More Information
ISBN: 9781839732713
Imprint: Langham Global Library
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 13
Publication Date: 30/09/2021
Pages: 240
Series: Global Perspectives Series
Language: English

Unless a Grain of Wheat

A Story of Friendship between African Independent Churches and North American Mennonites


For six decades, North American Mennonites have walked alongside African Independent Churches (AICs) as they have navigated their faith journey between the ancient traditions of the ancestors and the newer claims of Christ upon their lives. The story of these relationships is a fascinating pilgrimage in partnership, offering hope for a mutuality that slips the knots of colonialism and testifies to the unifying power of the Holy Spirit.

Beginning with a historical overview by missiologist Wilbert R. Shenk, this volume contains the reflections of over fifty AIC and Mennonite colleagues concerning the significance and impact of this long-standing partnership. Their stories illustrate the disparate threads of a sixty-year experiment in shared endeavor, while offering insight into the history of the church and missions in Africa. This book is a powerful account of mutual learning, forgiveness, and growth. It is an excellent resource for lovers of story, students of post-colonialism and indigenous Christianity, and all those concerned with building relationships across cultural and racial divides.

Author Bios

Thomas A. Oduro
(Edited By)
THOMAS A. ODURO is an associate professor of Christian History, Systematic Theology, and African Christianity at Good News Theological Seminary, Accra, Ghana. He has a PhD in Christian History from Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, and has served in church ministry and leadership for over thirty years, currently in a pastoral role with Christ Holy Church International.
Jonathan P. Larson
(Edited By)

JONATHAN P. LARSON is a Mennonite minister, writer, and teacher whose adult life has been spent in ministry in the USA and Central and Southern Africa. His many roles included programme director for Mennonite Central Committee in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he worked as a leadership trainer with African indigenous churches for over a decade.

James R. Krabill
(Edited By)

JAMES R. KRABILL served with the Mennonite Board of Missions and Mennonite Mission Network for over forty years, first as a missionary in Europe and Africa, then as director for West Africa, vice president of mission advocacy and communication, and senior executive for global ministries. He has a PhD in Ethnomusicology from the Centre for West African Studies, University of Birmingham, UK, and has written extensively on missions, music, arts, and worship.


The story of Christian Africa has often been told to fit the Western colonial enterprise, erroneously suggesting that Africa’s version was simply the other side of the colonial political coin. In this volume, we have a refreshingly readable account – one that makes good use of oral theologizing – to illustrate how African initiated churches worked with a foreign mission, that is, the Mennonites from North America, as an example of what World Christianity must look like, especially when it comes to theological education as a grassroots collaborative venture. This is a volume that must be on the reading lists of theological institutions that seek to teach mission from a World Church perspective, but with Africa, as one of Christianity’s new heartlands in view.

J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, PhD, FGA
President & Baëta-Grau Professor of African Christianity and Pentecostalism,
Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana

This wonderful volume hosts a chorus of Mennonite and African Initiated Church voices that witness together to a rare encounter in mission history; a foreign missionary community and an indigenous faith community coming together for mutual edification in Bible study, worship, and friendship. Characterized by humility, honesty, and humor, these reflections suggest new possibilities for cross-cultural mission.

Thomas Hastings, PhD
Executive Director,
Overseas Ministries Study Center, Princeton, New Jersey, USA

In this partnership and over many years, Mennonites have remained humble, focused, resolute, authentic, determined, committed, and generous. In our collaboration together, there is no question of who is superior or inferior – resources have been shared and learning has been two-way. There is openness on both sides and there is sincerity of purpose.

The Most Rev. Daniel Okoh
General Superintendent,
Christ Holy Church International, Nigeria
International Chairman,
Organization of African Instituted Churches, Nairobi, Kenya

The long relationship between AICs and Mennonites is one of the greatest stories of Christian mission in the twentieth century.

