THE AFRICA REVIEW IN FIVE: Al-Qaeda releases Elliot, More dead bodies in Kenya, Lesotho gun laws, 100-hour Cook-a-thon in Nigeria

7DD26B0A-4952-4669-A22D-2191DEF32F43The Africa Review in Five (TARIF) highlights African current affairs from a Christian perspective. Nobody should take history more seriously than Christians because we are to remember the “wonderful works that He has done” (Ps. 78:4). But we must also apply the right worldview filter to historical accounts and news reports (shorter term histories). That filter is God’s Word. Scripture commends the sons of Issachar because they were able to discern the times (1Chr. 12:32).

Twice a week, TARIF will help the church, the family and the community see African affairs from a Christ-centered perspective. Listen and subscribe through Youtube, Apple podcasts, or Spotify.


Today is Friday, May 26, A.D. 2023. This is The African Review in Five, written by Paul Schlehlein and presented by Yamikani Katunga.

Missionary Returned

After seven years of captivity, Australian missionary Ken Elliot was released to his family this past week. The 88-year old husband and his wife Joyce have been medical missionaries in Burkina Faso since the 1970s. According to the BBC, they established a 120-bed clinic in the northern city of Djibo where he was the only surgeon in the area. For nearly five decades Elliot performed thousands of operations and offered free medical care to the community. Continue reading

Ten Things I Love About Tsongas

I have lived among the Tsonga-speaking people for the past fifteen years. All of our neighbors are Tsonga. All of our children’s closest friends are Tsonga. All of our church members are Tsonga. Virtually all of my ministerial experience has been among the Tsongas. All of my seven children have been born amidst them. Here are ten things I love about Tsonga culture.

  1. Laughter. Tsongas will laugh until their back teeth show. In general they are happy to laugh at themselves. They laugh in greetings. They laugh at funerals. They laugh at foreigners trying to speak Tsonga. An interesting phenomenon is that robust laughing sometimes makes their legs lose power, so that they begin leaning on each other or falling to the ground. Conversely, robust laughing sometimes makes their legs gain power, so that they start running to and fro. 
  2. Greetings. The ladies will often curtsy or kneel. The men will almost always greet, considering it rude if you get down to business without first exchanging pleasantries. You often must sit before greeting. You must say “How are you” to everyone individually. There are no bulk greetings. 
  3. Singing. Tsongas, like many African tribes, use a “call and respond” method of singing. One person, often a lady, will start the first line of the song and the rest will follow. Gifted male singers have a handsome deep sound that is difficult to duplicate. Churches and funerals often use over half the service for singing. 
  4. Funerals. In funerals, Tsongas live and move, and have their being. Funerals are a central part of African life. Among other things, it is a great way to reconnect with family and friends. They spare no expense at funerals, regardless of personal income. They’ll purchase niceties such as huge portions of food, tents, limos and marching bands. I love preaching at funerals. It provides an audience I would never have in church. 
  5. Ku heleketa. Tsongas almost never part ways in the home or at the doorstep. They walk you out of the gate and often down the road as you return home. Often I’ve had men walk me back to my house a km away. This makes me wonder–am I now to walk them back home? This could go on forever. I like this custom because it’s as if they’re not quite ready for you to leave. “[Jesus] acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, ’Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So he went to stay with them.” (Lk. 24:28-29).
  6. Language. Tsonga has made this missionary’s life easier by keeping difficult sounds to a minimum. There are almost no clicks in Tsonga and only a few sounds absent in English (“sw”, “v”, “q”, rolled “r”). Sure, Tsonga is limited in some ways, but there is much it can do. For example, unlike English, each Tsonga noun is assigned a concord, making the pronoun “it” less ambiguous. Tsonga also has two Bible versions, one modern and the other archaic. 
  7. Memory. As an oral culture less dependent on the written word, Tsongas have an uncanny ability to remember things. I may say that such and such took place a few years ago. They’ll say: “Such and such happened in September 2012.” They seem to recall with precision objective facts like names, phone numbers and dates. 
  8. Colors. Formal Tsonga dress is full of bright reds, blues, yellows, purples and greens. The women often wear some kind of head covering. Their formal skirt is called a shibelana, which, when unfurled, is about 6 meters long! Uniforms are also common at churches and funerals. Tsongas like to match clothing at dances too. 
  9. Children. Though the family sizes are shrinking, Tsongas still love children. My social standing in the village grows with each child we have. They love to hear each one of the children’s names in Tsonga. Having many children is still a great honor for Tsonga men and women. It’s common for Tsongas to talk to my kids before they talk to me. Xivongo xa kula, they say. Your surname is growing.
  10. Demeanor. Tsongas are not fighters like some other South African tribes. They are humble, friendly and peaceable. They are one of the smaller tribes in South Africa and often maligned. When speaking to another language group in a neutral setting, Tsongas are much more willing to greet and speak the other person’s language.

