in memoriam

enkijuluús
papai te nkanisa
kitalaita !

sad lamentation
our father within the church
how we’re missing him!

We have just heard from our dear brother and co-worker, Francis ole Yenko, that his father Simpano has completed his race.  He ran well and completed the course, winning his fight.  He was a faithful follower of Christ to the end.  His wife, Kabarisho, is also a believer.  Francis, of course, is an elder of the Olepishet Community Christian Church and the director of the Maasai Discipleship Training Institute.  Simpano was between 80 and 90 years of age.

Francis told me this evening on social media chat of his father’s death.  Due to pandemic travel restrictions, we cannot journey to visit him personally yet, but we had a good conversation.  While we were chatting, I (Joshua) wrote the above lamentation (in haiku form).  I also mentioned this to him, “kingar enkijuluus nagut tenebo, kake meibung ilo sina iyiook, amu kimbung iyiook osiligi osipa te Olaitoriani lang!” (we share deep lamentation together with you, but that sorrow does not hold fast to us, for we hold fast to a true hope in our Lord!)  We mourn grievously, but we do not grieve as those without hope.

Here is a fairly recent picture of Francis with his parents, Simparo and Kibarisho.

Simpano, may your memory be eternal until you rise up to meet Christ when he returns!

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

«οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε, ἠγέρθη γὰρ καθὼς εἶπεν·
δεῦτε ἴδετε τὸν τόπον ὅπου ἔκειτο.»
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“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.
Come, see the place where He lay.”
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Here’s this verse (Matthew 28:6) again in a number of other languages, chosen because we have (or have had) friends and co-workers who use these as a first or second language:
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MAA (Maasai):
Metii ene amu etopiwuo ana enatejo ninye. Wootu eng’urai ewueji apa neirragieki.”
(There are some 2–2.5 million Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania. Most of our work is in Maasai communities. From 2010–2017, Joshua served as a translation consultant for The Bible Society of Kenya’s much needed revision/correction of the Maa bible. Our “Eating the Word of God” book was first published in Maa, Enkinosata Ororei Le Nkai.  The Maa language is Nilotic, and belongs to the same branch of the family as ancient Nubian; Nubian is important for the study of the late patristic and medieval period of Christianity in North East Africa.)
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KISWAHILI:
Hayupo hapa, kwa kuwa amefufuka, kama vile alivyosema. Njooni mpatazame mahali alipokuwa amelazwa.”
(There are about 1.8 million waSwahili people on the coasts of Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique. KiSwahili is spoken as a second language by 90–150 million throughout East and Central African countries, especially in Tanzania and here in Kenya. Swahili is a Bantu language with significant influence from Arabic.  While English is the official language of Kenya’s government, Swahili is the language of business and commerce and the market. The second edition of “Eating the Word of God” book was published in Swahili, Kujilisha kwa Neno La Mungu; Joshua was one of the editors as well.  We’re currently making progress in learning Swahili, in addition to Maa.  Though let the record show that in our last Swahili test, our children scored higher than their father!)
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SAMPUR (Samburu):
Meti ene amu, kitipiwua ana natejo apa. Wootu entodol ng’oji neiterperieki apa.”
(The are perhaps 350,00 Samburu in Kenya; they were once a subtribe of the Maasai, but the Sampur language and the majority Maa dialect, Purko Maa, currently have only a 70% linguistic overlap. We’ve trained some Samburu pastors and church planters at our Maasai Discipleship Training School. Some dear friends of ours from Finland, bible translators with Wycliff, prepared the Sampur NT.  Whereas we have facility in Maa, we simply “get by” in Sampur.)
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NGA TURKANA:
Emam ngesi kane, ayaru ngesi loger lokolong alimuniotor. Potu kingolikisi ni ngoon aperio ngesi ne.”
(There are over 1 million Turkana in Kenya. There are also smaller groups in Uganda and Ethiopia. Most years since 2010 Joshua has spent 2-4 weeks each year teaching at the Turkana branch of CCBTI, Community Christian Bible Training Institute. The third edition of “Eating the Word of God” book was in Nga Turkana, Akinyam Akiroit a Akuj.  Joshua ended up having to learn some Nga Turkana to help with the editing of the volume, though we make no claim to know the language … yet.)
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GĨKŨYŨ (Kikuyu):
Ndarĩ haaha; nĩariũkĩĩte o ta ũrĩa oigire. Tookaai muone harĩa araarĩ.”
(The Agĩkũyũ are a Bantu group of over 8 million here in Kenya. In English, “Kikuyu” derives from the Swahili name of the language, Gĩkũyũ, and refers to the language and the people. Many of our dearest friends are Kikuyu.)
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KALENJIN (Nandi):
Ma komi yu; amu kagong’eet, ko uu ye ki kamwa. Obwa, ogeer ole korue Kiptaiyat,”
