Remember the Poor by Simon Pettit

Remember the Poor – Message of the Month

Simon Pettit

At an international leader’s conference hosted in the UK in 1998 an unsuspecting family of churches was about to undergo a powerful and lasting shift.

It was a moment that has left a younger generation of leaders saying things like, ‘I wasn’t there to hear Simon’s sermon, but I sometimes feel like I was, such is the ongoing legacy of that one message.’

It was a sermon that re-focussed the outreach of the Newfrontiers family of churches, and has generated conferences, think tanks, and a myriad of local church initiatives across the world.

It effectively united so-called ‘social ministries’ to the apostolic and evangelistic priority of a church-planting movement.

Simon Pettit preaching in Blantyre, Malawi

Simon Pettit and his family left England in 1990 for Cape Town, South Africa to lead the team at Jubilee Community Church. He served in South Africa and Africa for 15 years, before his sudden death from a heart attack in 2005.

This message comes from those years of living and learning in a context of contrasting wealth and poverty. He quickly realised that the church cannot merely preach a message of hope but must directly engage with the needs of the poor.

Some, while not doubting the need to serve the poor, questioned whether Simon’s exegesis of Gal 2:10 was correct. Did the apostles in Jerusalem intend a general care for the poor or were they only referring to the poor in Jerusalem? A fine answer has been given to that question here.

Simon’s legacy is not confined to one church, of course, but to the whole family of Newfrontiers churches. However, the multi-racial Jubilee Community Church in Cape Town, the local church where he learnt and taught, and which has continued to remember the poor in so many ways, remains the jewel in his crown.

Many of us still share the pain of losing Simon, not only in Jubilee, and South Africa, but also in Africa and in many other parts of the world. We feel Simon’s sudden departure was the loss of a genuine father in the faith.

I hope the inclusion of this message will stir you to ‘remember the poor’ where you are.

For audio you can listen or download here

For a pretty rough but still watchable video click here

Simon joking around just before speaking at City of God Church, Accra, Ghana

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Dying to Serve

Dying to Serve Others

Alexander Mackay

Scottish missionary Alexander Mackay came to Africa in 1876.

He had been trained as an engineer at the University of Edinburgh, and later in Berlin, but felt the call of God to preach the gospel and to share the message of Christ in Africa.

Ruth Tucker, in her biographical history of missions, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, states that Mackay (and seven others) came here in response to a request from King Mtesa of Uganda, who had asked for missionaries.

Mackay successfully influenced King Mtesa to stop providing his people as slaves to the Arab slave trade, which made him a direct target for both threats and numerous actual attempts on his life.

But Mackay worked hard on a translation of the Bible and on preaching the gospel. He was finally able to baptise new converts in 1882 and the church grew to 86 members. These numbers sound almost silly by comparison to the huge numbers who now make up the Christian Church in Africa. But Mackay and those like him were the pioneers – and not without cost.

Sacrifice
When Mackay and the other missionaries prepared to leave England in 1875 he had declared:

‘I want to remind the committee that within six months they will probably hear that some one of us is dead.  Yes, is it at all likely that eight Englishmen should start for central Africa and all be alive six months after?  One of us at least – it may be I – will surely fall before that.  When the news comes, do not be cast down, but send someone else immediately to take the vacant place.’ [i]

He was right. Five of them died within the first year. By the end of the second year in Uganda Mackay was left alone. All of them gave their lives for Africa.

Mackay himself was deported from Uganda by King Mwanga, who was far more resistant to Christian influence than Mtesa. He moved to Tanganyika.

He had pioneered, laid the foundations for future church growth, and served the purpose of God in his generation. In 1890 he, like his companions before him, caught Malaria and, tragically, died. He was 40.

‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ Jesus (John 12:24)

Africa Today

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] Quoted by Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Zondervan, p.157

Serving Africa

Samuel Daniell's painting of the Khoikhoi, 1805

Early resistance in the Cape

It would be an obvious mistake to portray European involvement in Africa as entirely benevolent. But not all Europeans moving to Africa were baddies.

