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Resilience through believing

12 October 2012

Alexander Lucie-Smith is refreshed by a good listener

Journey of Hope: Stories of courage and faith from Africa
Jean Gibson
Monarch Books £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10

THERE is so much bad news that comes out of Africa that it is refresh­ing to read a book whose subtitle is Stories of courage and faith from Africa.

The author travelled through Malawi and Kenya in 2011; she had taught in Kenya a decade pre­viously, and was also able to draw on con­tacts made through the Presbyterian missionaries from Ireland who work in both countries. Wherever she went, she listened to people's stories, and this book is the result.

We hear the Africans relating their experience, which may be rather different from what outsiders may assume their experience to be. The story of Kasoni, a Samburu woman in Kenya, is very instructive. She resists female genital mutilation (FGM), not because it is painful and dangerous to health (which are the usual Western arguments against it), but because she sees it as incom­patible with her Christian faith. And she is prepared, for the sake of the faith, to remain unmarried (for no man will have an uncircumcised woman) and an outcast from her tribe and family. The greatest pres­sure to be "cut" comes from her mother and father.

All Christians in Kenya have campaigned against FGM, but this story is enlightening, because it shows us how the campaign can be won.

The other revelation here is that so much of the work done by missionaries is not material. True, there are things like building bridges over crocodile-infested rivers so that children can get to school; but the Christian faith has also given people the courage to face up to the chal­lenges of life. Africa has an appal-ling road-safety record, sadly, and, in this book, we meet several people bereaved by traffic accidents who, nevertheless, manage to con­tinue their lives in difficult circumstances.

Faith is a great gift, and, unlike material aid, it never goes to waste.

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