Social Justice and Sola Scriptura

The first thing a biblical counselor does with couples facing marital problems is learn the facts. He gathers data. He doesn’t go immediately to Scripture. He doesn’t show Mr. and Mrs. Smith where and how they must clean up their lives because, at this point, he doesn’t know what the problem is.

Giving Scriptural advice on adultery and porn doesn’t help a couple struggling with poor finances and dishonesty. A priori assumptions on the supposed problem could lead to counsel far, far worse.

Ready, Fire, Aim

Sola Scriptura doesn’t mean Christians are not in need of other information. It means that Scripture is the only unfailing source for faith and practice. Everything God requires of us is given in Scripture (2Pe 1:3). We must never add or take away from the Word (Rev 22:18-19). Sola Scriptura means it carries the only hope for the Smith’s marriage problems. But without the facts, it’s of much less help.

If this inerrant Scripture is not aimed at the proper prey, disaster will follow. What good is “judge not” if aimed at an unrepentant church member? What good is “preach the Word” if pointed at a teen-aged girl? Ready, fire, aim, is not a good model for Christians.

What about Social Justice?

Apply this to Social Justice. Before we can open our Bibles to address what it says about institutionalized racism, wouldn’t it be best to determine if institutionalized racism even exists? If the answer is yes, then a little history lesson is in order. Before we lecture Joseph on the sin of rape and and before we comfort Potipher’s wife with the Psalms of lament, we better know what actually happened in the courtyard. Just because Joseph was innocent in Genesis doesn’t mean Amnon is innocent in 2 Samuel. Learn the facts. Continue reading

Voddie Baucham on Race and Black Lives Matter

This morning in a Zoom teleconference, Voddie Baucham addressed about 80 men on matters of race and the Black Lives Matter movement. Most of those in attendance were men in the ministry and residing in South Africa.

What Dr. Baucham said was wise, humble, and insightful, so I want to summarize the main ideas of his talk below. I typed as he spoke and got the crucial points. I’ll follow this with a sentence or two of my own in red. Continue reading

One Reason the Corona Virus is Good

Though the Corona Virus has caused immeasurable pain and suffering, can it also be good? Does COVID-19 have a moral benefit? Yes. Trials are good because suffering always teaches us something about the nature of God, our sin, or the world. Thomas Brooks:

“The humble soul sees the rod in his Father’s hand; but also the honey on the top of every twig. He sees sugar at the bottom of the bitterest cup, and knows that God’s house of correction is a school of instruction.”

So if trials are a school of instruction and Corona is a trial, what is it that God wants to teach us? What is the light at the end of the Corona tunnel? What good comes from death, gutted retirement funds, and cancelled activities?

Scriptures gives us dozens of ways why suffering is good. Here is one example. Trials help us see God as sovereign over all things. Continue reading

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Other Transgender Objections

The reason biblical, clear-headed ministers of the gospel have so badly erred on the homosexual and transgender issues of today is because the world has increased the heat on the sexual revolution without the church realizing it has come to a boil.

How could so many Presbyterians and Baptists of the previous century—men who would have gone to the gallows to protect the inerrancy of Scripture—support slavery? How could those with down-the-line orthodoxy reinforce Jim Crow laws? It is because these were the socially acceptable sins of the day and they were too timid to stand against the tide of popular sentiment. So too is homosexuality and transgenderism in our modern world. What was needed most then is what is needed now. Courage. Continue reading

The Not-So-Difficult Transgender Debate

Recently I spoke with a military chaplain who has a transgender soldier in his unit who identifies as a woman. The serviceman has gone through the hormonal and surgical procedures. Should the chaplain use the male or female name? What is the loving thing to do?