Likewise it would be false to give the impression that the communication of the Christian gospel was always welcomed as an ally to colonial interests. We must learn to separate European and colonial agendas in Africa from specifically Christian ones.

But even the ‘Christians’ hindered the impulse to serve local people. Sometimes settled European communities were extremely nervous about the Christianisation of Africans.

For example, Jonathan Hildebrandt, in his ‘History of the Church in Africa’, tells how the Dutch made the evangelisation of local people in the Cape practically impossible. Moravian missionaries were successfully building relationships, sharing the gospel and baptising new converts, but were very deliberately stopped.

The Moravian missionary George Schmidt baptised several Khoikhoi believers but this drew resistance from the Dutch church in the Cape.

‘They made a complaint in Cape Town that Schmidt had conducted the baptisms incorrectly and so should not be allowed to continue working in that area.

‘The Dutch made the work so difficult that Schmidt was forced to leave for Europe in 1744. He tried to return to South Africa to continue the work, but the Dutch would not permit it.

‘So the missionary work among the [Khoikhoi] came to an end. It was fifty years before another missionary came to work with these people.’[i]

Those who did return were Moravian (German) missionaries who were so successful that a church facility able to hold 1000 worshipers from amongst the Khoikhoi was built. By 1810 an established Khoikhoi Christian community was thriving.

The struggle to bring the gospel to modern Africa was tangible from the earliest era of the modern missionary movement.

This was also true of attempts to bring the gospel into central Africa, with disease and violent opposition as standard trials for those who came.

But more of that next time…

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] Jonathan Hildebrandt, History of the Church in Africa, Africa Christian Press, Ghana, p.71

Mary Slessor the ‘Mother of all Peoples’

Mary Slessor of Calabar

Mary Slessor is an unlikely hero.  She was a tough working class, single woman from Dundee, Scotland, who was able to penetrate the interior of Nigeria and reach tribes who were so hostile to whites that the men who had attempted the task before her had become the victims of cannibalism.

Although considered unconventional by Europeans, and certainly determined in character, she became a genuine peace-maker in numerous ways.

A statue honouring Mary Slessor, in Akpap Okoyong, Nigeria

She established schools and became well known in her struggle to reverse the practice of condemning twin babies to death. She fought for the acceptance of the small-pox vaccinations amongst the local people. She certainly served as an able fore-runner to the many church planters that followed her to Nigeria.

She gained such respect that at times she was called upon to act as a judge to help settle disputes between tribes.

A peace-maker and reformer

Mary Slessor wasn’t a church planter and didn’t gain great numbers of converts but as a Christians peacemaker and human rights reformer she was an unparalleled success.

Like her fellow Scot, David Livingstone, she was considered unconventional by European standards. Slessor lived amongst the people in a mud hut, certainly unusual for western missionaries at the time.

The British authorities respected her, and called upon her for help, actually funding some of her projects – but they were also exaperated by her: she had somehow freed herself from the European obsession with time keeping and therefore kept very irregular and unpredictable hours; infuriating to the British.

Mary Slessor in later years. Photo © Dundee City Council, McManus Galleries and Museum, 2008

But she much loved by the local Efik peoples, was fluent in their language and genuinely adapted her life to serve them.  She was named ‘The Mother of all Peoples’ by the locals. She remains a challenging example of Christlikeness to all believers.

Mary Slessor, honoured in Scotland

The Scottish Clydesdale Bank honoured her memory by having her image on the £10 note.

For more on Mary Slessor go to The Dundee City Website

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides

A Colonial-Era European still Honoured in Africa

Biography of David Livingstone, Missionary to Africa

Honouring Africa

Livingstone’s travels, which he recorded in meticulous detail, gave vital information and opened up routes for the many missionaries that followed him.  His fascination and admiration was not only for the land but the people.  And he received genuine respect from Africans.

