accept, so I learned my history of South Africa like a parrot, I reproduced the adjectives describing African chiefs, arid for external examinations I added a few of my own adjectives to flatter the white examiners. ‘Which adjectives did you use?’ I asked classmates, after writing the examinations. ‘I described Dingane as malicious, venomous, ferociously inhuman, beastly, godless; I should get a good mark.’” William Bloke Modisane (Blame Me On History, 1963).

I have never been able to accept the Christian God as my God. I have never been able to accept him. I have seen evil men and women pull his name out the manipulation bag every time their fragile authority is questioned.

Religion, to me, has always seemed impractical as a means to self-actualization especially for the black body. Turn the other cheek darkie.

Like their schools an anaesthetic that keeps us numb from our everyday realities, detaches us from our own and us pushes into exclusive cliques.

We are born again, we are academics. Our redemption is guaranteed because we have accepted their truths, have dedicated our time and resources to leading the backwards towards “his” kingdom.

We are teachers, we are preachers. We are ordained, we are the light.

I find religion inaccessible, pretentious, manipulative and violent towards us (the natives of this continent).

Then there is the guilty I cannot seem to let go of, yes, my sceptical nature towards the word comes with a heavy guilt tax.

What if I am wrong? What if God wants us to “suffer for earth and enjoy for heaven?”

This exchange with Kenyan, Kisimu based man of God, Salano Martin Avoga, is one of the many attempts I constantly make at finding parity. See, in as much as I doubt God, their God, I doubt myself.

Zululand Press (ZP): I have known you as a businessman, artist, “man of God” and recently a missionary. How does all of this work together, maybe, let us figure out who Martin Salano is? Where do you come from? Who are you? Where are you going to? Where are you? In a modern day context what does being a missionary entail? What do you do?

Martin Salano (MS): A missionary is simply on assignment to fulfil a God given task. My task entails sharing the truths of the Gospel especially with those who have not heard or are unclear about the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thirdly, I am commissioned to bring encouragement, peace and order in the Church and also to our communities.

Furthermore, am passionate about teaching people to identify and utilize their God given talents and skills to generate wealth for themselves and others. In my early years as a Christian I struggled a lot with how to reconcile my talents and skills with my faith in God. It took a lot of learning to learn that whatever God has gifted us with is meant to be worked out to be a blessing to others. As we faithfully do this, our gifts grow, others benefit and God also rewards us as we do so.

The other important lesson I learnt is in Genesis 1:26-31 where God made a conscious decision to create me in His own image and likeness. He did not stop at that, He also blessed me to be fruitful and to multiply; this means bringing and creating more from what He has deposited in me. God further gave me dominion, to dominate on all He had created and bring the best from that. Note that we were never created to dominate fellow human beings, but each to dominate their area of expertise.

I continue to learn daily from God and endeavour to be the best that He created me to be. We all are created with that capacity to be like God and show forth what’s He is all about but we have to consciously choose to do so.

ZP: Before this interview we had a conversation where I told you my concerns with the role of the church in our communities. According to you, what is the role of the church in the community? Is it being fulfilled?

MS: The role of the Church has over the years been misunderstood. The answers to this lies in the very words that Jesus Christ, the head of the Church spoke. In Matthew 28:18-20 & Mark 16:14-20, the assignment given to the Church was to preach the Good News & make disciples for our Lord Jesus Christ. (This is a deep discussion we can keep having).

Under the assignment, the Church is to heal the sick and cast out demons. In other words bringing healing and restoration to those oppressed by Satan.

The Church is to also restore humanity back to the original state. Due to the fallen nature of man through sin, God has given the Church the mandate to restore creation back to Him.

It was never in God’s plan for humanity to live under oppression, immorality and slavery.

The Church to a large extent is working to fulfil her purpose. There are challenges and also rejection of the message the Church is bringing to humanity, there’s hostility and other issues such as false prophets & pastors among other issues.

ZP: Like politics, I feel, religion is beneficial to those who directly benefit from their positions in the various institutions (pastors and their families mostly). What is religion to the everyday man? Where are the feeding schemes, skills development programmes, family counselling, a more involved, “measurable” and “practical way” of doing things? Man, why are churches not used as homeless shelters at night?