My purpose here is not to argue men are made men and women, women. Scripture is unmistakable and even in our crazy modern world, most evangelicals still agree. The confusion seems to rest on how Christians should address the transgender. In fact, many pastors in the chaplain’s conservative denomination were split on what to do.

Some Straw Men

Before we begin, let me give a few disclaimers. First, we’re not talking about scenarios of ignorance. If Mrs. Smith asks for the cereal and I say “in aisle three, ma’am”, I’m not complicit in the lie when I learn later it was actually Mr. Smith to whom I was talking. Because Scripture considers motive in moral acts, the scenario in paragraph one does not fit this description. Continue reading

Hacking Abortion to Pieces

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-9-09-43-amThe US President recently decided America would no longer fund Africans to kill their babies. With so many Marie Stopes clinics around the continent, it’s not surprising many have cried foul.

An article in a South African newspaper this week contends this will only cause more unsafe abortions and death. They imply the serene and safe confines of abortion clinics will now give way to abortions with clothes hangers in back alleys.

Christians must take these old, tired arguments, drag them into the light and—like Samuel did to Agag—cut them to pieces. If this is what abortion doctors do to the unborn, Pro-lifers should do the same toward such paltry reasoning.

So here are a couple of brief ways to answer. First, this argument only stands if babies in the womb are blobs of tissue. The central issue of the abortion debate is this: are the unborn human beings? Pro-Life and Pro-Choice sit on each side of the seesaw that rests on this Great Fulcrum. If the answer is yes, the unborn are humans, then every argument for abortion falls away. What about abortion due to incest? No, because we don’t kill 10 year-olds born from incest. What about rape? No, because we don’t kill senior citizens born from rape. What about personally Pro-Life but politically Pro-Choice? This was the argument of Pontius Pilate, but no one is politically pro-murder. We don’t kill humans, period.

Second, it is illogical to legalize a wicked procedure just to make it safer. Armed robbery is dangerous, but we don’t remove the security guards so thieves can take the money unarmed. We don’t legalize rape to make it less dangerous.

Abortion is a terror. Making it legal doesn’t change that.

South Africa and the Insanity of Abortion

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-5-21-55-pmThe words of Job’s friend millennia ago are just as relevant for today’s South Africa.

A stupid man will get understanding when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man! (Job 11:12)

This statement was an ancient absurdity—akin to our modern-day “that’ll happen when hell freezes over.” A dimwit won’t become wise any more than a wild donkey can bear a human child. Donkeys are lowly beasts. Humans are image-bearers. Only a cretin could miss that, right? Continue reading

A Call for Biracial Banquets

thumb_image-10-20-16-at-5-25-pm_1024The wall of animosity between South African whites and blacks has shrunk since the formal fall of apartheid in 1994. Government has tried to mandate equality, but only the gospel of Christ can bring true unity.

My experience in Africa has taught me that among the last dominoes to fall in unifying Christians of different races is not church membership but table fellowship. In the pews, the votes may count the same, but around the dinner table, we are more like Joseph’s court:

They served him by himself…because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians”(Gn. 43:32).

For many white believers, it is a bridge too far to have blacks equally, joyfully, and freely join them at table. We coddle our conscience: “But the foods, manners, tastes are too different.” Maybe. Maybe not. But even if we grant the former, is not a change in menu or method but a small price for unity? As John Flavel said, “If you take away union, there can be no communion.” And if there is no communion outside the church walls, can we really argue for unity within them? Continue reading

Carnage in South Africa

* A column I wrote in last week’s Zoutpansberger newspaper in Makhado, South Africa.

The greatness of a culture is determined by what it loves and hates most. If the sordid abortion advertisements that litter our town are any indication, our culture isn’t worth much.

