Looking Back and Reaching Forward
Much took place this past year on the African continent, but if I could condense it into a few words, it would be characterized by the phrase, looking back and reaching forward.
We looked back as Dr. JB Godfrey and I traveled deep in the heart of Africa to the original ministry that later developed into our mission board today (pictured at right). Located in modern day Democratic Republic of Congo, the seemingly insignificant village in the heart of the jungle, named Tshene, was forever changed when missionary Anton Anderson and his family brought the Gospel to that area. His faithfulness and sacrifice are legendary. Today, we can witness the result of years of indigenous church planting principles that had been put into action and can rejoice as the national church took personal responsibility and multiplied itself throughout the region.
Remembering the effectiveness of the past, inspires us to continue in those foundational church planting principles as we reach forward to what God has for us in this current generation. The obvious key is the church planting missionary and the on-field training of national leadership to carry the Light of the Gospel to the regions beyond them!
BIMI is blessed of the Lord to have over a hundred such devoted missionaries who are just as committed to the spread of the Gospel as their predecessors! Laboring alongside of those missionary families is a host of dedicated national pastors and workers! We are reaching forward to what God has for us this coming year! Using the map as a reference, the following is a microcosm of work in each region:
North Africa: This area, the 10/40 of Africa, has seen much publicity in recent months. Groups such as Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, Janjaweed, and ISIS have all made their ugly mark on this region. The Moslem push into Sub-Saharan Africa is stronger today than it ever was, and the brave missionaries who serve here do so under increasing levels of risk. However, the amazing truth is that Satan is losing ground. Our missionaries are reporting increased interest in the Gospel as well as more decisions for Christ now than they have seen for years!
West Africa: Once populated by the majority of BIMI missionaries in Africa, this region has lost significant personnel mostly due to political instability. The country of Ivory Coast that once boasted of more BIMI missionaries than any other in Africa now has only two missionary units within its borders. Personnel added to two new fields of Cameroon and Cape Verde have been a boost, but we must earnestly pray for more laborers! It is this region that has some of the most populated areas in Africa. Thankfully, our other veteran missionaries in Senegal, Ghana, Togo, and Nigeria are laboring faithfully.
East Africa: Today the majority of our missionaries in Africa live and work in this region, with the largest concentration in the country of Uganda. What an encouragement it is each year to participate in the annual field conference (pictured below) and to hear the reports of the over 100 churches that have been planted by our missionaries and national leadership in Uganda as well as Kenya and Tanzania! Be in prayer as we continue to branch out into Rwanda and Southern Sudan.
Central Africa: Sadly, this region has the fewest missionaries, not just from BIMI, but the majority of Baptist mission organizations! The only personnel we have here is the Claypool family serving on the island country of São Tomé and Príncipe. Would you commit to pray that God will call laborers to this needy part of Africa?
South Africa: Besides some well established churches in the country of South Africa, the rest of the region is in great need. Countries such as Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Botswana have no BIMI missionary and are wide open to the Gospel! With just a handful of missionaries laboring in the countries of South Africa and Zambia, one in Zimbabwe, and one soon to arrive in Namibia, there is much more work that needs to be done!
Yes, we have looked back to see where God has brought us—from a small jungle village to over a hundred missionaries in twenty countries across the continent. Today, we are reaching forward to penetrate new areas and boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ where He is not named! Thank you for praying with us as we reach this Dark Continent for Christ!