MS: I’ll begin answering this question by making a correction; Christianity/Church is not a religion but rather a relationship. God has called us into a relationship with Himself first and then with one another. This is expressed with what Jesus termed as the greatest commandments, Love God with all your heart, mind and strength. Love your neighbour as yourself. The Church benefits the community at large, there are many things that the Church does that are not obvious to many. I’ll share a few examples:

I personally pray for a lot of people and communities where I live or interact with and God intervenes in situation in their lives. Most if not all Christians do the same, and we never get to make public announcements about it.

The Church is always at the Centre of community activities such as baptisms, funerals, weddings, and other issues such as sickness or counselling for families.

The Church also preaches messages that are listened to by Church members and even non-members and all benefit spiritually as well as emotionally.

There are thousands of schools, hospitals, shelters, rehab centres, prayer centres that are owned by the Church and provide free or affordable services to millions across the world.

There are many Church programs that are beneficial to communities where they are located and it costs a lot of money to run them. Governments do not fund Churches. However, there is a biblical provision on how Churches raise monies and also how the monies are to be spent. I will also mention that some of these monies sometimes get misused by dishonest stewards just like it happens in corporates and governments and there are also prescribed ways to deal with such matters.

From personal experience, pastors and their families are some of the hardest working people I know and they are entitled to a reasonable remuneration just like anyone else who goes to work. I personally do not receive any remuneration and I know countless pastors who also serve on volunteer basis in order to fulfil our God given assignment.

ZP: Missions are largely to blame for the current African condition. Pushing the “turn the other cheek” gospel. “Suffer for earth, enjoy for heaven” gospel. The colonial powers used God to manipulate their way into ownership of our resources. How do we as Africans trust a thieving God, a God that seems to aid our way into turmoil and abject poverty? Where is our African God? Should we not be finding faith in the African way?

MS: If you study your history correctly, true missionaries gave their all to bring the Good News to Africans. They gave up their lives to serve Africans with the true love of God. I recommend you read the story of David Livingston.

However, there is another breed of “missionaries” who came thereafter and were filled with greed and which led them to come up with the wicked plans of enslaving Africans. They used the very Word of God to win the trust of generous, welcoming Africans to steal, kill and destroy us….this is how Jesus describes Satan in John 10:10. God liberates and does not enslave.

The God of the Bible is the creator of all things, and God over all the nations so there’s nothing like an African God or a European or American God. The Bible has quite a large setting of it in Africa with some great Africans who did great exploits. We can have further discussions on this.

ZP: During our phone conversation you said “there’s a lot of deception that came with colonialism. It’s high time we get to rediscover and get back to the great people that God created.” Please elaborate on this.

MS: The actions of colonialists are not consistent with the teachings of God as written in the scriptures. You cannot preach water and drink wine and still claim to be authentic, you’d just be a hypocrite.

Colonialists also altered our history and presented us with a lie that has continued to haunt Africa to this day.

The true nature of Africans (Ubuntu) was crashed and replaced with capitalism, this is what is killing our beautiful continent.

The colonial system of divide and rule destroyed our way of communal living where we valued each other and has brought about a lot of suspicion.

Africans are very spiritual people, we have a deep sense of God. This was also corrupted and has brought so much confusion to date, it’s like our true identity was altered.

It’s only through the proper study of scriptures and history that we can reclaim our identity.

ZP: Do you think the church is accessible? Is God accessible or does he give redemption to those who pay the highest tithe? Have you seen the social status hierarchy in the church?

MS: People respond to the Bible based on their understanding or exposure to it. Social status and classes are a demonic influence that should never be tolerated in Church or in any sober society.

When Jesus Christ, who is the head of the Church came; He came in the most ordinary way and lived a very simple life that displayed the very nature of God. He spent time with those in need, the rejects of society, the weak and suffering. He empowered all whom He encountered and ultimately gave His own life for all humanity.

Take a look at John 1:12, Jesus will give anyone who believes Him, who receives Him the right to become a child of God. John 3:16, “… whoever believes in Him shall not perish but will have everlasting life.” There’s no discrimination, no tribalism, no nepotism, there’s no class, there’s no tithe… Redemption if freely available to anyone who will believe, have a look at Ephesians 2:4-10.

ZP: How does Kenya compare to South Africa when it comes to the “entrepreneurial” aspects of the church? Is prosperity gospel as much a thing there as it is here?

MS: This is a world-wide phenomenon that was prophesied in the Bible ages ago. We all have a personal responsibility to know the Truth and renounce the deception.

This is where I end the conversation with my brother…

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