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Nairobi, 28 September 2016

Good morning! It's been a truly rewarding seven days of teaching in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda -- and I'd love to share some of the highlights (though not in order). Today you'll also find a review of an (unfortunately) influential book about Jesus titled Zealot (scroll down).

During the Rwandan Genocide (spring 1994), as many as 1,000,000 Tutsis were killed by the Hutus, urged on by the government. Many of you will remember this terrible time. One heroic figure is Paul Rusesabagina, who sheltered nearly 1300 Tutsis in the Hôtel des Mille Collines (Hotel of 1000 Hills), of which he was manager.

And this is where I stayed! I'd asked for a hotel recommendation, and it was suggested Mille Collines was the best choice. I had no idea I'd be checking into the famous hotel of the film Hotel Rwanda! Today, while Rwanda is stable, neighboring Burundi is making the same kinds of noises Rwanda did before the genocide -- people groups being deliberately turned against each other. In fact, the sister who drove me to church and back is Burundian -- her entire family displaced as her husband would have been killed had he remained in Burundi. There are 200,000 exiles, primarily fleeing to neighboring Rwanda and Tanzania.

In Kigali, the Rwandan capital, I spoke on "Jeremiah, Jesus, and Us: Lies We Church People Tell Ourselves." The church in Kigali is small but animated. I especially enjoyed spending time with Johnson Namei (photo on R), the Ugandan church leader, who was trained for the ministry in Kenya -- multi-national connections! He and his wife Norah took me to the Genocide Memorial. It isn't only Rwanda that has suffered so terribly. Sadly, genocide is household word -- the Cambodian, Armenian, Bosnian, and Belgian Genocide all come to mind -- at the memorial I couldn't help being pensive.

I was especially eager to visit Ethiopia, as Berhanu (the minister) had extended an invitation, and I'd had to cancel a trip several years ago. Besides fellowship time with the brothers, the main event was a teaching day in Addis Ababa, the capital city. Spirituality or Religiosity? was the title they gave me. (See Amharic language flyer below, L.)

The church invited friends, family, and strangers, sharing their faith energetically for many weeks leading up to the event -- where over 2/3 of the audience were guests!

Writes Berhanu Bedada (minister): "The response has been overwhelming. A lot of grateful people said their questions were finally answered. Others were troubled, confused, or irritated, like my friend who tried to defend tongue-speaking. But it's all good. I think that's how it should be -- the Word provokes all kinds of feelings and thinking. I'm fired up! The Lord will draw to himself those truly looking for him."

After Ethiopia, I flew (via Djibouti) to Nairobi. It is always great to visit Kenya, and to see special friends like Edward Okundi, who became a Christian way back in our campus ministry in London (1988). He and his wife, Anyema, are mature, evangelistic, and effective --  being around them is inspiring. At Sunday church, the family feel and reverent worship were also uplifting. The sermon, The Day of the Lord, was well received.

After lunch with the Okundis (photo) and their guests, there was a special class for all who are ten years or longer in the Lord. Many of these men and women have pushed through painful situations in the areas of home, health, church, and faith. I shared from the heart about some tough things we have faced as older Christians, including several things I'd never shared publicly. The 150 or 200 who were able to attend, most of whom are 15- to 25-year-old disciples, realize how much we all have in common -- victories but also disappointment and heartache. No one need be alone. I urged them not to draw back, but to share their gifts and experience. They can make a difference, and every church needs its mature members if we are to reach our cities for Christ.

On the way to Ethiopia, I had a 21-hour stopover. The Nigerians are always asking me to come back, so I knew this was a great chance to speal. The Nigerians have diligently gone after learning opportunities -- it's something in the national character. People hustle! For example, all the main leaders in our Nigerian and other West African churches went through AIM, our biblical training program, where Joey Harris and I taught for several years. Now they are pursuing learning all they can from my friend Steve Kinnard. 

I was invited to speak on the Book of Revelation. I presented three keys to understanding the book: a little knowledge of Rome, the empire in the background that has just begun to persecute the Christians; a reasonable familiarity with how apocalyptic literature works; and a strong knowledge of the Old Testament, which is quoted and alluded to hundreds of times in the Apocalypse. We had a great evening, and could have gone all night.


Following is a review of an influential book on Jesus, called Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan, published in 2013 and quickly hitting the bestseller lists. The book is a mixed bag of valid and interesting historical observation along with a good deal of dubious or speculative assertion.

I hope that my review will help you not only to see where Aslan has misunderstood Jesus, but also to be able to help those whose faith may have taken a hit. To read the notes on Zealot, and to hear the podcast, CLICK HERE. There are many other book & movie reviews at the website, for example AvatarHarry PotterHeaven is for RealThe Hunger GamesThe Life of PiNoah, and Risen.

Even farther south!

Nairobi and Kigali are just below the equator, but during the next few days I'm going much deeper into the Southern Hemisphere: Lesotho, Zambia, and South Africa. You can see Zambia at the top of the map; South Africa is in green; Lesotho is the island nation in yellow. Then it's back to West Africa for a few days in Ghana.

Please say a prayer for this tour. The teaching is certainly going well in every city, as is translation into local languages. But a nasty stomach bug is also accompanying me from city to city. The bug taxes my strength, and the achy back makes it hard to rest. It will pass... but maybe it could pass more quickly... :-) Thank you.

Until next week!
Douglas Jacoby

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