October 15, 2008

Book Review: A Gentle Wind of God

A Gentle Wind of GodRichard K. MacMaster and Donald R. Jacobs, A Gentle Wind of God: The Influence of the East Africa Revival (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2006), 403 pp.

As I prepare to serve Christ in Uganda, I am continually seeking to better understand Christianity in East Africa. Upon the advice of Dr. Solomon Nkesiga from Kampala Evangelical School of Theology (KEST), I have been focusing my research lately on the Balokole and the East Africa Revival. One of the few books readily available in America on this topic, A Gentle Wind of God serves as an introduction to this largely unknown but central movement in Africa and its growing influence in the Western world.

The authors begin their account as the revival begins in Rwanda and then Uganda in the early 1930s. It started with a few men who desired renewal in the Anglican churches in East Africa. They had been deeply impacted by the cross of Christ and desired to live repentant lives in union with their Savior. Their devotion quickly spread throughout the region, causing many to meet together regularly as they grew deeper in their relationships to Christ. Through much opposition and struggles, these Balokole ("the saved ones") continued to expand and meet together, impacting many churches and denominations with their Christ-centered faith.

At the same time, the revival not only took hold among Africans--many Western missionaries were deeply affected as well. They took the East Africa Revival home through correspondence, return visits, and ministry opportunities. This was especially true of many Mennonite missionaries serving in Tanzania and elsewhere. As a result, this book devotes a great deal of space to the influence of the revival in the West. What was the message of the East Africa Revival?
If one were to try to summarize the message of so-called revival, it would be something like this. Come to Jesus with your sins; repent and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ; live in the immediacy of the presence of Jesus, and walk in open fellowship with the brothers and sisters; absorb yourself in the Word of God by life-changing Bible study; allow Jesus Christ to do good deeds through you by the enabling of the Holy Spirit; and witness with word, life, and action that Jesus Christ is the head of the individual and of the body of believers (21).
When reading this book, I couldn't help but be moved by recognizing God's hand at work in East Africa. I have found many new heroes of the faith, including Ugandans such as William Nagenda and Festo Kivengere. I stand in awe of the Holy Spirit, who drew many thousands of people to Christ through this movement. The authors are to be commended for bringing together such a powerful testimony to God's glorious kingdom.

At the same time, I thought the book was somewhat imbalanced. A disproportionate amount was devoted to the transformation of the American Mennonites. It seemed as if the actual revival in East Africa was somewhat glossed over while great detail was included for such Mennonites as the Leathermans and the Mausts. Maybe this was due to the authors being Mennonites and the publishing house being a Mennonite press. Nevertheless, I wanted to read more about what was happening in Africa. Additional balance would have been appreciated.

Nevertheless, I still recommend MacMaster and Jacob's work. America and the West are not the only places where God has blessed His church. Hopefully, many more Christians will come to know and cherish the East Africa Revival.