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The Axe and the Tree

By Stephen Griffiths
December 2017 | Review by Philip Grist
  • Publisher: Monarch Books
  • ISBN: 978-0-85721-789-9
  • Pages: 368
  • Price: 9.99
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Book Review

The subtitle of this book is, ‘How bloody persecution sowed the seeds of new life in Zimbabwe’. At the time the story begins, Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia. The mission involved was the Elim Missionary Society.

Key figures in its early days were Cecil Brien, a medical doctor from Belfast, and his wife, Dr Mary Brien. They lived frugally in Zimbabwe during the early days.

Peter Griffiths, another figure, stands out in my mind due to his great interest in reading renowned Christian authors Octavius Winslow, John Calvin and Merle d’Aubigné. Many others joined the team. A quote from Peter impressed me: ‘Keep rejoicing — it makes the devil angry. Keep loving — for love is of God’ (p.64).

The focus of the book concerns the tragic events of 23 June 1978. Persecution had become rife. Missionaries had to move to the apparent safety of the Vumba, described as ‘like the English Lake district’.

While there, guerrillas came over the border from Mozambique and attacked the missionaries, killing several men, women and children. Many of them had been attacked so fiercely that their dead bodies were almost unrecognisable. One of the female missionaries was due to set off on furlough that very day. She later died in hospital.

News of the tragedy rocked the whole Elim denomination. Everywhere, services of memory and thanksgiving were held. Those who had butchered their colleagues and friends were prayed for. However, the guerrillas did not give up manifesting hatred for the gospel. Travel for God’s people was often highly dangerous.

Mention must be made of Garikai, one of the main leaders of the guerrillas. He led them under the name Devil Hondo. The Lord dealt remarkably with him and he was brought to faith in the Saviour. His conversion was an amazing revelation of the power of Christ, transferring him from a devil to a saint.

A must-read; you will be moved in your heart as you view the amazing works of God’s free grace.

Philip Grist


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