(The Kalenjin are a group of ten tribes in Kenya numbering over 6 million together; their language is Nilotic. Sometimes the term in English refers specifically to the Nandi and Kipsigis tribes.  We have a number of Kipsigis Kalenjin friends and Joshua has spent some time in Kipsigis villages.  One of Joshua’s fellow students in his PhD cohort is a Pokot Kalenjin pastor.  We found this translation, in the Nandi dialect, online.)
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DHOLUO (Luo):
to oonge ka, nimar osechier mana kaka nowacho. Biuru une kama nende onindoe,”
(The Luo “proper”, or Joluo, live in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. They number approximately 7 million. More broadly speaking, “Luo” can refer to a Nilotic group of tribes spread from Tanzania to South Sudan to Congo.  Ruth’s best friend is a Ugandan Luo living here in Kenya.)
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FRANÇAIS (French):
Il n’est pas ici, car il est ressuscité comme il l’avait dit. Venez voir le lieu où il gisait,”
(There are about 430 million French speakers, including those who speak it as a second or third language) spread throughout 29 countries in Africa.  We have good friends who are missionaries in Francophone West Africa — specifically Côte d’Ivoire and Burkino Faso.  One of Joshua’s fellow PhD students is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; French is his second language … English is fourth or fifth.  Joshua has some reading facility in French from his public school days.)  
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ESPAÑOL (Spanish):
“No está aquí, pues ha resucitado, como dijo. Venid, ved el lugar donde fue puesto el Señor.” 
(There are over 483 native speakers of Spanish around the world, second only to Mandarin Chinese.  It is the fourth-most spoken language in the world, after English, Mandarin Chinese and Hindi. Ruth learned Spanish well enough in school that she could communicate with an Italian bus driver when she visited Italy.  We have friends who minister in Spanish-speaking areas.)
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AFRIKAANS:
Hy is nie hier nie, want Hy is uit die dood opgewek, soos Hy gesê het. Kom nader en kyk: daar is die plek waar Hy gelê het.”
(There are 7.2 million native speakers — both white Afrikaners, descended from Dutch settlers, and “colored” — and an additional 10.3 million who speak Afrikaans as a second language, mostly in South Africa and Namibia but with smaller communities in Botswana and Zimbabwe as well. We taught at a small Bible college in South Africa in 2000–2001, and learned a little Afrikaans.  A cute little three year old girl of an Afrikaans-speaking family “adopted” us as a second pair of parents, and so we learned the Afrikaans of a three year old!  At one point, Joshua had memorized the Lord’s Prayer in Afrikaans, but now he only remembers the first phrase.)
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SETSWANA (Tswana):
“Ga a yo fa; gonne o tsogile, fela jaaka a buile. Tlaang lo bone felo fa o ne a letse teng.”
(Sestwana is the Bantu language spoken as a first by some 5.3 million people in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, and by another 7.7 million as a second language in South Africa.  One of the two congregations we were involved with in South Africa was majority Sestwana-speaking.  We learned some greetings; Ruth also learned greetings in Sesotho and isiZulu.) 
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TOK PISIN:
Em i no i stap hia. Em i kirap pinis, olsem bipo em i bin tok. Yutupela kam lukim ples em i bin slip long en.”
(Tok Pisin is one of the official languages of Papua New Guinea. While there are only about 120,000 native speakers, it is spoke as a second language by at least 4 million. I, Joshua, preached from Daniel in Tok Pisin in 1993, when I was in PNG for an internship with Pioneer Bible Translators.  I wrote out a sermon manuscript, because I was terrified that would reach into the “not English” part of my brain and either come up with nothing or French.)
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KHASI:
Um don hangne; la pynmihpat ïa u, kumba u la ong. Ale hangne bad peit ïa ka jaka ha kaba u la thiah.”
(The Khasi language, with the Jaintia-Pñar dialect, is an Austroasiatic language spoken primarily in Meghalaya state in North East India, with smaller populations in Assam state and in Bangladesh. I spent two summers in Meghalaya, 1995 and 1998, the latter being for my MDiv internship. I composed some poetry and some choruses. I was told I spoke with a decided Pñar accent, rather than the “official” Khasi dialect — no bad thing, since most of my time was in the Jaintia area — and also that my syntax sounded more like that of the grandparents than of my peers.  In doing some research on the 1905-1907 revival in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills for one of my PhD courses —”Dynamics of Global Revivals” with Prof. Mark Shaw — I stumbled upon some videos of Khasi worship choirs, and was pleased, though surprised, to still understand some of the language.)
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Words of the Day

Ninataka kutoka

As a family, we’re making progress learning Swahili, which is becoming increasingly important to our ministry, in addition to Maa.  Today’s word is kutoka.  It means to go out, to leave, to exit or to be from a place.  So we might say “Tunatoka Marekani” — we are from America.  

