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Africa's Redemptive Gifts
Steef van 't Slot, Ph.D.
Africa's potential as missionary-sending continent traditionally has been and still is heavily under-estimated. In this article I would like to contribute some food for thought about how this could change. At one occasion, when I shared the thoughts below with some African Christian leaders, an elderly pastor with tears in his eyes commented "Brother, you are the first white missionary I have ever met, who genuinely believes in us, Africans, and in our missionary potential!" I couldn't agree more. Let me explain why.
Least-reached people groups
Unreached- and least-reached people groups1 find themselves in that state for a reason. What reasons are we talking about?
- They are hard to reach physically. They live in remote areas that are difficult to access, because travel facilities like roads or means of transport lack;
- They are hard to reach culturally because they tend to isolate themselves in relatively closed communities;
- They are hard to reach socially. Their status in society is (much) 'lower' - or 'higher' - because they belong to differing educational and/or economical classes than those to which most Christians that live around them belong;
- They are hard to reach generationally (e.g. children and youth) because most Christians around them belong to older age groups;
- They are hard to reach because of religious differences, whether minorities or majorities; especially when Christian communities lack vision and training to reach out to adherents of other religions.
The list is, of course, much longer and more complicated. Let's look at some similarities between least-reached people groups:
- Many have a tribal, rural background;
- Many have an oral tradition;
- Many grew up in conditions of unemployment and poverty;
- Many are familiar with physical disease and absence of adequate medical care;
- Many have suffered through natural disasters, like droughts, famines, earthquakes, mud-slides etc.;
- Many suffered through wars and related pain, stemming from fear, fleeing, material loss, emotional trauma, physical disablement, rape, and death of loved ones;
- Many share a traditional religious background that keeps them in bondage to much feared evil spirits.
We might call these seven characteristics 'The average profile of the world's least-reached people groups' - a thought to remember when we look at 'Africa's redemptive gifts' - a little later.
Africa's dilemmas & God's solutions
Needless to say that almost - if not all of the above - applies to Africans in particular. The crux of the matter is ultimately how Christian Africans react to these dilemmas. Unfortunately history has shown how the tendency to sink into apathy has been a dominant feature in African life: 'We cannot because we were not trained. Therefore we are unemployed, have no income, are poor, have no food, can afford no medical care, nor schooling for our children …' and so the cycle of apathy and inferiority continues ad infinitum. Some even have 'theological' reasons. Lumeya gives an example:
"The curse of Ham in Genesis 9:22-27 has been misread in Africa. It has been misinterpreted as applying generally to all black peoples ... As a result, many of them have gone astray and prefer to practice their local beliefs, rather than to accept the Lordship of Christ Jesus" (in his 1988 Ph.D. dissertation abstract).
This does not mean that the situation in Africa is hopeless or beyond recovery. Mbugua says:
"The story of Africa reads like a chronicle of perpetual doom … slavery … colonial oppression … mismanagement, war, political turmoil, coups … corruption, poverty and economic regression … Sicknesses that were nearly eradicated are coming back with venom … [Yet] in comparison with the rest of the world Africa has 72% of gold, 70% of diamonds, 26% of bauxite, 20% of copper, 12% of natural gas … Africa produces 35% of the world's uranium, 65% of cobalt, 40% of platinum and 80% of titanium … In spite of the above natural wealth, Africa produces only 5% of the world's wealth … There must be a way of harnessing these resources for the African harvest" (in Missionafric 2003-1, 54-61).
I believe that God can turn all weaknesses into strengths and that the dilemmas Africans face He can turn into redemptive gifts, provided they are willing to stand up and walk the way of faith instead of that of self-pity and its resulting lethargy. If Africans choose to let God's Word speak into their daily circumstances, attach their faith to it, and start walking ways they never walked before, there is hope for Africa!
This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.
Steef van 't Slot, Ph.D.
Women and Spiritual Warfare | Leah's Legacy - Overcoming Rejection | A Biblical Study on the Heart of God the Father | My Christian Faith - Much More Than a Silver Lining! | My Jesus Came! | Africa's Redemptive Gifts | A Critique of Mormonism | Women in Jesus Genealogy | Ministry to the Disabled | HOME PAGE of January 2010 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
Vol. 6 : 1
Board of Editors
Dr. Tan Kok Beng
Olive Rajesh, Ph.D.
Sudhir Isaiah, Ph.D.
Sundar Singh, Ph.D.
Swarna Thirumalai, M.A.
Vasanthi Isaiah, M.A., B.Ed.
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D., Managing Editor