NEWS MID SEPTEMBER 2016
it is early evening. I am in my office in Coptic. I hear some singing and chanting. I come out, Bible in hand, ready to pray for the sick in the hospital. Instead, I see a group of Kenyans standing outside the church in which visitors are worshipping. The visitors are Ethiopians. I see and hear the most incredible devoted and humble worship. 50 or so pairs of shoes are outside the church. Worshippers bow, kneel, stand in adoration to God. The most glorious sounds are emitted. Women on the right, clad in white, heads covered. Men on the left, one has a Manchester United shirt, and another a Liverpool shirt! A drum is beaten rhythmically as worshippers sway and sing. These are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, that is a daughter church to the Coptic (Egyptian) Church. I visited Ethiopia in 2001. Sounds I was hearing today were bringing back memories of that time.
These books were translated into Swahili by one of my Swahili students!
A Kenyan preacher recently told us that the church teaches four things: warruok, pong gi Roho Maler, Gueth and ngima ma nyaka chieng. That is: salvation, being with the Holy Spirit, blessing, and eternal life. What most struck me was the third, blessing. Some say that expecting blessing from God is an error of the prosperity gospel. The speaker explained that, if someone does not receive blessing, then they may lose their faith. According to Western dualism, the Gospel belongs in the spiritual realm of life. In Africa people don’t have ‘boxes’ like that. They expect the gospel to impact all of their lives.
Having a bus run over my toes last month has, perhaps strangely, been reassuring. If death can come so suddenly even when unexpected, that is cause for optimism. My way of life does not bode well for aging! The thought of settling back in the UK leaving friends and family here is daunting. The thought of growing old and decrepit here, where there is absolutely minimal provision for old-folks, is also daunting. Perhaps it was God’s way of saying ‘don’t worry’, as sooner or later I might just get a sudden exit!
On 1st Sep. 2016, I wondered why the sun didn’t burn me as much as usual, then I was struck by the strange shape of the shade created by the leaves on the trees . . . only to discover that we were having up to a 90% eclipse of the sun!
For decades, if not centuries, many anthropologists have been slating the Gospel of Jesus. Recently, perhaps 20 years ago, it was realised that while anthropologists have studied many many things, they have never really studied the Gospel and what happens when people become Christians. For the last 20 years there has been a growing ‘anthropology of Christianity’. Now anthropologists are discovering that the lives of people who become Christians are being transformed for the better. Christians, they have learned, learn to speak honestly and truthfully. I won’t say “look folks, the Gospel is true, because anthropologists say so”. Rather; “much to be pitied are those who put their faith in human wisdom”. Academia and scholarship are very good, but they cannot be their own foundation.
When people ask me what I do here in Kenya, I generally say ‘I teach the Bible’. I teach at many locations, especially in churches and church fellowships. The place at which I probably teach the most often, though, is at home. Every night we have fellowship. Every night, we read Scripture. Very often, we do this dramatically; children act out Bible stories. Often this is great fun! Give thanks.