Exploring the idea of 'Colonising' and 'Missions' is like watching The Wire. The good guys aren't all good, and the bad guys aren't all bad. Most of us live according to a code we believe in. Some go with the flow, not looking into the reasons behind the code. They just do what other people in their community do, and focus on the little bits that matter to them. If they step out of line a little... gossip, frowns, or slaps on the wrist get them back. If their life develops a pattern without much exploration, they are unlikely to step out of line.
Most of us develop a pattern. We find things we enjoy. We find things to focus on. We get on with it. There are only 24 hours in a day for everyone, and they fill up quite quickly. We don't need to know everything, we just need to get through those 24 hours in the way that we find most amusing.
Africa was very established. There weren't the wide open spaces of the New World. The initial people who were spreading into uncharted (Here Be Dragons) territory always came across societies or kingdoms. Over thousands of years, other influences slowly interacted with different groups of people who were there. Starting with forts. Often starting with emissaries, diplomats and missionaries.
I found the story of a Buddhist monk who met Genghis Khan and then stayed with him interesting (See Conn Iggulden). There is now a TV series called Marco Polo on Netflix which also shows Hundred Eyes. Both the monk and the trader (Polo) seem like early Anthropologists. Unlike the idea of colonisers who pushed into lands, these two melded into the culture. They assumed the customs. They learnt the language. They both developed themselves first before they had any impact. Neither lost their history. In another TV series, this time on Amazon, there is a priest who does the same. Athelstan lives a secluded life of prayer and community until conquered and taken by the Vikings. He teaches Ragnar (the king) English while learning the tongue of his conquerors. He learns to balance the cultures. He changes what he wears. He changes how he acts. It is a conversation between world views.
Hundred Eyes and Athelstan
I am in the middle of a continuing conversation with my old youth pastor. Our last part looked at 'conversion'. The struggle with finding a deepening understanding, is how much confidence we have in what we already know. How much do we approach conversation with belief in our foundation, but also a willingness to learn. A willingness to shed, to keep, and to gain. There is a big difference between a discussion amongst equals, and the imposition of ideas by force. A pre-decided supremacy of ideas.
It seems to me that we do best when we first look to respect others. When we first look to learn. When the roles of teacher and student are interchangeable. When we walk together.
That is how we plant communities.