papai te nkanisa
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!
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.
This 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.
Professor John S. Mbiti, may your memory be eternal until you rise again to meet our Lord.
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.