To Africa with Love
by E. H. Wendland
In 1962, Pastor E. H. Wendland was commissioned as a missionary to central Africa. This book, published in 1974, sums up his theology, methodology, and missiology. It talks about the difficulties and blessings of preaching Christ in a changing culture and a sometimes dangerous place. The back of the book includes a number of short stories of things that happened to him and fellow missionaries as they sought to preach the Gospel.
I’m honestly disappointed in this book. I feel that perhaps Wendland was tasked to write a book about his time as a missionary, and he was given instructions in what to include. Rather than go deep in any area, this book feels like it’s an inch deep in vast waters. None of it is bad. None of it is false. And yet, I feel like I didn’t get to learn a whole lot, nor that he went in depth in any one thing.
Now, it may be that since I’ve already received training and have experience as a pastor, much of what he wrote was old news. Perhaps a layman reading this book would find it the perfect depth. I confess that. Yet, throughout, I wanted more information on pretty much any one subject. Wendland often will talk about generalities, but often seems to refrain from specific stories to illustrate. I do understand the need to be careful about what you share, but it made much of it harder to grasp. I find as I think about my reading that I recall his specific stories at the end of the book much better than most of the text! (more…)
Of Other Gods and Other Spirits
by E. H. Wendland
E. H. Wendland served as a missionary, stationed in Lusaka, Zambia, during the 1960’s and 70’s. In this book, he speaks of what he’s discovered of the people he was sent to share Jesus with. He focuses on their culture and religion, talking about both good and ill. As he goes through, he shares many excellent evangelism principles. Short chapters address the general attitude toward religion, spirituality, marriage, children, and so on. Wendland constantly returns to Scripture to guide his discussion, always trying to find the best way to share Jesus.
I’m currently also reading the Confessions (you’ll hear more on that in upcoming weeks!), so I wanted to grab something short and sweet. This slim book was certainly a fast read, but it’s anything but shallow! As I read, more and more quotes popped out at me.
When speaking about the necessity for the African church to stand on its own, to be self-supporting, Wendland writes, “A church can be ever so self-supporting, yet if it is simply a carbon copy of something soming [sic] out of another culture, a mimicry of expressions from another society, the local people will never really feel at home in it” (87). Should the African church look like the churches that planted it? Should it look European, or should it be its own thing? Wendland clearly advocates that it should find its own way – though in context, he clearly intends that it stays in Scripture and base what they do in what God has clearly spoken in the Bible: “Lutheran World Federation members were similarly reminded not to start with culture, but with Scripture, not to look for an ‘African theology,’ but a ‘theology in an African setting’” (89). (more…)