Tag Archives: speaking

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.


Matilda: The Truest Fiction (Spoken Word + Video)

Matilda cover4Watch the video on YouTube or read the poem below.
*trigger warning: child abuse*

What if I told you
That Roald Dahl didn’t write Matilda –
Matilda did.

She could read nearly as soon as she could talk,
So no one was surprised when she grew up to become an author.

Believe with me for a moment that
she tried several times to write an autobiography
but it was too painful to share.

So instead she created Roald Dahl,
wrote his autobiographies “Boy” and “Going Solo”
which of course were realistic fiction.

Next she tried to reach out to her younger self,
With stories of villains vanquished by children.
Stories with lots of funny bits, like children’s books ought to have.

But when a boy came over for tea
from what she would later call Crunchem Hall Primary School,
She realized children needed to hear her story.
She decided to write fictionalized reality.

The headteacher who tested students on their times tables
And insisted on perfect cleanliness
would be called Miss Trunchbull.

Yes, people would be caricatures with labels for names
like Miss Honey the teacher and Mr. Wormwood the car salesman crook.
The kid readers would never wonder who was bad or good
Because Miss Trunchbull would never put on charity fairs or give scholarships
and the parents would be nasty and dumb.

The horror of the headteacher’s office
Would not be rumors of what he did to little boys there
It would be something concrete,
a cement cupboard lined with objects that pricked you.

And since teachers couldn’t stop the menace,
Matilda’s burning anger would become a magic power
She would save the kids and send Miss Trunchbull away for good.

Of course, in real life there was no magic.

Just because Matilda could read books on the top shelf
Didn’t mean she could reach them.
Even as the cleverest student in the class
Her brainpower produced no miracles or even cunning plots
Only test scores that made Crunchem Hall look good
And a tendency to distrust her feelings.
And no matter how her eyes burned with anger
She couldn’t lift a finger,
much less levitate a piece of chalk to write threats from a ghost.

But write…
maybe she could write
words powerful enough to right wrongs.

Miss Trunchbull got away with outrageous evil
Precisely because parents found it unbelievable
Truth is stranger than fiction, Matilda learned,
So call it a story if you want people to listen
Peddle lighthearted darkness.

Yes, she could write a comedy
where everything was obvious
and the vulnerable were protected by mysterious forces beyond their control
she could write it for the children
perhaps not an autobiography, strictly speaking,
but it’s what she would have wanted to hear.

She hoped
that some precocious child who escaped to the library
would find her book on the shelf
would laugh at Matilda’s pranks
would know that justice wins in the end.

What if Matilda could save some kids yet?
Invite them to believe something so strange it might be true
That life is a comedy
That children’s books always have a happy ending.

… or in that case, what if Matilda wouldn’t have to save them?
Characters are not responsible for meting out poetic justice.
The author of the children’s stories would give them happy endings.
Mysterious forces protect the vulnerable
And I hear God’s in the business of saving.

What if I told you
the story isn’t over yet
but I know it will end well.
Believe with me for a moment.

What if I told you
The truest fiction I know how
Would you believe me?


Holy Week Women (Spoken Word Video)

Cover Hannah RasmussenIn preparation for Easter, I’m asking: how the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection relate to mine?

Through spoken word, I tell how God gave women big roles in the first Passover, Good Friday and Easter – but we don’t always hear the whole story.

Click these links to watch the video or read the words.

This is part of my group guide for young adults curious about gender and the Bible, which Christians for Biblical Equality is publishing this year. Let me know if you’re interested to learn more.


Don’t Be Afraid to Be Big, Women

MicrophoneDon’t be afraid to be big, women.

That’s what I learned at a conference this weekend.

Women are taught to be small. Tomorrow, pay attention to how women walk, sit and stand compared to men. You’ll notice women take smaller steps with their hands closer to their sides, cross their legs, fold their hands in their laps. Men are more likely to swing their arms when they walk, stretch out their legs, drape their arm over the seat next to them. And of course, mainstream American media portrays thin women as the ideal. We women aren’t supposed to take up space with our bodies.

We’re not supposed to draw attention to ourselves in other ways, either. American girls’ achievement, particularly in math and science, starts dropping off in middle school. They think boys won’t be interested in someone smarter than them. Churches encourage women to serve – but often behind-the-scenes, in the kitchen or the nursery – somewhere they won’t take center stage.

Women who go big risk being hurt. If a woman tries to be a politician, the media puts her in her place by commenting more on her outfits than her policies. As a teenager, I walked with a fast stride and a swagger. A boy in my class told me I “bounce” too much. “Look who’s talking!” I said, rather rudely. He replied, “I’m a guy. I’m allowed to do that.” In middle school, I was bumped up a grade in math class. When we played boys-versus-girls dodge ball, suddenly I was the target.

So women are afraid to be a big deal. We’re told that we’re only worthy of the love we can attract. Maybe, we think, people would love us better if we faded so far into invisibility that we were hardly there.

But this weekend was different. I watched a woman present her research on sexuality. I learned multilingual worship songs from a woman who has led worship for tens of thousands of people. I listened to a woman discuss her dissertation with one of the premier professors in her field, another woman. I clapped for a woman publicly honored with an award from the Pope himself.

These women were a big deal. To paraphrase Proverbs 31, they spoke and sang with wisdom, they did noble things (vv. 26, 29). And you know what was beautiful? We recognized them for it. By letting these women shine and recognizing their accomplishments, we honored each woman for all that her hands had done. We let her works – not just her looks – bring her praise at the city gate (vv 31).

These women inspired and included me. I was the youngest woman at the conference, but a CBE member invited me to sit with her at lunch. Another woman complimented my presentation and urged me to attend next year. Like Paul encouraging Timothy, they reminded me to not to neglect my own gifts, but to fan them into flame (1 Tim 4:14, 2 Tim 1:6).

Women, it’s not selfish to excel in the gifts God gave you. It’s good stewardship. It’s your unique service to the world and to the next generation.

After all, you’re already a big deal. You’re made in the image of a big God.

~Originally published July 2, 2014 on Christians for Biblical Equality’s blog (link)