Thinking Black, by Dan Crawford; Classic Reprint Series, 2009, 485 pages + Index; published by and available from John Ritchie Ltd; price £14.99. (9781904064879)
In Thinking Black Dan Crawford records his travels from Benguella on the west coast of Africa in 1889 into central Africa at Luanza on Lake Mweru in 1911. The evocative subtitle is, "Twenty-two years without a break in the long grass of Africa".
Matching the trail-blazing steps of Livingstone, Swan, Arnott and others, Dan Crawford went at the call and direction of God to take for the first time the emancipating gospel of Christ to African tribes whose way of life had not changed for thousands of years. He would eventually trek over 3,500 miles with African carriers and reach the east coast at the mouth of the great River Zambezi. In this book you can feel the atmosphere of primitive Africa, darkest Africa, spiritually, morally and mentally.
You can catch this atmosphere because of the brutally honest way the book is written - the interminable delays, the sheer wickedness of slave trading, the cruelty of mighty Mushidi whose stockade was adorned by the myriad skulls of his enemies, the awful "red sunsets" of Mpaki, the rites of cannibalism, human sacrifice and more all described from the Africans viewpoint, his "thinking black". Because Dan Crawford had this insight he more readily gained acceptance into their tribes. Tragedy and comedy are interwoven here, along with allegory and scholarship, for Dan Crawford, FRGS, is a brilliant story teller.
The reader has to face scenes which are crude and cruel, described in language which is old fashioned, colonial and condescending, perhaps unacceptable to us now, might even be branded racist. Nevertheless here is a story of missionary endeavour to read and appreciate. For from the raw pioneering and extreme hardship of men and women of that generation a rich harvest of souls for the kingdom of God has been reaped in central Africa.
The reprinting of this real classic is greatly welcome, making available again a book which in its original form between 1912 and 1914 ran to 24,000 copies. Regrettably the 21 "photographic illustrations" reproduced in black and white are of inferior quality to the originals, some of which were really beautiful "in full colours" (sic). The reprint retains the original format and language, for such a story would be spoiled if it were tampered with. Not an easy story to read, but well worth the effort. Yes, highly recommended!
Brethren - the story of a great recovery by David Beattie; published 2009 by and available from John Ritchie Ltd; 336 pages; price £12.99. (9781904064800)
This well researched book provides a stirring record of the recovery of truth that led to what has become known as "the brethren movement". In the "Authors Note" David Beattie presents his purpose for writing: "to trace the path of the pioneers of faith, and record the founding of such assemblies which lay along the path in our sojourn through the British Isles". Brethren is divided into three parts. Part 1 - England and Wales. Part 2 - Scotland and Ireland. Part 3 - Early days in the foreign field.
The chapter entitled "Early Days" begins in Dublin where the first public meeting is commonly understood to have taken place in 1830. Yet it is pointed out that in various areas, godly believers, unknown to each other, had their thoughts moving along similar lines, eventually forming the nucleus of what would become a world-wide movement.
The author moves from Dublin to Plymouth. As this group of believers preached in the town and surrounding area, the local people referred to them as "Brethren from Plymouth" since they belonged to none of the denominations. The reader is then led around the country by David Beattie to view what he terms "Gods wonderful ways in leading out His beloved people from the bewildering maze of ecclesiastical intricacies". You move across England and Wales from Bristol to Barnstaple, from Exeter to the Isle of Wight, finishing up at Carlisle.
Moving across the border into Scotland, the first stop is Wishaw, where in 1874 a group of believers remembered the Lord in sweet simplicity in a workshop in Newmains. Across the sea to Northern Ireland you are directed to a country cottage in 1874 near Banbridge. There are over sixty relevant illustrations and two helpful indexes included. Days of sunshine and shadow have been known, but through it all there lingers a lasting fragrance at the remembrance of the way the Lord has led His people.