The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: A Review

25814351-_uy2146_ss2146_So there I was at the library and the “new arrivals” end cap had this book on it. As someone whose university work was in biblical studies and manuscripts, this sounded like an interesting book. I like manuscripts. I like libraries. I like librarians. I like the word Timbuktu. And I like having a way to type “bad-ass” without my conservative Christian readers getting to upset! I might ruffle a couple feathers, but c’mon, people – I didn’t create the book title.

I will take umbrage at Joshua Hammer’s subtitle, though. “And their race to save the world’s most precious manuscripts” is a highly subjective opinion. That is to say, I would not put the value of these manuscripts above the value of biblical manuscripts. From my worldview, ancient Jewish and Christian manuscripts are the world’s MOST precious. But in the book, Mr. Hammer doesn’t use comparative language to talk about Timbuktu’s texts and other religious texts, so the subtitle seems to be more click-bait writing than assertion of fact.

f9640db90172f4e8ecc3ae61801f9259The book itself is primarily the history of the textual tradition of Timbuktu, which was to West Africa what Alexandria was in Egypt, a giant repository of learning, thinking, and writing. What makes the librarians of Timbuktu so incredible is that they have been in a long-term struggle to collect and preserve the manuscripts for nearly 700 years. Time and again, the region was overcome by extremists who disliked the idea of wide and varied learning being stored and disseminated, so there has been continual struggle between those who love the texts and Muslims who believe the texts pull people away from Islam.

In that sense, the book almost becomes a defense against moderate Islam, portraying moderates and lovers of learning and embracing of a plethora of ideas.

So the radical Muslims who want to destroy the books are the bad-guys. Mr. Hammer digresses in his story of the librarians to devote quite a few pages to the history of the extremist Muslims and Al Qaeda in the region. Regardless of one’s faith, I think we can all appreciate the bravery and daring of the people who worked to hide, recover, and salvage these ancient manuscripts.

All said and done, I found the book to be very interesting and it taught me things about Africa I never knew. The literary tradition in Africa, contrary to some Western thought, was not nonexistent. People of all cultures are more alike than we sometimes give them credit for, and Western and Northern Africa has had its fair share of poets, mathematicians, doctors, and philosophers who believed in committing to paper (or animal skin, or whatever) thoughts, words, sentences, and books. I also enjoyed learning more about the history of the region.

Finally, the book helps remind me of the painstaking work Christian scholars have done (and continue to do) with biblical manuscripts. If you’re interested, take some time to look into the work of Bruce Metzger and others who write about the New Testament and our own textual traditions.

It’s Not Hard to Make a Difference

In 2015 we took on an endeavor to help raise support for Jeff and Tammy, missionaries to Africa.

Thus far we have sent almost $3,200 to Africa, where they pastor a church in Zimbabwe.

But we can do more. We have such a great ability to give and we seldom realize it. Maybe you can go without your Venti Frappe once a week. A few dollars saved here and there really adds up.

Zimbabwe is in Southern Africa. It is one of the five poorest countries in the world, has one of the highest AIDS problems on the continent.Zimbabwe The average life expectancy is only 37 years and almost 10% of the population is orphaned. It is a country that desperately needs help.

Tammy says:

“One of my cousins said to me shortly before I left for Zimbabwe, ‘Tammy, I can only imagine all the prayers that went up to God by the dying parents asking Him to watch over their children and I think He is sending you there in answer to their prayers.’ That statement is what motivates me to do all that is in my power and ability by God’s AMAZING GRACE to help support these children any way I can.”

Tammy immediately began going to the orphanages in Bulawayo telling Bible Stories and doing Jana Alayra worship with them. As she began making relationships, two orphanages obtained property in September 2012 and they offered it to her, a 50+ California girl who never farmed a day in her life, to help them use the land to become self-sustainable.

Scorziell 3Thus was born “Fruitful Harvest,” a ministry with the mission of creating “Zimbabwean Products Helping Zimbabwean Children.”Scorziell 4

One of the Properties belongs to the Sandra Jones Centre. This is a home with over 70 sexually abused, abandoned, and orphaned children. Many of the young girls are between 11 and 17 years old. Most of them are victims of rape and incest and are pregnant. Many are also uneducated. Debbie Brennocks, the founder and director of the Centre, and Tammy took another leap of faith and applied for a grant that would help teach these girls a skill to help them support themselves and their baby (if they chose to keep them). It was approved and they now Sandra Jones Graduationteach the girls gardening skills and how to raise chickens.

There is no government support for these children. The orphanages feed, clothe, educate, pay medical bills, etc. for the children all by faith and the help from others God leads to them.

Please consider how you can help these children and this ministry.Scorziell 2 Whatever you donate through our GoFundMe campaign goes right to Fruitful Harvest Ministries and missionaries Jeff and Tammy Scorziell.

Click on the button to go to our fundraising campaign:

If you have any questions you can contact me or see the Fruitful Harvest Ministries website.

