Chancellor Ben Eidse and missions Professor Carl Loewen pose during the launch of Eidse’s book at SBC on Sept. 15.
Ben Eidse, a long-time EMC missionary on the continent of Africa, has produced a new book, The Disciple and Sorcery: The Lunda-ChokweView (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK, 2015, $81.99 USD), sharing a lifetime of insights into worldviews and spiritual warfare. The book was launched at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg on Sept. 12 and at SBC on Sept. 15.
Eidse encountered the problem of sorcery in 1953, his first year in Congo. He discovered many Christians who “continue to fear sorcery and are tempted to use it to harm others.”
After three decades in Congo and three terms as SBC president, Eidse was offered a sabbatical. He enrolled at the University of Edinburgh to examine the Lunda-Chokwe view of sorcery more deeply. His study presents the meaning of sorcery within its cultural context and spells out its implications for a biblical, culturally relevant, Christ-centred discipleship.
Eidse, SBC’s chancellor, drew on decades immersed with the mixed tribe on the Congo-Angola border, where he also taped oral histories, mentored doctoral students from Stanford University, and taught an anthropology course for Fuller University.
Eidse learned the myths, proverbs, and heart language while helping build the Kamayala mission and planting 80 churches. In 1969 he was asked by the American Bible Society to translate the Bible into modern Chokwe. This he did over 13 years with two folklorist-pastors, often discussing sorcery-related words and concepts.
In 1975 the administrative committee of the Congo Mennonite Church asked them to develop a lesson book on the sorcery problem. The lessons were so well-received, “evidently meeting a strongly-felt need,” he wrote, “that the Presbyterian church requested permission to translate it into Tshiluba” and use illustrations from that ethnic group.
Key concepts of the Lunda-Chokwe tribes were “well-being” and “interconnectedness.” Yet one chief lamented that sorcery tore the clan apart, as first one member and then another acquired sorcery powers to kill others.
Ben and Helen Eidse were the first missionaries sent overseas by the EMC, under (now) Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, to a new, receptive area in southwestern Congo. They, with their African partners, established 80 churches, ran 24 clinics, delivered the leprosy cure, and joined in spiritual battle against sorcery and corruption. Eidse and two pastors went on to translate the Bible into a modern, dynamic Chokwe despite revolution, disease, and disability.
He and Helen, who died in 2010, won a Lifetime Service Award from the Association of Anabaptist-Mennonite Missiologists for their cultural sensitivity and service.