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Dear Friends,

A long-term neighbour of mine has to leave her employment and so will lose her house. Very sad – given the roots that she has already put down in the community. It appears she has been fired because of gossip.

The response from another lady; “That’s why I spend all day sitting in my doorway. If you start going ‘out there’ visiting people, you hear gossip. Once you hear gossip, it’s very hard not to spread it. When you do so, it is bound to rebound onto you. The best thing to do once one has heard something about someone, is to forget it straight-away.” That reminds me of the words of another lady; “I stay in my house all day every-day, unless I am going to work or going shopping, to avoid getting caught up in painful gossip.” The same reminded me of Paul’s advice regarding widows; that if still young, they should marry rather than serving the church, or they might end up just being busy-bodies spreading rumours (1 Tim. 5:13).

These comments by African women help to explain one reason they very much like the church. In ‘traditional’ Africa, many meetings used to centre on accusing someone. Typically, someone would be accused of witchcraft. So, there was a great tension – people liked to get together, but it was almost impossible to do so without witch-hunts! Imagine the relief when the church came along. The church brought people together with a purpose – to glorify God – that enabled fellow-shipping without witch-hunting. People could spend time together without creating tensions and enmity. African people (especially women) love this about the church! (Of course, interpersonal problems still arise when people gather together, but at a much-reduced frequency.) A common authority, God, brings people together.

Many, if not most, common conversation topics in the West are taboo amongst my African colleagues. That is – there are things that we can talk about in the UK and USA without implicating people. In Africa those topics are too hot to discuss, as they imply witchcraft. In Africa, because things are always identified with people, there can then be no ‘neutral’ discussion of ‘things’. ‘Discussion of things’ becomes gossip. Hence conversation topics are (from a Western point of view) very limited. Hence many things that we in the West plan’, people here just allow to happen. It seems to me that centuries of exposure to the Gospel has freed the West from some of the worst elements of gossiping and backbiting.

Give thanks for a new colleague. John Said, a theologian from Egypt, knocked my door here at Coptic a few days ago. He came in to have a chat. The bishop has asked him to provide Bible training to the Coptic fathers and laity here in Kenya. He came to consult me on that. I hope I will be able to help him, and that we will be able to work together, once I am back from my USA trip.

Here is how to place an advance order for Jim’s novel, (for people in the USA): African Heartbeat.

I value prayers for my imminent USA trip. I am to leave Kenya on the 13th September. First stop, Dallas (conference of the Evangelical Missiological Society), then Vancouver Canada to visit the Woods family. After that, to connect to seminaries in Portland, Oregon.