Dana L. Robert, PhD
Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission
Director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission,
Boston University School of Theology, Massachusetts, USA

This book gives insight into a significant chapter of modern church history. [It] deserves a warm welcome and careful attention.

Andrew F. Walls, PhD
Historian of Missions and World Christianity,
University of Edinburgh, Liverpool Hope University, UK
Akrofi-Christaller Institute, Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword – Andrew F. Walls
  2. Preface – Jonathan P. Larson
  3. Introduction – Thomas A. Oduro, Jonathan P. Larson, and James R. Krabill
  4. Abbreviations
  5. A Short History – Wilbert R. Shenk
  1. 1: Tilling
  2. Preparing the Soil for Early Collaboration in Ghana and Beyond (Francis A. Mills)
  3. An Offer of Prayer (Jim Shenk)
  4. Worshiping with the Cherubim and Seraphim (Lynda Hollinger-Janzen)
  5. We Are Deepening the River of God’s People in Africa (Alphonse Godonou)
  6. God-Centered Prosperity (Phil Lindell Detweiler)
  7. Love Your Grieving Neighbor as Yourself (B. Harry Dyck)
  8. Interpreting the Scriptures (Julie Bender)
  9. Pastoral Training and Pit Latrines (Darrel Hostetler)
  10. My Training Is for the Purpose of Training Others (Esther Manyeyo Tawiah)
  11. Grassroots Receptivity . . . Facilitated by a Churchman of Exceptional Faith and Courageous Vision (David A. Shank)
  12. Hospitality with a Flair (Sherill Hostetter)
  13. Guest Reflections: Gilbert Ansre and Miriam Adeney
  1. 2: Sowing
  2. Reading the Bible through the Lens of the Spirit (Bryan Born)
  3. Prayer Is Costly (Don Rempel Boschman)
  4. Tata Maka’s Journey to Matatiele . . . and Ours (Joe Sawatzky)
  5. Breaking Down Barriers (B. Harry Dyck)
  6. Relationship Building Was Key to Our Success (Ezekiel Nartey)
  7. We Had So Much to Learn! (David A. Shank)
  8. My Impression of Mennonites (Thomas A. Oduro)
  9. Guest Reflections: Darrell Whiteman
  1. 3: Germination
  2. The Christian Tree (Stan Nussbaum)
  3. When I Was Chosen as a Preacher, I Wanted to Understand More of God’s Word (Alphonse Kobli Beugré)
  4. Good Friday 2.0 (Jonathan P. Larson)
  5. Only God Knows the Ultimate Results of Our Time and Ministry (Marian Hostetler)
  6. The Support Group We Created Gave Us Dignity, Despite Our Physical Struggles (Hortense Assah)
  7. It Is Impossible for a Man to Be Faithful to One Woman (Rudy Dirks)
  8. “Without Scriptural Foundations, How Are the Spirits Tested and Discerned?” (Isaac Wontumi)
  9. Dissecting Material and Spiritual Realities Gave Me Blinders (Jonathan Rudy)
  10. The Sweetness of Unity in Christ (Veliswa Mbambo)
  11. I Came to Appreciate the Power of the Spoken Word (Ronald Sawatzky)
  12. Guest Reflections: Amos Yong and Allan H. Anderson
  1. 4: Growth
  2. The Entire Body of Christ Carried the Woman’s Pain That Day (Anna Sawatzky)
  3. I Soaked in the Memories of the Prophet in the Land (Rachel Hilty Friesen)
  4. Learning How to Pray the Jesus Way (Willard E. Roth)
  5. My Mennonite Friends Launched Me on My Life of Ministry (Humphrey Akogyeram)
  6. A Few Things I Learned about Sexuality, Childbearing, Mosaic Law, and the Role of Women in AIC Church Life (Delores H. Friesen)
