Annemarie Hattenhauer

All through our time in Nigeria, and then later in Cameroon, I was conscious of walking on a path already trodden by the many who had gone before me. I have written about some of them already, like Minnie Kuhn, and the three early NAB missionaries, Carl Bender, Paul Gebauer, and George Dunger. (Click on Early Pioneers to read more about them and their legacy.)

Most of them these saints are passed on now, but we have the special privilege of having some of them still around, and supporting us. One of these is Annemarie Hattenhauer. Teaching in Cameroon for many years, Annemarie is now retired and living in Edmonton (her last trek to Cameroon was in 2007) – but for her “retired” really does mean having her ‘tires’ retreaded.Annemarie at LPC

Annemarie has been letting me know about some of her many contacts in the country – including Provost Johnson Nseinboh, who I will be accountable to when I am at the Ndu Seminary, and the Fon (chief), His Royal Highness Emmanuel Nfor, also in Ndu. She helped to establish a church on the Fon’s palace grounds by visiting with him, and holding simple Bible studies with some of his wives.

Today Annemarie’s health precludes her from continuing on in Cameroon except via prayer for those who are still there (and for us, who are on our way there), but it does not mean she is no longer in active ministry. During the summer she was involved with her church’s VBS “Kids’ Week,” and she was also the Camp Grandma at a Baptist General Conference camp during the summer. At the Seniors’ complex where she lives she is a pastoral care volunteer.

I thank God for Annemarie and so many others like her, who have served faithfully and continue to do whatever their hands find to do. Annemarie has requested prayer for her health – she has suffered two strokes and is dealing with a heart problem. As you pray for us – that we would find our way to the field soon, and be a great blessing there – please also pray for Annemarie as she continues to serve here. Thanks so much.

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Front Page News and the Bible

One thing about working on Biblical Theology is it is always relevant to whatever is going on in the world, especially when the topic is something like racism – which has a (modern) history of being supported by the Bible.

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Racism has been supported in modern times by an appeal to an illegitimate and perverted interpretation of the Bible. I say in ‘modern times’ because prior to the antebellum period in the southern United States (i.e. before the Civil War), there was no real attempt to justify slavery along racial lines.king march

In fact, one cannot find racism itself in the Bible using proper methods of interpretation. What one finds, instead, is the idea that since all are made in the image of God (the Imago Dei), all humans have an inherent and intrinsic value and dignity given them by God himself – the relative value of which does not depend on ethnicity. Racism, therefore, has no place in the Christian life or worldview. It goes without saying (but I’ll still say it) that any notion of one race being superior to another ought to be abhorrent to any follower of Jesus.

(And again, just for the record, the intrinsic worth and dignity of a human is not affected by gender, sexual orientation, or physical or mental challenges, economic status, and so on.)

To be sure, slavery can be found in the Bible – but never racial slavery. In the Bible there was slavery sometimes due to war and conquest, but most often it was an economic institution, and it actually functioned as a kind of social safety net. (When people became too poor they were enslaved for a period of time in order that they might have a roof over their head and food to eat.) Slavery based on race is not found in the Bible.

A few words about the Fulbe people in this regard. Traditionally the Fulbe are Muslim, and in their past history they have been great champions of the Islamic faith, converting many people at the point of the sword. Since in Islam one cannot enslave fellow Muslims, when the Fulbe wished to make a people their slaves they did not convert them, but

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simply conquered them. This history accounts for much of the animosity of other people groups towards them up to the present time.

Possibly because they are traditionally nomadic, the Fulbe are also racist. For them Arabic and Caucasian peoples are near the top of the totem pole, while the Haabe (black peoples) are at the bottom. Partly this has to do with the religion of Islam, which they received from the Arabic people, but I think too that their nomadic background plays a part. If some white guy shows up they will automatically know the guy is not from just down the street. He must have travelled far to get there, and they have a lot of respect for that.

One further important caveat here – when the Fulbe come to Christ their racism vanishes. When Jesus becomes their Lord they understand that they are alike with all other people in their great value, in God’s love for them, in their sinfulness, and their need of redemption. This is just part of the message they wish to carry to their fellow Fulbe.