The newspapers this past week spoke of the carnage on the road due to Easter weekend. We mourn the dozens who passed away. But what of the carnage in today’s abortion mills, where hundreds and thousands of children in South Africa are killed each year? Where is the public outrage on behalf of the unborn from a town where the majority claims to be Christian and Muslim?

What is worse, such killings are advertised in bright colors—papers by the thousands slapped on every stop sign and light post. Sleazy advertising for a sleazy profession.

The promise is that the procedure will be “pain free”, but being pain free doesn’t change the fact that abortion kills children. We don’t admire a man who chooses not to torture his wife, but instead kills her painlessly in her sleep. The tragedy remains.

These young girls are guaranteed “body cleaning”, as though what is vacuumed out is just tissue. She’s told she has the right to do this because the blob is only a part of her body, as though a loaf of bread is a part of the oven since it is baked inside.

I respect the doctors in this town who refuse to perform abortions, who swear by the Hippocratic Oath, and who refuse to hide behind aliases like “Dr. Vicky” and “Dr. Eddie.”

We ease our conscious by calling it a fetus, for the B-word (baby) would make us cringe. But the child inside is a baby no matter what we call it. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, the poet said. A baby by any other name is still a baby. Everyone knows that to break a chicken egg before it hatches is to kill the chick. What is it, then, to perform an abortion?

Some may argue: “It is the law of the land, get over it.” But I challenge you to think differently.

(1) Unjust laws should be overturned. We learned this with apartheid. Or did we?

(2) Speak compassionately with those considering an abortion. There are alternatives.

(3) When you see such an advertisement, throw it in the trash, and let your children see you do it.

(4) For the pastors and community leaders among us, you must not hold back the truth on this matter, regardless if there is not consensus in your assembly. Teach in such a way to create a consensus.

The Magisterium of Catholics, Muslims, and Presbyterians

I recently heard a debate between two Catholics on the topic: “The Only Good Muslim is a Bad Muslim.” Peter Kreeft argues that Protestants and Muslims are the same in the sense that neither has a central magisterium as Catholics do.
I beg to differ.
I have found in my studies of Islam that Hadith literature is very similar in its breadth and authority over the Muslim as the pope and papal bulls have authority over the Catholic. And my formal studies at a Reformed seminary has made me wonder once or twice if Presbyterians view Calvin as Catholics view John Paul. I admit, there is slight tongue in cheek here, but just a little. To really substantiate a point, a quote from Calvin will always do.
Here’s an example. In a book I read recently on four views of the Lord’s Supper, the Reformed chapter quotes Calvin at least 36 times, only references Scripture twice and doesn’t quote a single word of Scripture until the very last sentence.
I love the doctrines of grace. I also love the Protestant’s historic embrace of sola scriptura, in which an authoritative tradition and an authoritative passage of God’s Word have as much in common as rhapsody and rap. But if Catholics like to quote the Vatican and Protestants the Bible, why so much Calvin from Presbyterians?
Don’t say I’m hatin’, I’m just debatin’,
If peeps at home, like popes in Rome
See Calvin’s dogma, like ex cathedra.
I say all of this because I’ve just finished reading the first couple chapters of To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Missional Vision and Legacy and have wondered if this will be another Praise Fest of John Calvin. The author paints him as a universally maligned man, like the Protestant version of George Zimmerman, but I’m not so sure that Calvin isn’t more chided these days as he is lauded. As one writer recently said, if you’re not a Calvinist these days, you’re inconsequential. Haykin’s grudge against Calvin’s bad press sounds like the athlete who received one comment of negativity and proceeded on his “no one respects me, it’s me against the world’ rant.
I’m not saying Calvin these days is yoga pants. But he’s not bell bottoms either.

Three Theses on Poverty

With so much talk these days about social ministry, my thoughts turned there again after reading chapter seven in Theology and Practice in Mission entitled “The Gospel and Social Responsibility” by Sean Cordell. I walked away from the book with at least three conclusions about poverty.

