By Nussbaum, Stan
International Bulletin of Missionary Research , Vol. 22, No. 4
By Joseph Healey and Donald Sybertz. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1997. Pp. 400. Paperback $25.
The Wisdom and Philosophy of the Gikuyu Proverbs: The Kihooto World-View.
By Gerald Joseph Wanjohi. Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa, 1997. Pp. 271. Paperback $8.
Apples of gold in settings of silver (Prov. 25:11 ). These two books are jewelry settings that beautifully show off African "apples of gold"-proverbs, fables, songs, and anecdotes. Both follow in the trail of John Pobee (Toward an African Theology, 1979), mining the gold of African traditional wisdom and adding enough structure so that the rest of the world can see what we have been missing.
Healey and Sybertz do this with an eye to pastoral theology, catechism, and liturgy, drawing on years of experience with small Christian communities in northwest Tanzania. Wanjohi does it with an eye to classroom instruction in philosophy, drawing on several decades of teaching at the University of Nairobi in his native Kenya.
Healey and Sybertz pack nearly 500 proverbs from all over Africa into their book, including some unforgettable gems such as, "The best fertilizer is the shadow of the owner" (p. 38). The humorous story of two porcupines on a cold night (p. 108) portrays the problem of all human relationships, even the relationship between Catholics and Protestants. The beautiful "African Canticle" from a Tanzanian girls school rouses all Africa to praise the Creator (pp. 319-20).
Such things leap from every page of the work, organized around chapter themes such as Christ as elder brother, the church as extended family, hospitality, death, healing, and mission. The book is a gold mine for pastors, missionaries, and other practical theologians, especially but not only in Africa. It has much to offer anyone anywhere who wants to understand Christ, the church, and mission more deeply. …