Pilgrim Thoughts on Immigration

My last name is Kilmartin. That means the forebears on my father’s side come from Ireland (a fact of which I am proud). My Dad’s father immigrated to the country early in the last century, and, being a good Catholic, married a French Canadian woman whose family had been in the country for many years before that. But she too, of course, came from a family that had arrived from France at one point.Imm pic

My mother’s Mom was born in Canada, but her family was from Germany. So was my mother’s Dad, who came from Germany/Ukraine via Siberia right after the Great War and the 1918 influenza just about wiped out his family.

So, while I was born here in the country, I have a great respect for immigrants, and my own feeling is that this country has been built by immigrants – whether they came from the Old Country by boat or plane through Halifax in the last century or so, or across the Bering Strait in the last few millennia.

There is a major hue and cry in the country today about the immigration issue, and since some of it has to do with religious freedom and values I thought I would comment on it here. Also, I would like to outline my point of view because while, as my daughter says, it is not that original, it is getting more and more difficult to articulate.

I for one welcome all immigrants who come here legally and by due process. It matters not to me whether they are Christian, Muslim, atheist, Buddhist, or what have you. I take it for granted that they will wish to bring as much of their culture with them into the country – that is what my grandparents did, after all. Take their language – Grandpa John spoke English (with a brogue), Granny Kilmartin spoke French and English with an accent; my mother’s parents both spoke German, but WW 2 meant they did not pass that on to their children. It would have been great to grow up bi-lingual, with either French or German as my second language, but I did not have the opportunity. I would not want to take that away from anyone else.imm pic 2

Some are fearful that our country will be overtaken by people with values that are foreign to them, that we will have something like Sharia law before too long if we allow too many Muslims in, for instance. I don’t worry too much about that. If a person legally comes into the country and wishes to advocate for some new custom or practise of law, they ought to be free to do that. That is what our country is all about, after all.

Here is the thing, though – and this is what I fear we are losing at present. If I do not agree that Sharia law is a wonderful thing (and I do not think that it is), then I too ought to be free to speak my mind and rationally explain why I feel it may not be the best system of law for our country – without being tagged as some kind of villain in the process. Then, when all sides of the debate have been heard in the Public Square, let the people decide through their elected representatives. To me, this is what a liberal democracy is all about.imm pic 3

The difficulty, of course, is this last part is getting squeezed out of us; somehow we have lost the ability to be able to talk with one another, and to debate the merit of one idea against another. Perhaps because we are a pluralist society, it is very hard to make a point against Project X without it being labelled hate speech, or as some kind of bigotry or phobia. We have lost our sense of nuance, and as a result we have also lost our sense of civility towards those we might disagree with.

I speak as a Christian pilgrim (cf. Heb 11.13 and 1 Pet 2.11 in the KJV) – someone who knows that this country is not my final home; I am only passing through here – literally. I am on my way to other countries in order to bring my Christian perspective to bear on people who already have their own set of values and religious principles. I am going by invitation, but the fact remains – I am going there to put my religion out into the Public Square, just as Paul did in Athens on Mars Hill, and see if there are any takers.

Here in Canada, and over where I am going, I am confident that the mystery/religion that has been revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ will be strong enough to stand whatever tests it comes up against. For Christians especially the issue is not so much what kinds of ideology we come up against – whether they be secular humanism or fundamentalist Islam – but of our being faithful to live according to what we have been entrusted with.

Haruna’s Blessing

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10.28-30, NIV)

I was asked a little while ago what aspect of the gospel I thought was the key to people coming to Christ in Nigeria. I had to think about it a bit, but I believe it is the fact that when people come into the Kingdom of God they are born into a family, a Christ-community that is ready to welcome them.

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Haruna was a young Muslim boy, tending the flocks for his father. But his father beat and abused him, so his aunt sent him away to Islamic school to study the Quran. During his studies he came across the idea of compassion and, not finding any real-life examples in the people around him to study, he determined to find a Christian church, since he thought he might be able to observe compassion among them.

He came to Gembu and went to First Baptist, just a little ways up the hill from our house. In this church of about 1000 people the ushers recognized he was new, and a deacon sat with Haruna and explained the good news about Jesus to him. Haruna became a Christian man, and was accepted into the community. Not only that, but he came to

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our house and adopted us, and so we all gained family members in the process.