But as we are having to focus on the office work side of curriculum development and ongoing language learning due to the current pandemic, and as the children’s HomeSchool co-op is not able to meet due to temporary government restrictions, we’re all thinking “ninataka kutoka!” — I want to go out!

Kutaka is the other word in today’s phrase.  It means to want.  A similarly sounding word is takatakatrash or garbage.  Unataka takataka?  Sitaki takataka!  Do you want garbage?  I don’t want garbage!  It’s interesting how much kutaka (to want) sounds like takataka (garbage, is generally not wanted by anybody).

Our twelve year old’s favorite sentence in Swahili?  So far, it’s Baba ni bata!Daddy is a duck!  Hmmm.  Whence do you think she got that silliness?

requiem

I have just learned that we have lost another giant.  The great John S. Mbiti of Kenya, professor and theologian and philosopher and mentor, passed from this life a couple of weeks ago, 6 October 2019, a bit before what would have been his 88th birthday.

If you are interested in —
.        • African culture or religion or philosophy,
.        • Christian theology,
.        • hermeneutics, or
.        • African Christianity —
then you should read his works. His monographs African Religions and Philosophy (1969) and Concepts of God in Africa (1970) were seminal and remain classics.

I can’t claim to have known him personally, but I was honored to meet him a few times, to have heard him lecture a couple of times, and to have had one delightful one-on-one conversation with him. He was a gentleman and a scholar … and a true Christian.

Professor John S. Mbiti and friendsThis picture was taken at a Centre for World Christianity event in Nairobi in March 2018. Those pictured include Professors Mark Shaw, Jesse N. K. Mugambi, John S. Mbiti, Andrew F. Walls, with Dr Ingrid Reneau Walls & Dr Kyama Mugambi.

Some of you haven’t heard of John Samuel Mbiti before.  For an excellent though short introduction to Prof. Mbiti’s work, see Francis Anekwe Oborji, “John S. Mbiti – Father of African Christian Theology: .A Tribute,” Journal of African Christian Biography 4/4 (October 2019): .3-14.
 
The issue is available online at the Dictionary of African Christian Biography here
(There are also booklet formats for printing available, in either A4 or 8.5×11.)
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Professor John S. Mbiti, may your memory be eternal until you rise again to meet our Lord.

Locusts!

The Maa word for locust is olmaati (ɔlmáatî for linguists); the plural is ilmaat (ɨlmáāt). I don’t know whether these are the same species of locusts and plagued the ancient Egyptians (and others), but they are African locusts and can thus swarm.

Today I saw more of these ILMAAT than I’ve ever seen before in one place — not quite EMUS OOLMAAT (a swarm of locusts), which is probably a good thing. These were around the famous Oreteti Tree of Lenana, near the lower peak of the Ngong Hills toward Kona Baridi, Olepolos, and Kiserian.

Enjoy the 27 second video clip:

(click on the photos to see larger images)


OLMAATI / ILMAAT can refer to a number of different species of grasshoppers/locusts, some of which are consumed by some African communities (though not by the Maasai). Don’t try to mimic John the Baptist and dip these in honey, though! — these pictures are of Green Milkweed Locusts (aka African Bush Grasshopper or phymateus viridipes for our latinophone or entomologist friends). They like to eat milkweed and various members of the nightshade family, and so are decidedly NOT good to eat.

Edit:  (5 November 2019)
What’s the difference between a grasshopper and a locust?
The difference between a locust and a grasshopper is that they’re locusts when they’re swarming, and otherwise just grasshoppers. (That’s a bit simplified, but close enough.)  Except in some parts of America, cicadas are called “locusts”.

It makes the verb happy

We are always continuing to learn and study the Maa language and culture of the Maasai.  And so back in September, I was very happy to learn a new proverb — 

Ekébikóo intókitin póoki náaramát ilóopêny

It means all things which their owners carefully tend last a long time.  I was very happy to find this proverb to add to our lessons on stewardship.  Whereas typical American teaching says “that stuff you think you own?  Well, it is not really yours, it is only God’s, only God is the owner, and that is why you should take especial care of it,” we teach that ownership is what makes stewardship possible.  (Of course, each of these approaches represent part of the Biblical teaching on stewardship — in one sense everything IS God’s and we are only his stewards, but in another sense because we are God’s children, God has given us resources that we manage as our own property — just like Maasai parents give animals even to their young children.)  So when we use the proverb that says, “the cow says, don’t give me, lend me,” we can reinforce the meaning of the teaching by next reminding that the Maasai also say, “Ekébikóo intókitin póoki náaramát ilóopêny.”  (To read more on how we teach Christian stewardship, read our My Father Is Alive post.)