1. Christians should know that the causes of poverty are vast and often moral.

Many who speak of poverty issues today are only concerned that someone is poor, rarely wondering why they are that way. At least Cordell tries on page 95, but he could have given more. He lists natural disasters, laziness, and oppression as causes but understates how much Scripture talks about sin as the source of poverty. Does this chapter and other popular evangelical books like When Helping Hurts just not know about these other passages? Are they naïve to the world’s depravity? Or are they unknowingly parroting today’s party line that poverty is always the result of something outside of us and not from within?

This grieves me because after living within a poor rural African village for eight years my conclusion is that most of the poverty stems from an unbiblical worldview. If my subjective conclusion did not jive with objective Scripture, I would reconsider. Such is not the case. Cordell briefly mentions laziness as a cause of poverty but includes no Scripture references. But the sheer number of passages warning us that laziness is the cause of poverty (Pr. 10:4; 20:4, 13; 24:30-34; Ecc. 4:5), hunger (Prov. 13:4; 19:15; 20:4; 21:25; 2 Thess. 3:10), ruin (Ecc. 10:18), and misery (Ecc. 4:5) should help us conclude that this is a major cause of poverty, not just one of several. Cordell implies this by listing laziness alongside crop failure, a cause of which Scripture rarely speaks.

Scripture in fact tells us that it is a sin to feed the lazy (2 Thess. 3:10). “But what if they starve?” Scripture has already thought of that and warns us not to be duped. “A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on” (Pr. 16:26). Today’s corrupt government systems (and dare I say corrupt church practices) want to rescue lazy people from their poverty by giving them foreign aid, child grants, and handouts and by doing this they dull the pain that God uses to motivate them toward escape. Scripture says the shiftless man goes hungry (Pr. 19:15). The West says the shiftless man goes on welfare.

But laziness is just one of many poverty inducing sins; there is much that could be said of stubborn (Ps. 106:13-15) and prideful hearts (Pr. 13:18). How shocked would you be if an evangelical book said that many people are poor because of self-indulgence? “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man” (Pr. 21:17).

2. Be careful not to define the poor to broadly.

Cordell may have done this in Matthew 25. He overreached when he says “Jesus made it clear that those who are followers of Christ must preach the good news and meet the needs of the poor as well.” (97) His first proof text is Matthew 25, where those who feed and clothe the poor actually do this to Christ (vv. 35-40) and those who neglect this neglect Christ (vv. 41-42). But are the poor in this passage the world’s poor or poor Christians?

The context points to the latter; Jesus speaks of his “brothers” (v.40). This fits in nicely with Galatians 6:10 where we learn that our first priority is toward other believes.

3. It is not unchristian for believing donors to vet those in need of donations.

While wealthy Christians today are made to feel cold and harsh if they set up criteria for those receiving aid, this is exactly what Paul told the early church to do. Needy widows did not get financial help carte blanche. According to 1 Timothy 5, a widow had to be a believer, a church member, and at least sixty years of age.

Martin Meredith in The Fate of Africa entitled one of his chapters “The Lost Decade” because of Africa’s steep economic decline in the 1980’s. In fact, in the 80’s and 90’s alone, Africa received more than $200 billion in foreign aid but was none the richer in the end. Part of the reason was due to corruption, as foreign money slid easily from the rich West into the coffers of unvetted, unrighteous scoundrels. The level of corruption was so noticeable, one Kenyan observed:

We hoped [corruption] would not be rammed in our faces. But it has: evidently the practitioners now in government have the arrogance, greed and perhaps a sense of panic to lead them to eat like gluttons. They may expect we shall not see, or will forgive them, a bit of gluttony because they profess to like Oxfam lunches. But they can hardly expect us not to care when their glutton causes them to vomit all over our shoes.


If a secular author like Meredith can see this, why not the Christians? Why is so little said about the unrighteous causes of poverty and the steps Christians must take in finding the root of physical paucity?

Some Fatherly Thoughts on Disney’s Frozen

I watched Disney’s Frozen with the kids the other day. Since Scripture commands fathers to teach their children even when sitting down (Deut. 6:7), there were several worldview points for the taking.

The movie started out well enough. Half way through, after the queen’s magic was discovered, forcing her to flee the castle, in came the song “Let It Go.” Alone and misunderstood, she bellowed her newfound goal:

To test the limits and break through. No right, no wrong, no rules for me.
 I’m free!

