Campus Ministry and Bird Watching: John Stott’s 1962 Africa Tour

Stott

NAIROBI, KENYA. Stott with the GCU President at Nairobi.

In the spring of 1962, John Stott (1921-2011) returned to the African continent for a second series of campus missions at colleges and universities at the invitation of the Pan-African Fellowship of Evangelical Students (PAFES) that was made up of English-speaking movements of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). This model of campus missions was repeated again and again in the 1960s when Stott also traveled to North America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and across Europe. Subsequent decades through the 1990s were marked by more travel and ministry. Known across the span of his life as an Anglican minister, Evangelical theologian, evangelist, and author, John Stott is described by his biographer, Timothy Dudley-Smith in the second volume of his two-part work, John Stott: A Global Ministry. “The start of the 1960s found John Stott an international figure in the field of student evangelism” (p. 105). During his Africa sojourn, Stott’s visits stretched from Sierra Leone to Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and down to Rhodesia. Dudley-Smith captured glimpses of these stops (pp. 106-110). Stott’s first trip to the African continent in 1959 focused primarily on meetings in various cities of South Africa, but also added ministry and bird watching stops in Ruanda-Urundi, Uganda, and Kenya.)

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NAIROBI, KENYA. John Stott greets students at the Royal College in Nairobi, Kenya. Paula Holmes is standing at the right beyond Stott. Bob Howarth, who hosted Stott in Nairbobi, may be the man speaking to the bespectacled woman (left).

During this time, Stott was already the rector of All Souls, an Anglican church in London (see him in his clerical collar in one of the images below), Chaplain to the Queen, and vice president IFES. On the stage of independence movements sweeping the globe, Stott’s visit was timely for equipping and inspiring Evangelical students for witness, church involvement, and vocations in countries that were rapidly undergoing decolonization: Sierra Leone (1961), Ghana (1957), Nigeria (1960), Kenya (1963), Uganda (1962), and Zimbabwe (1979). The impact of these students on the growth of the church in the Global South has to be the subject of much further study.

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ACCRA, GHANA. “Rev. John Stott speaking to the members of the Accra Christian Fellowship at Mr. John Agama’s on 29th April, 1962 at 4:30 PM. Sermon: 1 Peter 2:1-11”

Several moments of Stott’s journey were captured by photographers, and the BGC Archives adds to this story through a series of five recently-discovered photographs, found in the Records of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (Collection 640). Although the photographer(s) is not identified, the images depict Stott on campuses in Ghana and Kenya. Among these, we see him addressing a group, meeting students and student leaders of University Christian Fellowship Legon in Accra, Ghana, and with Kenyan student leaders and several IFES staff.

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NAIROBI, KENYA. Stott (left) with unidentified man (possibly Bob Howarth), John and Paula Holmes, and unidentified man, most likely in Nairobi, Kenya. Note Stott’s pair of binoculars around his neck.

Other individuals identified in the photographs are Frank Horton and his wife Paula (center above), and (below) Ghanaian student leaders of UCF Legon, K.A. Ofosuhene (president) and G.K. Gyekye (secretary).

The images for the most part depict what would be expected: Stott speaking, Stott interacting with students. What adds interest to the images and makes them especially germane to understanding John Stott is the battered binocular case hanging from his neck in two of the images, underlining Stott’s lifelong love of nature. An avid and experienced bird watcher, Stott carted his binoculars throughout his Africa tour, always prepared to stop and admire the native avian population.

Stott again

ACCRA, GHANA. Stott with K.A. Ofosuhene (left, UCF Legon Pres.) and G.K. Gyekye (right, UCF Legon Sec.) of the University of Ghana. This image offers a closer look at Stott’s binocular case.

The BGC Archives holds a collection of Stott’s papers relating to his involvement in the Lausanne Movement (originals held at Lambeth Palace Library). Materials created by or about Stott appear in other BGC Archives collections as well, especially those that intersect with the Lausanne Movement records, records of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (USA) and its Urbana Student Missionary Conventions, and recollections of him in oral history interviews—Lisa Espineli Chinn in her unprocessed interview, for example, recalls Stott’s visits to meet with staff and students of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of the Philippines (an IFES member movement). The BGC Archives’ collection of IFES records, which holds these photographs, is currently being processed by Archives staff.