Tag Archives: Kenya

Impossible with God: The Africa Study Bible launch

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Coworker Nyambura and I celebrate a big achievement & our big God

To be honest, there were times I doubted we would ever launch the Africa Study Bible.

A study Bible is the most complex possible type of publishing project. The layout must juggle the Bible text, notes, cross-references and more. You have to print on very thin paper with special printers. And all the notes have to be extremely high quality theologically and grammatically because they’re bound up with the Word of God.

But this was more than a typical study Bible. We designed six different types of unique features to connect the Bible to Africa, so we had to teach our writers to see the Bible differently as they wrote. And no one has ever produced a study Bible with 350 contributors, much less from 50 countries writing notes in 5 languages.

Compared to this task, our resources were tiny. Our small organization had to invent the entire project management infrastructure from scratch for this unprecedented feat. We wanted the top scholars, respected pastors, and influential ministry leaders from Africa involved, so they all did their part on top of their normal busy commitments. When a writer missed a deadline, it could be due to power outages, malaria, or bereavement. We struggled to find writers from some countries because they were facing civil war or religious persecution.

At one point, I was incredibly overwhelmed with a sense of personal responsibility for the project. After a late Skype call with colleagues, I walked home and put my briefcase down on the grass outside my house. I looked up at the stars and cried. “God, I can’t do this. This is your project. You started it. I surrender. You’re the only one in control. If you get this project done, I’m going to give you all the glory, because there’s no way we can do this on our own.”

On days when it looked impossible, I jotted down how God was at work and reminded myself of the end goal. I couldn’t think as abstract as discipling the continent, so I literally pictured the spine of the Africa Study Bible on my bookcase. “This will get done,” I said to myself. “One day, I will be able to hold the finished product in my hands.”

On March 30, the Africa Study Bible was launched to the world!

Church leaders from all the major ecumenical groups, leaders of several Christian ministries, and seminary scholars gathered in a hotel ballroom in Nairobi, Kenya. Guests and ballroom alike were decked out in African colors and patterns. We sang together, “When Jesus came down from heaven, he landed in Israel. When there was trouble, he came down to Africa. So we must praise him – praise him in an African way!

I rejoiced to meet contributors in person who I had emailed for months. I couldn’t help but notice that the 350 seats in the room represented our 350 contributors. The few empty ones reminded me of so many who had been involved in the project – our French writing coordinator, half of our review team, key editors…. They would attend the Ghana, US, Nigeria or South Africa launches. The little taste made me hungry for our complete reunion in heaven.

As we celebrated the momentous occasion, we remembered where we had come from and where this was going. A youth pastor gave a devotional, highlighting our African Christian heritage from Augustine to his grandma. He reminded us that youth are the Africa of today, not tomorrow – and this Bible roots them in their identity and the word of God. A government minister for education spoke of his vision for using the Africa Study Bible as a key resource as they reform the national curriculum to teach children values. Christians from three generations passed a kerosene lantern along, praying that the Bible would illuminate hearts for years to come.

Then the unveiling. Lights dimmed and pulsed. Young people robed in red Maasai shukas and traditional kanga wraps danced in to a drumbeat. The audience stood and clapped along. The ribbon was cut, the veil was lifted, and the larger-than life Africa Study Bible twirled around like it had jumped into a dance circle. We sang a Nigerian song with hands and hearts lifted, “Imela! Imela!” Thank you, my king!

After all the celebrations, my US and Kenya coworkers went out for a relieved and grateful dinner. Laughing around the table, I realized these people have become my people, almost family. Yet we might never all eat together again until the kingdom of God comes again. We sang a hymn before we departed: Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

When I got home, I put my briefcase down on that eventful spot of grass and took off my shoes. Hands up and teary eyed, “You did it, God!” I jumped and spun, dancing under the stars. “Hallelujah!”

And when I went inside, I opened the pages of my very own copy of the Africa Study Bible.

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The church in Africa deserves to be heard

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Africa Study Bible contributor Bishop Raphael Okeyo from Tanzania

I believe that the voice of the church in Africa deserves to be heard.

We don’t need imported sermon illustrations about “Prayer is not like a vending machine” – what’s a vending machine anyway?

We need stories from African pastors and teachers that give us a new perspective on familiar Bible passages. We need the story about trapping monkeys in the Kalahari desert. Monkeys know where water is found, but they want to keep the secret to themselves. So people catch a monkey and feed it salt until it becomes thirsty. Then they follow it to the water source. When we hear that Christians are called “the salt of the earth,” it can also mean that we lead people to the source of living water (Matthew 5:13).

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Photo by Craig Shaw from ForestRescue

Pastors and teachers from 50 countries have written 2200 notes like the one I mentioned as part of the Africa Study Bible. On the page next to the Bible text, notes and essays connect Scripture to African contexts to help people live out their faith without rejecting their whole culture.

This is not your typical study Bible, written by about 50 American scholars. 345 people wrote notes, edited pieces and reviewed the theology and relevance of each piece.

These writers were dedicated. Some authors were dealing with civil war, persecution as Christians, malaria, or family funerals. All of them wrote alongside their normal work in churches, theological schools or businesses. Nearly all wrote in their second language – either English, French, Portuguese, Arabic or Swahili.

But as I managed the first half of the editorial process, I saw their commitment firsthand. They believed this was crucial work for God’s kingdom. As contributor Dr. Issiakia Coulibaly from West Africa Alliance Theological Seminary (FATEAC) said, “Like Philip explaining the Scriptures to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:31), so will the Africa Study Bible be to thousands and thousands of African Christians today.”