Following the ultimate “you go girl” song, I was fully expecting the next scene to show the previously composed queen marching in slow motion, Metallica playing, hair flowing, miniskirt and barbed wire inked to her bicep. “I’ve been held back long enough,” the thought would go. “Time to embrace who I really am”—whatever the gender or lifestyle may be.

Disney could have gone that route. But since common grace is still a guest at some Hollywood events, Disney declined and the movie progressed nicely. No innuendo or bathroom humor. The guy gets the girl, of course. There are a couple of lessons worth pointing out to children.

The first is that women aren’t stronger than men. Just because, say, someone in the girl’s sorority can beat a guy in arm wrestling over at Beta Phi doesn’t overhaul this point any more than Tom Thumb overhauls the point that men are taller than women. Its just the way it is. First Peter 3:7 tells us that husbands should honor their wives as the weaker vessel, the latter phrase meaning that women are physically and emotionally weaker than men, not that men are better than women. A sledgehammer is not more valuable than a teacup, just of better use breaking concrete and of no use at showing hospitality.

Frozen didn’t overdo this like most women superhero flicks these days, but there was still enough to make the eyes roll. The 105-pound princess pulls her hulk boyfriend up a mountain. She lands a haymaker on the bad guy. When the driver tries to protect her from ravenous wolves, she gets angry and ends up saving his life. This only happens in cartoons, kids.

Men should be chivalrous toward women. She’s a vase; he’s a chainsaw. When breaking down a door, don’t ask her to tinker away. Pull out her chair, roll up your sleeves and start the engine. Honor her. Open her door. Give your life for her—every time. Don’t expect her to ask (Jn. 10:18). Jesus gave his life and we’re told to love our bride as he did (Eph. 5:25).

Second, Disney is correct that only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart. Jesus is the ultimate example. Just as the queen inflicted her kin with an icy heart, so Adam our father (Rom. 5:12) passed down to us a heart that is dead set against God (1 Cor. 2:14). We need new hearts (Ez. 36:26) and Jesus accomplished this by the greatest act of true love—his death on the cross for sinners (Rom. 5:8).

Sam I’m Not: How Fathers Should FEEL About Homosexuality

With the media aglow about the first open homosexual being drafted into the NFL, how should Christians feel? The powers that be haven’t hidden their giddiness. Good luck trying to Google “Michael Sam” and finding anything in opposition. President Obama called it “an important step forward.” And woe to anyway who dares protest. After Sam kissed his boyfriend on national TV, a Dolphins player was immediately slapped with a fine after he tweeted “OMG” and “horrible”. In the US media, all intolerance of homosexuality is now verboten. 

Homosexuality is called an “abomination” in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and any Hebrew dictionary will tell us that the basic meaning of this word is an “abominable, detestable, offensive thing.” In fact, Leviticus 18 lists a number of sins (e.g. incest, adultery, child sacrifice, bestiality) but “abomination” is mentioned only in reference to homosexual intercourse. This no doubt points to the revulsion associated with homosexuality. Plainly then, not all sins are created equal.

As gay activists Kirk and Madsen have said, “almost any behavior begins to look normal if you are exposed to enough of it.” Indifference is the first step. Opposing homosexuality with our personal choices (“I personally would never do that”) but not our emotions (“Hey, everyone can do their own thing”) is the one thing we must not do. When homosexuality is paraded on TV and celebrated in textbooks, our children should see anger on our faces, tears in our eyes, and fear for our country. But when Dad “ho-hum” flips the channel, shall we really expect our families to conclude: that was a detestable thing in God’s sight!”

The first question is not: is it hate speech to oppose homosexuality? Rather, the question is: are the words we say true? Because lesbians effectively argue that a father is irrelevant, and because gay men likewise argue that a mother is unnecessary, and because homosexuality is destructive to the home and society, our urgent resistance is far from hateful. It is loving.

Of course we are to love homosexuals, interact with them, and seek their conversion. “God Hates Fags” is not the way to win them. But just as loving the zoo should never lessen our repugnance of man with beast sex, so should loving our neighbor not weaken our abhorrence of man with man sex either.