When I became a Christian at the age of 21 I felt like a bit of a black sheep in my own family, but I was welcomed into the Mennonite church I became a part of, and discovered the fellowship of saints for the first time there. Our family was only in Nigeria for a year the last time we actually lived there, but I can attest to the truthfulness of Jesus’ promise; we also received 100-fold of homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, and so on.IMG_4732

So as we look forward to leaving North America and heading to Cameroon and Nigeria, I know the miracle of the internet will alleviate part of our sadness, but the promise of Jesus will no doubt prove to be the biggest blessing we will receive there, as we gain – in this present age – one hundred fold of anything we might have left behind.

A Piece of Work

Last year near the end of my visit to West Africa, I was up in northern Cameroon and a few of my Fulbe friends had come to see me off. We were living near a missionary there, and he had a young intern missionary working with him – and this young intern had a young friend from Ontario, Canada visiting him.

This young Ontarian was in the oil business, working on the rigs in various places. He was a non-stop-talker, always with a funny story, told with great bombast and verve. He was fun to be around, but a little unnerving at the same time, because you never quite knew what he was going to say next. He was, in North American parlance, “a piece of work.IMG_5237

I told this to my friend the Wakili just before he was to meet him. “I will not tell you what ‘a piece of work’ means,” I said, “because I think you will just figure it out when you meet him yourself.” He met him soon enough.

Our young friend came bounding in and proceeded to tell us his latest story. He had been travelling across the country with an oil rig friend, and had been told to avoid the fish when ordering food. They were in a small town and were having no luck with the restaurants there. One after another they were told they had no food available for them (often you need to let them know ahead of time that you are coming).

Finally they came to one restaurant where they were told they had a choice of fish or bush meat. Our young friend knew that fish was out of the question, so he ordered the bush meat. In due time out it came – a monkey’s arm, complete with monkey fist still attached to the end.monkey

Our friend stared at it, nonplussed for just a moment (it is hard to shock him enough to quieten him down), and then figured, “Hey, I’m hungry” and went to it! (This was just a couple of years after the Ebola crisis swept through West Africa and the USA.)

Well, we had a good – albeit nervous – laugh at that story, and when we got back to our rooms I asked the Wakili what he thought. “Yes,” he agreed, laughing. “He is a piece of work.”

Some things don’t need to be translated.

Family Matters

In our travelling of the past little while, we have been fortunate to be able to combine some of our support-raising work with family visitation, and the process of saying good-bye.Mom's Camera 046

This happened this past weekend when we were in Kelowna. My mother lives there, as does one of my sisters, so there was planned a Kilmartin Family Picnic – partly just to get together, but also to commemorate my mother’s 85th birthday. We were able to combine this with sharing about the ministry at Grace Baptist Church, which was really a lot of fun in its own right.

The family event went very well – the weather was really nice, and that day the smoke from northern B.C. was not in evidence. My sister chose a really great site to have it, right by the lake, under a large gazebo, and with enough grass to allow us to play bocce ball and devise a whiffle ball golf obstacle course. The food was marvelous, plentiful, and right up my palate’s alley. Six out of seven siblings were able to be there, which is pretty good for us.

The biggest surprise for me was to see my son Robert walk through the door at my sister’s house the day before the picnic. I had come in on the plane (flying in from eastern Canada), and was expecting Sonya to have beaten me to the airport (thinking that she was flying in from Edmonton). Instead she had driven with Robert, who was coming from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

It was a terrible long drive for Bob, happily broken up by a stay with his sister in Leduc, and then with friends in Lake Louise. The drive back east for him was not so nice, and he was not looking forward to the experience of getting home on his own (after the weekend was done I drove with Sonya south to OK Falls before flying home to Edmonton again). But he did it, he said, because he felt it was a good decision to do so.

Not all of my children share my perspective, but my view of my son Robert is that he has a great heart that is usually in the right place. In this case, it was right again. It was a great sacrifice for him to drive all that way, hours of it alone, in order to be at this family gathering. He felt it was important and worth it, and he was right.

People on their death bed know, and I am coming to find that missionaries heading toward the field know it as well, that there are a lot of things we can foolishly waste our time on, but being with family members for significant events is not one of them.

In the next few weeks we will see Bob again, as we drive to Manitoba to take care of things there – and to see our son, Daniel. Our son John will come west, to Canmore, and our daughter we’ll see this coming week. I cherish these times with our children, and loved the time spend with my extended family.

I hope that in your own life situation you are able to take some time to be with family as well, intentionally making time and space to connect with them in significant ways. Let us not take these people for granted, because they may not always be granted to us.