  7. A Tribute to Umfundisi Hlobisile – A Model for Women in Church Leadership (Sherill Hostetter)
  8. Guest Reflections: T. John Padwick and Martine Audéoud
  1. 5: Pollination
  2. So . . . When Do You People Pray? (Grace Hostetter)
  3. Singing in Harmony with Bishop Motswaosele (Jim Bertsche)
  4. We Have Learned Together about Worship, Marriage, Prophecy, and Burnt Offerings (Morena Rankopo)
  5. In Honor of Isaac Dlamini – My Partner, Colleague, Language Teacher, and Best Friend (Darrel Hostetter)
  6. Mennonite Affirmation of Us Ended Our Feeling of Aloneness (Isaac Moshoeshoe)
  7. I Learned the Meeting Would Happen . . . Whatever Time It Actually Began (Garry Janzen)
  8. Friendship Flowered between Us as We Prayed for Each Other (Joseph Motswaosele)
  9. A Powerful Healing Experience at Nima Temple (Stan Friesen)
  10. “These Are No Ordinary Clothes, but Special Clothes for Divine Work” (Sandi McLaughlin and Elinor Miller)
  11. They Came to Work with Us (Thompson Mpongwana Adonis)
  12. Guest Reflections: Tanya Riches, Dana Robert, Jehu J. Hanciles
  1. 6: Weeding
  2. Real Work Begins When the Task Is Given over in Prayer (Rod Hollinger-Janzen)
  3. Life Lessons from the “God Will Provide Barber Shop” (Julie Bender)
  4. The Challenge of Multiple – and Sometimes Conflicting – Stories (R. Bruce Yoder)
  5. Learning Discipleship and Self-Restraint (Enole Ditsheko)
  6. Teacher-Learner: Who Is Who? (Irene Weaver with interviewer Lynda Hollinger-Janzen)
  7. What Are We to Do with the Healing Stories of Jesus in the Gospels? (Stan Friesen)
  8. Guest Reflections: Todd M. Johnson and Casely Essamuah
  1. 7: Watering
  2. Sounds of Singing Soaked the Wooden Ceiling Beams, Wafting a Sweet Aroma (Nathan Dirks)
  3. Those Mennonites Who Came to Find Us Here Surprised Us (Mokweni Thusang, Mashobo Baitsemole, Raletebele Kgangetsile, Kgosietsile Balefile, Raseleng Phalalo, Raditshipa Pope, Rasumako Dipapiso, Kegopotseng Thusang, Keganne Gabanatlhong, and Mosuwadibo Pope, with interviewer Jonathan P. Larson)
  4. Standin’ in the Need of Prayer (James R. Krabill)
  5. Bible Study Has Increased Our Confidence and Our Standing with Other Christian Churches (Reuben Mgodeli)
  6. Leaning on the Cross (Steve Wiebe-Johnson)
  7. I Shared a Long Journey of Discovery with Rev. Philip Mothetho, Friend and Brother (Tim Bertsche)
  8. There Was Nothing That Separated Our Spirits (Albert Maphasa Setumo)
  9. Guest Reflections: Daniel Okoh and James Kwesi Anquandah
  1. 8: Harvest
  2. Rejoicing that a Ghanaian Praise Song is Blessing North American Mennonites (Alice Roth)
  3. Like in Marriage, There Is a Profound Mystery That You Can’t Explain (Modeste Lévry Beugré)
  4. Spirit-Filled Faith . . . Where the Rubber Hits the Road (Rene Hostetter)
  5. It Was Hard for the Mennonites We Met to Do the Dance Moves, but They Wanted to Try (Hlobisile Nxumalo)
  6. Sacred Oil, Rustle of Robes (Jonathan P. Larson)
  7. Studying the History of the Church Opened My Eyes (Michel Alokpo)
  8. The Silent, Invisible, and Mysterious Ways That God’s Kingdom Grows (Sharon Dirks)
  9. It Takes a Village to Bless a Child (Jeanette Krabill)
  10. Guest Reflections: Nicta Lubaale
  1. Partnerships Map
  2. Additional Resources
  3. Editors Biographies
  4. Subject Index
  5. People Index

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