Tag Archives: mission

Destined to edit books for the church in Africa


Our missionary family “prayer card” – about a year after my salvation

Last month, I moved into a new associate acquisitions editor position at Oasis International. Over the weekend, I realized that God has been preparing me for this for twenty years!

I moved to Tanzania as a two-year-old and grew up there as a missionary kid. When I was four – exactly twenty years ago this weekend – I decided to follow Jesus. I don’t remember it, but my dad recently unearthed his old journal and came across the night I became a Christian. Earlier this year I noticed the file on my computer, realized this would be twenty years, and decided to celebrate my “re-birthday.” So I read over what my dad had written:

October 22, 1996        Hannah is 4

Dear Hannah,

I want to write this now for you to read later so you can remember what happened tonight. Tonight at bed time you wanted to read your Swahili book and they you wanted to read a book that your Sunday school teacher at the PEFA church next door gave you awhile back. (We had never read it before.) It was in English even though he only speaks Swahili. It was about heaven and hell and a little African boy named Mutu having salvation explained to him. You and I had talked about heaven and that Jesus died for us and what that means.

My dad writes that he explained the gospel in four-year-old terms and we prayed for my salvation.

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Mutu’s story might have come from this Christian bookstore in my hometown in Tanzania

I shared this story with a friend, who noticed, “Books have been part of your story from the beginning.”

“Wow, I never thought about that. This was even before I was reading on my own. But I guess they have!”

And as I thought about it more, I realized that it wasn’t just any book. It was a Christian book written in English, contextualized for Africa, distributed to me through a local pastor. It was exactly the literature that Oasis creates and distributes! Jesus saved this little American-African missionary kid through the same work that I do now!


Editing Christian literature for Africa from my office in Nairobi, Kenya

From there, God weaved the rest of the story together: The second-grade teacher who told me I’d become a writer. The pastoring grandparents who always gave me Christian books for my birthday. The many childhood visits to village churches. My preteen years on a seminary campus where my friends biked to the bookstore for candy, browsed the shelves, and made our faith our own. The last-minute English major in college and the unexpected call to ministry. An Oasis job opening after graduation asking me to move back home to Kenya – literally to my parents’ house. Getting sick of Pulitzer winners and discovering African fiction. Multiple people randomly telling me last summer that I should go into acquisitions editing.

How does God do it? Not only saving me and continuing to affirm our relationship as I grew up, but designing the way I was saved to chart my destiny? I’m so in awe. I felt like I stumbled into this path, but what a comfort that God has known all along where we’re going!

So all I do is echo Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

The church in Africa deserves to be heard


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).


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.

The Place God Calls You: Published in the Presbyterian Outlook


Family members warned me of Macalester’s secular reputation. It’s true that the religious community is small. But this has been the best imaginable environment for my spiritual growth. After all, a mustard seed is small too.

Applicants seek out colleges with a low student-to-faculty ratio, where professors invest in their students one-on-one. At my school, I benefited from the ratio of Christian student leaders to mentors. Toward the end of my first year, all the leaders of the Christian group were graduating or going abroad. So our group chose me to be president as a rising sophomore. My mentor encouraged me to attend leadership training for the month of July. To complete the leadership training, I had to craft a speech envisioning our group’s future. I panicked. Our tiny group didn’t even have a current email account, much less a vision statement.

Adding my homemade Macalester pennant to the leadership camp's collection

Adding my homemade Macalester pennant to the leadership camp’s collection

Then I researched the college’s Presbyterian roots. The context breathed life into the school’s four pillars: scholarship, service to society, internationalism and multiculturalism. I resurrected the founder’s vision instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. When I returned to campus, I told our Christian group how each of the four pillars had God as its foundation — seeking God’s truth, serving like Jesus, making disciples of all nations and displaying heaven’s diversity on earth.

I realized that if my mission was tied to Macalester’s, my voice on campus mattered — and not just in the Christian community. I found myself quoting the Macalester website: “Global citizenship begins with responsible and reflective local engagement.” So I began putting down roots here.

I became a resident assiScreen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.24.11 PMstant. I spoke up at a community forum about how sexist and anti-religious sports cheers made me feel. I assessed academic advising with a faculty task force. I was even invited to present a poem to the entire first year class during orientation about finding home in spiritual community. Discovering my values in the college’s history empowered me to be a leader in its present.

But Macalester has not simply prepared me for on-campus leadership. Since day one, my involvement with Macalester’s Lilly Program on service and vocation has stretched me to engage with the Twin Cities. I gathered with other students to teach English to elderly Somali women, tutor third-graders in an after-school program and discuss vocation. My second year, I facilitated volunteering and reflection.

The chaplain who founded the Lilly Program drew from Presbyterian theologian Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” As a missionary kid, I’d heard of callings, but had spent little time reflecting on my own calling. This past summer, I lived in an intentional community called the Lilly House. All 10 of us residents explored our vocation through a summer internship and dinner discussions. I interned at a local church that sponsors seven different ethnic congregations, coordinating intercultural celebrations and social justice work. At the encouragement of another mentor, I also presented my experiences at a discernment retreat.

With the support of family, friends and mentors, I receive an award for living out Macalester's 4 pillars

With the support of family, friends and mentors, I receive an award for living out Macalester’s 4 pillars

Up to this point, my experiences had seemed disconnected. Then I started listing them in my journal. Residents in my dorm relied on me for support, as did several friends struggling with mental health. Our Christian group needed a leader again, so I had stepped in. I read Christian books and wrote a youth group curriculum in my free time. I met weekly with a rabbi to learn Hebrew and a Christian thinker to study theology. I apprenticed and then interned at my church. Our school lost two chaplains within a few months. Heartbroken students protested. Then, I received an email that our head chaplain was leaving for another position. Reflection helped me piece together these experiences, step back and see my call. I realized the world was hungering for spiritual leadership. As I had responded to these needs, I had unwittingly discovered my deep gladness.

A school of 2,000 may be an unlikely place to grow world changers. But we have alumni like Kofi Annan and Walter Mondale. Margaret Mead’s quote seems especially applicable to Macalester: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

The mustard seed found its roots. It grew bushy branches. It found its calling. So it called to burdened birds: come and rest.

Reprinted with permission of the Presbyterian Outlook (view on their website).