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"Creating new Gospel songs in Maasai tunes, to tell others about Jesus the Maasai way"
The Missionary Funeral of James Bisset
Order of service for Rev. Bisset's funeral, from folder 10 of Box 41 of Collection 81, the Records of the Africa Inland Mission
James Bisset (1909-1989) spent almost fifty years in Kenya as a worker with the Africa Inland Mission. He preached to individuals and crowds, planted churches, began schools, trained a generation of Maasai clergy and teachers of the African Inland Church. Most of his time was spent in Narok, but he also spent several years toward the close of his life in Mombassa.
His funeral on February 18, 1989, a few years after the death of his wife and partner Charlotte, was held in Kijabe, Kenya and was recorded. Excerpts in English and Maasai from that recording (Collection 81, Tapes T348 and 349) are highlighted on this month's BB.
The missionaries and Kenyan church leaders on the recording not only pay tribute to the memory of their co-worker and friend and to the Christian faith which sustained him and them. Their comments also reflect the enormous growth and changing nature of the African Church and the structure the next generation of church leaders were building on the foundation laid, in part, by western missionaries.
Except for Rev. Arensen's introductory remarks, all of the speakers either spoke in English and were translated into Maasai, or vice versa. An audio recording of Rev. Bisset talking in his own voice about his work can be found here.
Rev. Ed Arensen: (2 1/4 minutes)
"Today Jim is at home, forever with the Lord, with a family of friends that have preceded him."
Editor of Inland Africa, the periodical of AIM
William Ntimama (2 3/4 minutes)
A summary of Rev. Bisset's life
Minister of Supplies and Marketing (his comments were read by his assistant)
Rev. John Mpaayei (7 1/2 minutes)
"When he came fresh from Moody Bible Institute in the United States, we were among the first Maasai people he taught in the Narok government school.... He taught me the joy of telling other people about Jesus, of trying to make the word of God come alive for my fellow Maasai people.... And so today, they are not only listening, they are telling other about Jesus, They are using these word of Scripture to make them come alive, creating new Gospel songs in Maasai tunes, to tell others about Jesus the Maasai way. And Jim Bisset is the one who lit that fire among us."
Secretary for Translation, the Bible Society of Kenya
Bishop Ezekiel Birech (13 3/4 minutes)
"He was a Bible teacher for a long time, he was a happy teacher, and he loved the Maasai country very much. So on behalf of the Africa Inland Church as a whole in Kenya I give my condolences.. Our old missionaries, our AIM missionaries who have been in this country, they have served the Lord until the last minute."
Rev. Birech was the bishop of Africa Inland Church from 1980-1996
Rev. John Odaa (12 1/4 minutes)
"I met Rev. and Mrs. Bisset in 1949 at Moffet Bible College. I knew him three years as a principal, as a devoted teacher and a sincere Christian.... I would now like to peak to what he was doing outside the class.... When we were visiting Narok one time, he took us to a detainment camp where some Mau Mau detainees were being kept. We were three pastors together with him. And he was also very courageous there. The detainees were very bitter to us, but Mr. Bisset was very kind to them. He sympathized with them and he wanted them to receive Christ.... For those elders who brought me up, those who taught me, those whom I had to emulate, one of them was Mr. Bisset."
Rev. Samson Ivali (11 minutes)
"Because there are people who are fond of sleeping when preachers stand to give the message. But whenever Bisset preached, no one slept."..
Pastor of the AIC church in Mombassa
William Yaile (6 1/2 minutes)
"You entered our class singing 'What a Friend We have in Jesus.' I can hear you. I can hear your familiar voice.... Yes, you are very special to us - a dedicated teacher, a loving father, a gallant soldier, and a brave Maasai warrior. He was born Scottish, he grew and was educated an American and he lived, worked and stayed and even slept a Maasai"
Rev. Peter Nakola (34 1/2 minutes)
"He and his wife, Charlotte Bisset, whose body we buried here six years ago, are known to be
parents of the AIC church in Maasai land. This I say with confidence because many of us were nurtured and encouraged through the word of God by both of them. I personally have taken them to be my parents in the Lord because of what I got from them over the years."
Regional Chairman of Africa Inland Church, Narok and pastor of the Narok church, later an AIC bishop
Zechariah Wamuru (4 1/2 minutes)
"Press on with eternity's values in view "
Theology student of Rev. Bisset's at Pwani Bible Institute in Mombassa
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