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Dear Friends,

I visited a patient at the hospital on 1st February. They’d had an operation two-days before. “How are you feeling since the operation?” I asked. “Wonderful!” was the answer. The patient’s pastor was sitting on the bed next to her. “I am healed, is the thing to say,” he told me, on behalf of the patient, in her hearing. That had me question: was the patient better, or was she doing what the pastor told her to do, and say she was feeling much better, even if she wasn’t? The latter would probably be better for her state of mind, but how does one check one’s diagnosis if patients say they are ‘much better’, whether that is actually true or not? (This is a widespread issue, it seems, in Africa.)

The trip of 20 miles as the crow flies, took almost five hours by bicycle, partly because I was carrying a 14-year-old lad, so we would walk up the hills. It is always intriguing for me, to find myself in ‘typical’ local contexts, (in this case the home of one of my ex-children). That is, situations in which there would be no particular draw for a foreigner, so life goes on following mostly traditional African norms. There I was, in a rural subsistence-farming area, with an obvious surplus of women over men, much fear of witchcraft, people living from their sweat. On the Saturday I remade some old acquaintances, as I have visited that home and that village off and on for 20 years.

The following day had me cycle 14 or so miles (alone this time) to a church, much lower down, at lake-level. There were around 15 adults, joined for Sunday worship, the major focus of which became my message. (I imagine that more typically they’d be more overtly active against witchcraft, which they put aside, grateful to receive a visitor.) After the service, that took no longer than two hours, we spent another two hours or so sitting and watching a video recording of worship songs. I later realised that this wasn’t ‘wasting time waiting for lunch to be ready’, but a further expression of worship and sabbath-rest! Fortunately, I got a lift on a motorbike up the biggest of the hills, about 10 miles, on my way back to my temporary ‘home’.

7th February, I called a friend, ‘where is your fellowship today’? It transpired to be almost one and a half hour’s cycling away … When I got there, about 13.00hrs, they had already started. The small house was packed, and as many people sat outside. Two big drums echoed relentlessly as everyone danced vigorously. Then we had about four preachers, before my turn came. Finally, financial collections for this and that, everyone’s contribution being carefully recorded in a big book. . .

Here is an official flier for my book, The Godless Delusion. This book came to press last year. The book makes a clear case for the relevance of faith in God to the contemporary world, through the author’s drawing on experiences and insights acquired over almost three decades of ministry in Africa.

Remember to order your copy of African Heartbeat:

Purchase from publisher here.

Available from Amazon here

For a review on Amazon see here.

For a preview of chapter 22 see here.