Warm greetings from Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa! Lily and I are overwhelmed by the extraordinarily kind welcome we have received here. Special thanks to our hosts Rev. and Mrs. Kwak and Pastor Soro and Mrs. Kerim.
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking in a local church about seeing others as our precious neighbors. Entering into this community as strangers and being immediately welcomed as family felt like the most powerful miracle in the world. This is what the eyes of neighbor-love do: they see through every boundary of geography, color, religion, politics, and status and unite us in the bond of love.
I was deeply moved to unpack the Neighbor-Love Covenant through Pastor Soro’s French translation and see literally the entire congregation come forward to sign it. How beautiful that this Covenant, which was printed in Ethiopia’s national language of Amharic, was signed by seventy French-speaking neighbors 3,000 miles away on the opposite side of Africa. Neighbor-love crosses continents, cultures, and languages and makes us family. Pastor Soro told me, “We have recently had a civil war; this is exactly the message we need!”
What moved me the most was that people who are unable to write still wanted to come forward and personally put an X on the Covenant to mark their commitment to being Ambassadors of Neighbor-Love. Love is a more radical literacy.
Today I begin teaching a 40-hour intensive course on Christian Ethics for fifty West African pastors and leaders. The first half of the course will focus on the sacred value of human life in the Bible. The second half will give us time to dialogue on six practical topics and give group presentations on each one in light of the sacredness of human life: (1) ministry and vocation, (2) neighbor-love and ethnicity, (3) women and leadership, (4) wealth and poverty, (5) justice and public life, and (6) environment and stewardship.
Special thanks to the American Theological Institute for welcoming me to teach this course and to all of my students for their incredible passion and insight.
Yours from Abidjan,