Alvyn Austen writes, ‘Livingstone treated his hosts with decorum. Tribes usually reciprocated by treating him like a visiting dignitary. “Africans are not by any means unreasonable,” he wrote. “I think unreasonableness is more a heredity disease in Europe.”[i]

He lived among, learnt from and suffered alongside Africans.  When white farmers attacked the Bakwain tribe they also completely plundered Livingstone’s house, taking all his belongings. Their loss was also his loss. His struggle was to abolish slavery and replace it with honest commerce.

This kind of identification with the African people has won a lasting place of affection for Livingstone in many African hearts.

An American Journalist’s Dream

When rumours spread that Livingstone had died trying to find the source of the Nile, Henry Stanley, an American journalist successfully hunted him down. When they met at Lake Tanganyika and Stanley uttered the now famous words, ‘Livingstone, I presume?’ he was an old, 60 years of age, weakened by disease.  Stanley tried to convince Livingstone to return to Europe but he refused.  In May 1873, while kneeling by his bed in prayer, he died.

Alvyn Austen continues, ‘His African friends, former slaves he had freed, buried his heart under an mpundu tree 70 miles from the shore of Lake Bangweulu.  Then they carried his body back to his own people, an 11-month journey through equatorial jungle and open seas.

All Britain wept.  The whole civilised world wept.  They gave him a 21-gun salute and a hero’s funeral among the saints in Westminster Abbey.’

Honoured by Africa

‘Today, at a time when countries are being renamed and statues are being toppled, Livingstone has not fallen. Despite modern Africans’ animosity toward other Europeans, such as Cecil Rhodes, Livingstone endures as a heroic legend.

Rhodesia has long since purged its name, but the cities of Livingstone (Zambia) and Livingstonia (Malawi) keep the explorer’s appellation with pride.

Furthermore, the [commercial] capital of Malawi, Blantyre, was named for Livingstone’s birthplace.  And Livingstone’s massive bronze statue still points to the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls.’ [ii]

Livingstone, more a discoverer than a missionary, probably did more to introduce the continent of Africa to European readers than anyone of his generation.

For the first part of the Livingstone story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


[i] Christian History magazine, 1997, See here for more

[ii] ibid

Half Eaten by a Lion!

 

Gareth Knowles' stunning sculpture of Livingstone and the Lion

 

Scotsman David Livingstone, to be honest, doesn’t neatly fit into the category of ‘missionary’.

Instead he tends to live in the memories of the British as an heroic Explorer. When speaking in Cambridge he confidently asserted, ‘I go back to Africa to try to make an open path for commerce and Christianity.’[i]

Livingstone passionately believed that an increase in commerce, instead of slavery and an increase of Christianity instead of other religions would be beneficial to Africa, but he became more vitally involved with the discovery of the land itself and the people of the land than perhaps any other missionary.

Africa bites back!

There is one famous incident in Livingstone’s life which is famous and fascinating: the lion attack.

Tim Jeal, describing the incident writes,

‘As early as 1842 [Livingstone] had seen ‘a woman actually devoured in her garden’ by a lion, and had noticed that there was a plague of these animals at Mabotsa.

Nevertheless he had always remained unworried by the thought of personal danger from them, and had assured friends in England that ‘the sense of danger vanishes when you are in a country of lions.’

On 16 February 1844 Livingstone was working on the ditches of the watercourse when some natives were screaming to him to help them kill a lion that had just dragged off some sheep.

As Livingstone put it later: ‘I very imprudently ventured across the valley in order to encourage them to destroy him.’

It was not Livingstone’s only mistake; he went with only one gun and with no armed native at his side. He fired both barrels at the lion but only wounded him.

As he vainly tried to reload, the lion leapt on him and, catching him by the arm, shook him ‘as a terrier dog does a rat’. Livingstone’s upper arm was splintered at once; the lion’s teeth made a series of gashes like ‘gun-shot wounds’.

Livingstone and the Lion - Gareth Knowles' wonderful sculpture

Livingstone was only saved by the sudden appearance of Mebalwe, an elderly convert whom Livingstone had brought from Kuruman as a teacher.

Mebalwe, seeing that his master would be dead within minutes unless he acted, snatched a gun from another native, loaded and fired both barrels.

