African voices

African_voices

African Voices, by Mark and Nancy Pitts (Nazarene Publishing House, 2010)

Mark and Nancy Pitts spent 3 years at Africa Nazarene University in educational administration. During that time, they opened up their home to a variety of Nazarene students and leaders from a swath of the African continent.  African Voices (CDs available here) presents profiles of eight leaders and the impact they are having as they serve Christ.

The Pitts did a good job presenting a variety of stories. Two of the leaders interviewed were women clergy (Jackie Mugane and Agnes Ibanda), a reminder that the Church of the Nazarene without apology believes that God calls both women and men to all roles of ministry in the church, both lay and ordained. Other profiles underscored the sacrifices that those whom God calls are willing to make (with their families’ blessing) in order to equip themselves for service. This came through in the story of Chanshi Chanda, who sold his business and for several months lived in humble conditions, awaiting their move to Malawi to begin ministerial studies.

But in all the stories, the emphasis on changed lives and holiness shone through. Sometimes this included the social impact that holiness should have. Ermias Choliye from Ethiopia observed:

“The message of holiness helps in corruption in the government, and it helps in the community to do away with individualism. Some preach prosperity, some preach tradition…but they don’t live like true Christians. When we bring in this living strategy from the teachings, then they accept, [and] the community now opens the door and gives licenses to the Church. So holiness is the full message that we need in life.”

African Voices does raise a question. One leader interviewed (p. 23) claimed 400,000 Nazarenes in a single field. Can this be accurate when the entire Region is composed of just over a half million?

Yet overall, African Voices effectively helps the reader get a glimpse of the passion for Christ that animates many of our African Nazarene leaders. Readers will be inspired to pray for them individually as they push out the boundaries of the Kingdom.

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Making a difference in West Africa

Responding_to_the_Call-thCan one little girl from an obscure village in Côte d’Ivoire make a difference? Read Responding to the Call: The Story of Jacqueline Dje Dje (Nazarene Publishing House, 2013) and you will answer with a resounding “yes.”

Amy Crofford* has written 6 missionary books for NPH, and in some ways, this is the best of the lot. Where other books have centered around the lives and experiences of Western missionaries, this biography revolves around the first ordained French-speaking  female pastor in the Church of the Nazarene in West Africa.

The reader is quickly caught up in young Jacqueline’s quest to fulfill her call from God, setting out in search of a denomination that will allow her to preach and shepherd God’s flock. Obstacles are not easily overcome, but with a patient spirit and a quiet determination, Jacqueline first conquers academic disadvantages to graduate from the Bible Institute. Later, she overcomes longstanding cultural biases, planting a new church and eventually receiving Nazarene ordination as an elder. To discover the moving ending to her story, the reader can find the book here or ask to borrow it from the NMI President at a local Church of the Nazarene near you.

While strong overall, the book has its weaknesses. It’s not clear what connection two profiles of other female African Nazarene pastors have to the main narrative. Also, some missing details will leave the reader in suspense, like the name of a “life changing book” that someone gave Jacqueline. More information, please!

Whatever the book’s flaws, Rev. Jacqueline Dje Dje’s courage shines through. She became a pioneer for other Nazarene women called by God to pastoral ministry. (A French translation of the book is planned). One serendipity is that by presenting the story of a female pastor overseas, perhaps the American Nazarene reader will be more open to considering some of his or her own biases about what gender a Nazarene pastor in the United States should be.

*Full disclosure: The author is married to the owner of this blog.

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Image credit: Nazarene Missions International