How one book makes a difference

How one book makes a difference

By Isobel Stevenson, Langham Literature

Most emails asking me for donations end up in my trash file. I don’t normally get so excited about them that I mail them on to friends and relations.

But that is what I did with the latest email from the SPCKA in Australia. You see, their email helped answer a question that I live with every day: how does one judge the effect of a book – particularly of a book like the Africa Bible Commentary, the first one-volume commentary written by Africans for Africans, and for the world. Langham invested thousands in the project – was the money well spent?

Sales data is unreliable – few booksellers in Africa supply that sort of information. Print runs look encouraging, as we have had to reprint several times since 2006. What about the number of translations? Published so far in French, Portuguese, Swahili; being typeset in Amharic and Malagasy; and in process in Hausa. But numbers don’t tell us what users make of the commentary.

The reviews on are very enthusiastic. But none of them are posted from Africa – and the book was intended for African readers. So we have to rely on anecdotal evidence. That was why the email from the SPCKA excited me. It reported on a fundraising project to give copies of the ABC to pastors graduating from a seminary in Tanzania. There was a photo of a beaming new graduate with his copy of the Africa Bible Commentary. He talked about his struggle to survive on $3.00 a day – most of which was sent home to his wife and family. He spoke of the difficulty of studying while hungry and lonely, and his joy in what he had learned. He finished by saying, ‘I will never own a personal library, but this one book will help me to teach and preach and to answer questions about the Bible.’

Thank you for helping to put the Africa Bible Commentary in his hands. Thank you for your help in funding the South Asia Bible Commentary, and other commentary projects, that will soon give impoverished pastors around the world a one-book personal library.

Here is the story which grabbed my attention ……

When I arrived at St Mark’s Theological College in Dar es Salaam three years ago, I was struggling in every way. I look back now with joy at how much my life has changed.

I had to leave behind my wife, Siana, and three children in the far south of Tanzania with little income for three years. I knew that Jesus loved me, and believe he wanted me to study God’s Word. Thankfully, I found great love and encouragement from my small home parish. Life at St Mark’s was hard. I was often hungry, which made it difficult to study. I had to survive on less than AU$3 a day for food and daily needs, as well as keeping a little to send back home to my family. Despite the difficulties, I am so grateful for the privilege I had to study the Bible and to improve my English.

I hope soon to be a pastor, loving people and helping them understand God’s Word. If I get the chance, I would also like to study for a degree in Theology, but I may never have money for this. As well as a theological education, I am also very grateful that I can leave St Mark’s with a copy of the Africa Bible Commentary given to me. I will never own a personal library, but this one book will help me to teach and preach and to answer questions about the Bible.

Thank you to the supporters of SPCK-Australia for your generosity. You teach us love, one to another.

Edgar Pillar
St Mark’s Theological College, Tanzania


Australian missionary John Morshead presents Edgar with his Africa Bible Commentary

Quoted story reproduced by kind permission of SPCK Australia.