The gun misfired but the lion was diverted at this crucial moment and bounded off to attack his new assailant.

The luckless Mebalwe was badly bitten on the thigh and another who tried to help him was in turn bitten on the shoulder.

At this stage, however, the lion suddenly dropped dead, killed at last by the wounds initially inflicted by Livingstone.

An earlier depiction of the Lion Attack

Livingstone was extremely ill for weeks…It is hard to imagine the agony he must have suffered without anaesthetic and without the help of another doctor. He had to supervise the setting of the badly splintered arm himself.

Nevertheless he made an astoundingly fast recovery and within months was working cautiously on the lighter tasks involved in building his house.’ [ii]

The incredible sculpture featured above is by Gareth Knowles

For the first part of the Livingstone Story click here

For the next part of the Livingstone Story, and to hear how Africa still honours his legacy, click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


[i] The Planting of Christianity in Africa, CP Groves, Vol 1, p.185 Lutterworth Press

[ii] Livingstone, Tim Jeal, p.58-59, Yale University Press

Livingstone, I Presume?

 

Missionary David Livingstone by Frederick Havill

 

Africa during the 19th century has, on a myriad of occasions, been referred to as ‘The missionary’s graveyard’.

Cartoons, TV adverts or comedy sketches featuring missionaries in couldrons accepting their fate with good humour abound.

Yet there is little doubt that Africa, notwithstanding huge difficulties, has embraced the Christian faith eagerly.

But it wasn’t always so…

‘A costly undertaking’

In 1983 historian Ruth Tucker wrote:

‘[Africa] has claimed the lives of more Protestant missionaries than any other area of the world.  Evangelism has been a costly undertaking, but the investment has paid rich dividends…it has been one of the most fruitful ‘mission fields’ in the world.

‘It is estimated that by the end of the 20th century fifty percent of the population (Africa south of the Sahara) will be professing Christian.  Most of this growth has come in the twentieth century.  Church growth in the 19th century was often painfully slow, but it was the nineteenth-century missionary pioneers who risked all to open the way for Christianity in Africa.’[i]

Tucker also points out that Protestant missions to Africa began in the Cape Colony by the Moravians in the 18th century.  Hosts of missionaries followed including the great Scottish missionary/explorer David Livingstone who evangelised as he went about his travels in Southern Africa (up as far as Angola on the west coast and Malawi on the east).

‘Livingstone, I presume?’

Well, he is a slightly odd one! Tim Jeal in his biography from the 1970’s put down on paper what many have pondered. Are we right to presume that the Livingstone who is lauded as the greatest missionary ever, was in fact a great missionary?

Writing of his own contribution to biographical research about Livingstone, Jeal asserts: ‘the picture I presented of the great explorer’s character and life’s work differed significantly from depictions of him in all previous biographies…The picture of Livingstone presented in biographies published after mine has in all factual essentials resembled my own.

‘My contention that Livingstone failed in conventional missionary terms, making but a single convert, a chief, who subsequently lapsed, has never been challenged.’[ii]

‘Yet,’ continues Jeal, ‘despite his character defects and his failures, Livingstone remained a very great man whose overall achievement was unique – not simply because he was the first European to have made an authenticated crossing of the continent from coast to coast; not even for the many geographical discoveries he made during thousands of miles of tramping with inadequate supplies and assistance.

‘For in addition, his contributions to ethnology, natural history, tropical medicine and linguistics were hugely influential, as were his roles as a crusader against the slave trade…’[iii]

Jeal has hit on the Livingstone dilemma perfectly. Here we have an essentially non-evangelistic missionary who fell in love with Africa and Africans and who became, essentially an explorer, impatient with Europeans, who would ‘open up the way’ for others.

For the next post on Livinsgtone’s adventures and how he was attacked by a lion click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


[i] Ruth Tucker , From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Zondervan, p.139

[ii] Tim Jeal, Livingstone, Yale University Press, 1985, p.xiiv

[iii] ibid, p.xiiv