But with this proverb I had a question about a bit of the language I didn’t quite understand.  I knew that <ekébikóo> comes from the verb <ABIKÓO>, “to endure, to last a long time, to remain a long time, to last forever” (coming in turn from <ABIK>, “to remain, to abide, to stay”).  But Maa verbal prefixes are tricky, and I wasn’t sure what the eké- prefix was doing.  So I asked our good friend and colleague Ntinga Sam Tome, who is trilingual in Maa, kiSwahili, and English.

It makes the verb happy and brings out the meaning.

“It makes the verb happy.”  Of course it does!  But why?  We laughed together.

requiem

It is perhaps not unfitting that it was on Epiphany (6 January 2019) that the great Lamin Sanneh breathed his last in this life. In his life and scholarship the light of Christ was revealed to many. He passed on only yesterday, yet already he is 

We grieve, but we do not grieve as those without hope.

Born in The Gambia in West Africa, raised as a Muslim, after his conversion to Christ he became a preeminent Christian scholar and missiologist.  If you haven’t read his books or articles or heard him speak, you should. His books are widely available and you can still find him on youtube.  Here are two of my favorite of his quotes:

“People receive new ideas only in terms of the ideas they already have.”

“Conversion is the turning of ourselves to God, and that means all of ourselves without leaving anything thing behind or outside.  But that also means not replacing what is there with something else. Conversion is a refocusing of the mental life and its cultural/social underpinning and of our feelings, affections, and instincts, in the light of what God has done in Jesus.”

~ Lamin Sanneh, Whose Religion Is Christianity?  The Gospel beyond the West (2003).

If you’re a buyer and reader of books, that text is worth acquiring.  But if you only buy or read one of his books, I recommend that you start with Translating the Message:  The Missionary Impact on Culture (1st edition, 1989; 2nd edition, revised, 2009).  Though you’ll run across a lot of books before you find anything that would surpass his Disciples of All Nations:  Pillars of World Christianity (2008).

Professor Lamin Sanneh (24 May 1942 — 6 January 6 2019), may your memory be eternal and may you rest in peace until you rise again in the Resurrection.


Update (15 January 2019):  Christianity Today has just published a collection of tributes, “Remembering Lamin Sanneh, the World’s Leading Expert on Christianity and Islam in Africa.” This article would be a great place to start to learn more about this great man.  Also … anyone interested in World Christianity should read not only Prof. Sanneh’s works, but also should listen to the voices of those who give him tribute here.

A day in our life in Kenya

What’s it like to be missionary in Africa?  Our days revolve around teaching national Christians and our six children, whom we (mostly Ruth) homeschool.  To read more, visit today’s post on CMF’s blog, which was written by Ruth.

UPDATE (1 January 2019):  As we are continuing with the same work, but are now with affiliated with MissionStream, we have archived a PDF copy of the blog here.

When humans were kind …

Our four oldest are part of a Kenyan homeschool co-op choir called Anthem.  They’re pretty good.  Last February, Athem performed at the Safaricom House in Nairobi as part of the city-wide “Cultural Stopovers” events.  I’ve posted pictures and video for their part of the concert here.

Recently Fezi (their teacher / choir director) divided them into groups and had each group write a song together.  Alitzah, Hannah Gail, and Eliana were in a group with three others.  The lyrics of their song are profound due to a spelling mistake.  Here are the lyrics.

Once in the sky all nations were loved
Hate was not known; all were beloved
Up in the sky flew some white doves
There was no evil anywhere
All creatures were kind including the heir
And God walked among us even when we were bare

They meant “all creatures were kind including the hare.”  But while that works for the rhyme scheme, it’s a bit weak poetically – bunnies, whether rabbits or hares, are generally considered to be among the kinder of animals, even though in some folklore they can be quite the tricksters.  So saying that before sin entered the world even bunnies were kind is not quite the striking statement as saying that “even the cobra” or “even the hyena” was kind.

But in context, who is the heir?  Adam & Eve – and therefore by extension all humanity.  Look around, and you will see an overabundance of evidence of unkindness and cruelty within human hearts and from human hands and words.  But as written (though not as meant) these lyrics become theologically poignant:  Once upon a time, there was no evil … and even humans were kind.

So an orthographical error changed slightly awkward lyrics into a profound poem.  Awesome.