Clouds of Witnesses: Part 2

Photo of Dora Yu

This is part 2 of a 2-part review of Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia. Mark A. Noll, Carolyn Nystrom. IVP Books, $25.00 hardcover (300p) ISBN 978-0-8308-3834-9

Profiles of influential Christian voices and activists range from Archbishop Janani Luwum, martyr in Uganda who was murdered by Idi Amin’s regime in 1977 to Dora Yu, a woman considered by many as the foremost Chinese evangelist during the early 1900s whose preaching inspired young Watchman Nee to enter his room to pray and become a great evangelist of the new generation in China--at a time when women were rejected as leaders in the mid-1900s. [199]

The authors mine vast numbers of biographies and autobiographies to “unearth” what we ought to already know of Christian history, but many--like me--have sadly been taught in seminary a very Western Christian History and Missiology. What about African Christian History, Chinese Christian History?

The 1960 Nobel Peace Prize winning Albert Luthuli was a lesser known force in the struggle against apartheid. He was arrested for peaceful protest against racial discrimination in South Africa, and his attorney was Nelson Mandela, who took up the mantle of racial equality. Luthuli said, “Should we get rid of the whites? The aim should be to get him to repent of his wrongdoings rather than to work for his forceful removal out of the country.”

Told in narrative style form her birth, the story of India’s Pandita Ramabai is simply amazing. Born in 1858, a Hindu by culture and Christian convert, Ramabai knew Sanskrit and amazed people across India because few girls knew this “language of the gods.” She became known as Pandita, wise one.

Yes, we’ve heard of Mahatma Ghandi, but perhaps as influential to a generation seeking Christ and political independence, Nystrom and Noll say, is V.S. Azariah, 1874-1945, who rejected the caste system in favor of loving and serving the poor and established many YMCAs across India. [145] For Azariah, the Eucharist was a counter-force to the remaining taboos of eating with people of other castes. Azariah began the day with two hours of Bible reading and prayer and ended the day in much the same way. During the day he traveled diocese to diocese and house to house sharing the gospel and encouraging Christ followers.

These narratives from 19th and 20th centuries stand on their own rather than filling the pages with assessment and evaluation, because “it is important first simply to know before trying to judge.” [275]