This holiday season, you can make a difference in the lives of children. Will you help?

God bless you all.

Chris Linzey

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Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, and Email. Even if you can’t donate, you can help spread the word and be praying for the ministry to Zimbabwe!

Help Me Buy an Orphanage

Okay, not really “buy” an orphanage, but for only $8 we can do something REALLY cool and make a significant impact in kids’ lives – here, check out the story…

Scorziell 1Jeff and Tammy were missionaries to Africa from 1984 to 1989. Moving back to the U.S., they lived, worked, and raised their family. They planted a church in Orange County, California, which is where my wife and I met them. I joined the pastoral staff in 2004. Jeff and Tammy are some of the best people I know. Their love for Jesus and their heart for people is incredibly authentic – there is nothing false or pretentious about them. In the six years I spent in ministry with them, they and their daughters and sons-in-law became like family to us.

Then, in 2011, they were asked to pastor the Bulawayo Baptist Church in Zimbabwe. The pastor was retiring and some friends of theirs submitted their names and they got the job. They sold everything and immigrated to Zimbabwe. Talk about a leap of faith!

Zimbabwe is in Southern Africa. It is one of the five poorest countries in the world, has one of the highest AIDS problems on the continent.Zimbabwe The average life expectancy is only 37 years and almost 10% of the population is orphaned. It is a country that desperately needs help.

Tammy says:

“One of my cousins said to me shortly before I left for Zimbabwe, ‘Tammy, I can only imagine all the prayers that went up to God by the dying parents asking Him to watch over their children and I think He is sending you there in answer to their prayers.’ That statement is what motivates me to do all that is in my power and ability by God’s AMAZING GRACE to help support these children any way I can.”

Tammy immediately began going to the orphanages in Bulawayo telling Bible Stories and doing Jana Alayra worship with them. As she began making relationships, two orphanages obtained property in September 2012 and they offered it to her, a 50+ California girl who never farmed a day in her life, to help them use the land to become self-sustainable.
Scorziell 3

Thus was born “Fruitful Harvest,” a ministry with the mission of creating “Zimbabwean Products Helping Zimbabwean Children.”Scorziell 4

One of the Properties belongs to the Sandra Jones Centre. This is a home with over 70 sexually abused, abandoned, and orphaned children. Many of the young girls are between 11 and 17 years old. Most of them are victims of rape and incest and are pregnant. Many are also uneducated. Debbie Brennocks, the founder and director of the Centre, and Tammy took another leap of faith and applied for a grant that would help teach these girls a skill to help them support themselves and their baby (if they chose to keep them). It was approved and they now teach the girls gardening skills and how to raise chickens.Scorziell 5

Currently they are raising 1000 chickens every 9 weeks and sell the chickens to the community. They raised three batches last year and because of the generous help from a local chicken farmer they are able to generate a profit of $4,500 a batch – and the girls are learning a trade in the process.

The goal for 2015 is to raise six batches and, if all goes well, they are poised to raise $27,000 for the Centre. This is very exciting but it costs us $18,000 a month to run the centre plus they still owe $250,000  for the remaining payment of the property (they have paid $300,000 to date).

The other property belongs to an orphanage called Harvest Family Village. Jenny Hensman, the founder and director of this orphanage, has taken in AIDS orphans as well as the costly and difficult to care for handicapped children. The handicapped child is often the most poorly cared for of all orphans.

At this orphanage, Tammy began with 500 Rhode Island Red chicks to help them generate income from selling of eggs. The first hen house was built using scraps found around the property. Scorziell 7They raised funds to secure the fencing against wild dogs and other animals that could harm the birds. They are now making plans to expand and raise our next batch of 1000 hens which could add an additional $1250 per month.Scorziell 8

There is no government support for these children. The orphanages feed, clothe, educate, pay medical bills, etc. for the children all by faith and the help from others God leads to them.

I’ll be honest – this is the most ambitious ministry fundraiser I’ve ever tried. But I’m not asking you to buy me a gulfstream jet. I’m asking you to help pay for an orphanage. It would be incredible if we, the worldwide Church, could fund this ministry. The most “viral” blog post I’ve ever written was viewed 35,000 times. And that had no greater significance on people’s lives. Here we have an opportunity to make a HUGE impact in the lives of children. If this post were seen by 35,000 people it would only take those people making a ONE-TIME contribution of $8.00 to fully pay-off the Sandra Jones Centre property.

Please consider how you can help these children and this ministry.Scorziell 2 Whatever you donate through our GoFundMe campaign goes right to Fruitful Harvest Ministries and missionaries Jeff and Tammy Scorziell. The Church Plant does not hold on to any of it.

Click on the button to go to our fundraising campaign:

If you have any questions you can contact us through The Church Plant or see the Fruitful Harvest Ministries website.

God bless you all.

Chris Linzey

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter, and Email. Even if you can’t donate, you can help spread the word and be praying for the ministry to Zimbabwe!