The writing is done, and the editing is nearly complete. The church in Africa is ready to speak – we just need to give them a platform.

If you want the voice of the church in Africa to be heard, this week is your chance! Invest here through Kickstarter. Your giving enables the writers to give everyone their “rich resource for the church in Africa and the world” (in the words of contributor Bishop Dr. Isaiah Majok Dau from South Sudan).

Then be salt and lead people to the water. The Africa Study Bible is published by Oasis International Ltd to satisfy Africa’s thirst for God’s Word. Would you join me in spreading the word about the Bible for the last 7 days of our fundraising campaign? Share this overview video on social media, email or in-person.

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Instead of me telling you any more about the Africa Study Bible, listen to a Kenyan World Christianity scholar. Dr. Wanjiru Maggie Gitau shares how the Africa Study Bible reflects the exciting things God is doing in Africa today. Or, check out this sneak peek of the book of Genesis, where the authors’ notes speak for themselves!

Let’s hear what the church in Africa has to say to us.


Tendons in the Body of Christ

Janice Horsager & Caleb Kim with their families in Kenya

Janice Horsager & Caleb Kim with their families in Kenya

…[W]e will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16

Tendons are made up of many tendon fibrils, all somewhat independent. Together, these fibrils must be highly elastic and strong, so they can stretch to connect muscle to bone without breaking. Lately, I’m feeling like a tendon fibril in the body of Christ.

Each Part Doing Its Work

I grew up an American in Tanzania and Kenya. I have learned to be flexible and to bridge cultures, while not necessarily being immersed in either one. As a Macalester College student, I stretch myself to connect my secular education with what I have learned from my Christian family. Aware of how it feels to be an outsider, I enthusiastically welcome new people at church. I plan InterVarsity outreach events to introduce non-Christians to my friend Jesus and include them in that community.

I’m inspired by my mom, a family friend, and my pastor to be a connector. God has connected me to them, them to each other and to InterVarsity and Africa International University—all for the growth of Christ’s body.

Three Intersecting Journeys

Janice Horsager, my mom, transferred from a Christian college to the University of Minnesota where InterVarsity helped her connect those two experiences. InterVarsity also stretched her, especially when she taught English to future missionaries in South Korea as part of Student Training in Missions (STiM), an intense training program for students participating in summer projects.

At Urbana 84, my mom told God she was flexible and open to foreign missions. When I was two years old, our family moved to the Tanzanian mission field.

Caleb Kim, a Korean student from STiM and part of InterVarsity through IFES, also felt a call for missions. God’s call took him to Kenya and Tanzania, and eventually to become a professor of Intercultural Studies in the Missions Department of Africa International University (AIU).

On a visit to AIU, my parents greeted Caleb Kim in Korean.

“Where did you learn Korean?”

“Oh, I taught English at a missionary school back in ’84.”

“And you were in InterVarsity, and your dad fought in the Korean War, right? I remember you!”

Caleb Kim and his family welcomed our family to the AIU campus and worked to connect us to other faculty. My dad, Steve Rasmussen, and Dr. Kim now teach together in the Missions Department at AIU, where they train pastors and missionaries how to connect the Bible with their own cultural contexts in flexible ways.

Once we moved to Kenya, our family decided we would make Nairobi Chapel our church home. Several years earlier, Oscar Muriu had just finished seminary at AIU (then called NEGST) when he was asked to pastor Nairobi Chapel. At that time, the church had declined to twenty members. Through prayer and connecting the church to a nearby college campus, the church began to grow and grow, eventually splitting into five “fibrils” to maximize impact on the city.

The past two Christmases I’ve had the opportunity to visit dear family and friends in Kenya. When my flight was delayed, Dr. Kim picked me up from the airport. His family invited me over for a wonderful homemade Korean dinner.

Pastor Oscar’s daughter, a close friend, also invited me over. Pastor Oscar, who spoke at Urbana 2006 and 2009, was excited to hear of my involvement in InterVarsity and my plans to participate in Urbana 12. That night the whole Muriu family prayed in the living room for my Macalester campus. It was an awe-filled experience.

Made Possible Through Submission

What a blessing and inspiration to know these Christ-followers! Their submission to God allowed him to accomplish his purposes though them. Students were transformed, who later became faculty who now transform their students. Campuses like Africa International University were renewed. World changers were developed, who continue to develop other world changers—whether it be Nairobi Chapel’s youth, the future missionaries in my dad’s classes, or the students at Macalester.

The impact of the connected body of Christ has transformed me as a student. I long for renewal on Macalester campus. My prayer is that my school, well known for developing world changers, will develop Christ’s ambassadors to make disciples of all nations.

For a tendon fibril like me, Urbana 12 is the perfect chance to connect with so many others in the body of Christ. I look forward to reuniting with friends from InterVarsity Leadership Institute at Cedar Campus, and networking with the mission agencies represented.

How incredible to imagine—a unified gathering of muscle, bone and every other body part—people with all different functions and origins! I know that if I am open to being stretched God can use me to form links in Christ’s body I never would have imagined.

God has placed each part of his body just where he wants it (1 Corinthians 12). Though we are many, we form one body. We are Christ’s body, united in community and communion with Christ. May we embody Christ to our world!

~Originally published Sept 4, 21012 on InterVarsity’s “Go and Do” blog for Urbana 2012 (see the original article)