I’d like to thank EP Books for giving me a copy of Festo Kivengere by Frank Retief in return for my honest review.
Festo Kivengere (1919-1988) is a fascinating figure. The grandson of a tribal king in Uganda, Kivengere became the Anglican bishop of Kigezi, in the Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire. Kivengere was a dynamic speaker and is often called “The Billy Graham of Africa.”
Festo Kivengere came to faith during a revival which occurred throughout East Africa during his childhood and continued off and on through the time of his death. Though he was a reluctant convert, Kivengere was radically saved. I found the reports of the revival interesting in that the newly saved were not just emotional (though they were), they were also repentant. Those who came to Christ repaid debts, confessed their sins, and returned stolen cows (it was a cattle-based society). It was because of these radical and sincere expressions of faith that others accepted Christ…..
Kivengere eventually began to preach in the revival. Though he was untrained and not ordained, Kivengere was a dynamic and imaginative story-teller and his preaching inspired many. Christ called thousands to himself through the revivals. Kivengere became the East African arm’s head of African Evangelistic Enterprise, teaming with Michael Cassidy from South Africa. He traveled throughout Africa preaching. Festo Kivengere also had the opportunity to translate for Billy Graham in Africa, learning more about evangelism from him.
Eventually, Kivengere traveled throughout the world preaching Christ with his focus on the message of the cross. In mid-life Kivengere was educated formally and was ordained in the Anglican church, becoming the Bishop of Kigezi later.
Kivengere’s ministry as bishop occurred largely during the rule of President Idi Amin of Uganda, a man who caused the death of somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 people between 1971-1979. Kivengere repeatedly met boldly with Amin, asking him to stop the murder of innocents. Idi Amin framed and murdered the Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum, intending to attack Kivengere next. Kivengere and his wife fled over the mountains to Kenya where he continued as bishop through the Ugandan presidency of Milton Obote from 1980-1985 (his second time in the office). During that time, another estimated 100,000 to 500,000 Ugandans lost their lives. The book also addresses the terrible genocides occurring in Rwanda during these years.
Festo Kivengere lived a fascinating life. The Lord brought him from an entitled life as a tribal prince to the life of a Christian evangelist who traveled worldwide. He ministered through a great, countrywide revival and years of oppression, persecution, and brutal massacres.
Not every aspect of Kivengere’s ministry was ideal. He sometimes made theological decisions that may have been questionable (in my mind, at least), and his family certainly spent much time alone as he traveled extensively. Yet, the Lord uses those whom He chooses, and Kivengere’s life had a mighty impact for the gospel.
I appreciate having a biography available for older students on a figure who was so influential in modern Christian history. I especially appreciate the ability to have my kids read about someone who, though influenced by the Western Church, was uniquely African. I think it’s important to learn the stories of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
The writing style in this book is less narrative or story-oriented and much more idea-oriented. I think high school would be a fantastic time to introduce this book. We’ll be studying the Modern Era when the boys are in 8th and 9th grade, and I’m confident they’ll be able to navigate the book at that point with interest.
Frank Retief has written an interesting 173 page biography for EP Books’ Bitesize Biographies line (which boasts 18 titles so far). Retief was a Presiding Bishop for the Church of England in South Africa.
Festo Kivengere would coordinate well with studies involving
- The 20th Century
- Genocide in Rwanda
- Idi Amin, Dictator of Uganda
- African Revival
- Billy Graham
You can find Zachary Macaulay at
- Christian Book: Festo Kivengere
- Amazon: Festo Kivengere (Bitesize Biography) (Bitesize Biographies)
More Bitesize Biographies from EP Books
Other Bitesize Biographies reviewed at Thinking Kids:
Other books for older students reviewed on Thinking Kids:
- God’s Story: A Student’s Guide to Church History by Brian Cosby
- Water the Earth: A Student’s Guide to Missions by Aaron Little
- Rebels Rescued: A Student’s Guide to Reformed Theology by Brian Cosby
- Bitesize Theology: An ABC of Christian Faith by Peter Jeffrey
- Zachary Macaulay (Bitesize Biographies) by Faith Cook
- Questions God Asks by Israel Wayne
- Grace Works! (And Ways We Think It Doesn’t) by Douglas Bond
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- Christian Books about Parenting
~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.