This is an independent blog and is not affiliated with any particular church, group or conference. The term Bruderthaler refers to a specific ethnic or cultural Mennonite heritage, not to any particular organized group. All statements and opinions are solely those of the contributor(s). Blog comprises notebook fragments from various research projects and discussions. Dialogue, comment and notice of corrections are welcomed. Much of this content is related to papers and presentations that might be compiled at a future date, as such, this blog serves as a research archive rather than as a publication. 'tag

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Jesus Tribe

    The Jesus Tribe:  Grace stories from Congo’s Mennonites 1912-2012 by editors Rod Hollinger-Janzen, Nancy J. Myers, and Jim Bertsche, all of AIMM, is a refreshing, and frank, account of the establishment, growth and self-sustaining work of the Holy Spirit within the context of the growing Congo Mennonite community.
    The story of the Congo Mennonites is perhaps one of the most dramatic and compelling narratives since the Russian Mennonites’ struggle for survival from 1917 - 1954.    It is a story of faith, courage, danger and sometimes loss – every bit as important and informative as A.P. Toews’ Book of Russian Martyrs.  In fact, it is through books such as The Jesus Tribe that the story of modern evangelical faith begun in the Martyrs Mirror extends to include the mission stations and missionary works our grandparents considered to be an essential aspect of their daily active faith and church missionary commitment.

    The Jesus Tribe helps to answer many basic questions held by members of these churches such as:  Does this all make any difference?  Why should I support and pray for the missions?  and How can I relate to Christians from other cultures? 
    Those prayer warriors whom God has raised up as a special calling can see the impact of their faith in the real life stories of these missionaries and Congolese Christians – from the first converts, through wars and revolutions, to the establishment of their own native missionary and evangelism efforts. 
Africa Inter-Mennonite Missions
    Familiarity with this book’s material also helps communicate and inform discussion regarding the larger issues facing the faith-based missionary and missionary board-oriented conferences and congregations – especially regarding the availability and distribution of resources, how resources are utilized in the field and by the new churches – and how often the smallest or most esoteric gifts, when given in response to the Lord’s prodding, have had the greatest impact on the growth of the Church.
    Perhaps the most significant lesson regards how interrelated the global church is from the sending and supporting congregations to the recipient cultures and how these two groups impact each other’s spiritual lives.
    As for me, I read these short stories to become better acquainted with the world of AIMM – a sort of spiritual geography of the African church and to find ways to better relate to my fellow Christians in their own unique settings.
    A small criticism of the work is that while the maps included in the appendix and the numerous photographs do help me construct a physical understanding and image of the world in which these stories occur, I am totally lost dealing with many of the names of people, tribes and locations.  Future editions would do well to include a basic pronunciation guide, perhaps based on the Biblical guides with which most readers are likely to be familiar – either within the text or casually footnoted on the page.
    I would also recommend that at some point a guide be developed to help pastors, Sunday school teachers and small group leaders effectively integrate these stories as illustrations into their presentations and lessons.  Traditionalist Mennonites have had some success working in this manner with historical resources.  In many ways, the history and story of the missionary churches is that of the Modern Mennonites and deserves to be made similarly accessible.

    The editors of The Jesus Tribe:  Grace stories from Congo’s Mennonites 1912-2012, summarize,

For North American readers, these stories [of the establishment and growth of the Congolese church] constitute a simple primer in the simple practice of prayer, the life-changing impact of scripture and song, and the art of walking humbly by faith and not by sight,” (p xix).

    That is putting it mildly.

    Well, we want to try this Yesu business out here in our village today.  Do you see that corpse over there?  That man died this past night.  Today at sundown, we will bury him as is our custom.  But since your Yesu can raise dead people back to life, we want to see that happen before our eyes today.  We’re going to tie you to that corpse.  Then you can ask your Yesu to bring him back to life.  If he does, we will rejoice and we’ll believe in your Yesu.  But if not, we’ll put you in the grave along with him. …” (p 5).

    “[The store clerk] folded the piece [of cloth] and laid it before her.  When she asked how much she owed, he replied:  “Oh, you don’t need to pay for the cloth today.  Just take it.  Enjoy it.  The next time you come to my store we can discuss your bill.”
    Still in her teens and married less than a year, she instinctively knew that the ingratiating clerk was seeking to lay a trap for her.  If she followed through on his proposal, she knew that when she returned he would invite her to join him the little shuttered room at the back of the store to “settle her account.”
 … “Didn’t you go to purchase a piece of cloth?” [her husband later] asked.
    “Yes, I did.”
    “Didn’t you find anything you liked?”
    “Yes, I did.”
    “Then why didn’t you buy it?”  Davidi asked.
    Maliya replied, “The price was too high.” (p 11-12).

    Gladys seemed to have two or three summer dresses and two or three winter ones.  She always wore the same no-nonsense black shoes.  She wore her hair in long braids wrapped around her head, covering them with a knitted cap in winter.  She seemed shy, rarely initiating conversation.  … Above all, one had the sense that whether because she wanted to or needed to, she pinched her pennies.
    But here were those sheets torn from a tablet with the penciled notes, dating back to the era of economic depression and then war in our country, recording gifts to Congo Inland Mission of many hundreds of dollars!  How was that possible? (p 40).

    Kakesa knew full well that if Mulele chose to consider him a traitor to the rebel cause, he could be put to death before dark.  But dusk fell and there was no summons.  He made his way back to his hut.
    What had stayed the hand of the commander as he looked at Kakesa with his open New Testament in hand? …
    … Asked that question later, Kakesa had a simple answer; “It was the hand of God that restrained him.  I stood between life and death during those moments.  God still had more work for me to do.” (p 86). 

The Jesus Tribe Cover Art (c) Nancy Myers (2012)
    Those prayer warriors whom God has raised up as a special calling can see the impact of their faith in the real life stories of these missionaries and Congolese Christians – from the first converts, through wars and revolutions, to the establishment of their own native missionary and evangelism efforts. 
    Those administrators and missionary chairpersons looking to better understand how scarce resources make real impacts in the daily lives of the mission field can see the impact of their policy-decisions and commitment.

    Pastors, Sunday school teachers and small group leaders will find a new trove of faith-based stories illustrating basic Biblical and lifestyle principles to illustrate sermons, presentations and Sunday school lessons.

    These stories are written to teach by example.  With a little thought, parents will find within these stories ways to connect the mission field, world history and faith principles into their children’s reading and family devotions.

     Just as we have integrated the stories of our own ancestors from the Martyrs Mirror into our church and family traditions, The Jesus Tribe helps impart the world of missionary support and commitment that so defined the worlds of our grandparents and great-grandparents to new generations and help raise up the next shift of laborers and supporters for the Lord’s work.

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