Lessons in Gambia
“God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join zis global purpose.” — John Piper
April 28, 2010. Yundum International Airport is typically African. As the Arik Air Plane taxied to a halt, Jim Sanda, National Director of Mission Supporters League, Nigeria and I, heaving a sigh of relief, disembarked from the plane, we drank in the freshness of the African sea air. It was my first trip and the smiling coast of Gambia provoked mixed feelings, I tried to tune up my spiritual antennae to decode the inner environment. Nothing spectacular sinister in the air, friendly people, sane like environment. The official texture of population statistics of Gambia however weighed depressingly on my heart-Ninety-Five percent Muslim and Five percent Christians amongst a population of 1.7m. Two thirds living far below poverty line of $1.25 per day (that is about 30 Gambian Dallasi) while I could smile with the outward calm and peace the environment provided, deep within, I joined the cry of heaven for liberation of the inhabitants of the land from the shackles of fiendish spirits in religious garbs who are alienated from the blessings of Abraham being joined to the lot of Ishmael. Whatever bliss worldly environment provides is temporal in the light of the unending eternal damnation of hell that awaits those who reject the gospel.
Paul Colley was at the Airport to welcome us to the Gambia. As we drove out of the Airport premises through the streets of Banjul, I feasted my eyes on the peaceful waves of the Atlantic swinging drowsily, my journalistic instincts began to ask questions and before I went to bed that night the first lesson had been driven home to my heart. Silence of the Church in the face of duty to speak and act is a tacit conspiracy with hell, a subtle back up alliance promoting Satanic purposes. It was Isobel Kuhn, missionary to China and Thailand who said: “I believe that in each generation God has called enough men and women to evangelize all the yet unreached tribes of the earth. It is not God who does not call. It is man who will not respond!”
The non response of the Church to disciple indigenous people in the Senegambia and many other parts of African regions produces a deafening noise of hellish agenda. The need is still rife for trained hands to get in to preach the gospel to the indigenes who so desperately need to hear it clear and simple and provide a platform for fellowship for converts. The country had been ravaged by a one man despot for years until the military coup of 1994 led by Col Yahya Jammeh. He won elections in 1997 and took initiatives of infrastructural and economic development.
Winning communities for Christ is not a matter of sentiment. If the Church will not take its responsibilities to send men to un evangelized regions of the earth to witness for Christ, the devil will maintain his ground in these territories for as scriptures analyze him he does not let his captives go easily. God does not have any other way he can penetrate the inhabitants of the earth to raise a people for Himself, except through yielded men to missions. The first missionary touched Gambia 550 years ago and yet the statistics of Christians is just five percent of the population. It was Carl Henry who said “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time” there is an urgency needed for the Church to send its disciples and resources to heathen lands. The hit and run crusade approach will not work. The Church must get into the community, live there, build churches, schools and health centers and show the message of Christ’s love. We cannot lead into a territory where we have not gone ourselves.
Lesson 2: Contextualization: we must preach the gospel message to people but in the context of their social and cultural settings and in a language they understand and can relate with. We must respect cultures that do not in themselves run counter to the message of Christ. Christianity is not synonymous with Westernization. For example what is wrong with a Muslim convert’s turban? Especially those who live in the desert? The Jewish High Priest turbans himself and Abraham probably dressed and looked more like a Muslim Sheik than a typical suited up Pentecostal preacher on TBN. The Architecture of the Mosque today is not Islamic, it is simply medieval and eastern. The Temple of Solomon probably looked more like a Mosque today than any Church in the west. The western culture is just one among many that must embrace the Christian message. Christ spoke Hebrew, Paul’s letters were in Greek, Job may have spoken Aramaic, which is closer to Arabic.
During the Mission Supporters conference in Banjul, one of the speakers Pastor Musa Kormayea, noted the need to challenge status quo and confront the obstacles to mass conversions to Christ in the Gambia. He gave statistics of what God is doing through African Missionaries in Europe and America. We then threw the question open to stakeholders in the business of missions, what are the roadblocks to the mass evangelization of the Gambians? We had interactive sessions and listened to missionaries, Pastors and Christian workers in Banjul. One thing came out clear that is, to the Gambians, Christianity is foreign religion. The cultural template, structure, architecture of Churches they see and the people who profess Christianity dress like westerners. The Church seems to to be out of step with the people we are called to serve.
Pastor Fula seem to have gotten it right. A Muslim covert himself, he targets the indigenes that have a predominant Muslim culture; a typical worship service is without drums, a group sitting on mat without shoes studies Bible and has a meal together from same dish after Bible study appeals to a Fula man and woman. Women dress decently like a typical Fula woman will dress, the pastor deliberately always dress like a Fula man. Simple strategy but the results are enormous over the years. The converts began to troop in and the impact of reaching the Gambians for Christ is tremendous through the Mission efforts. A typical Bible study group is like a Islamic school in their sitting arrangement on mats and without shoes. This attracted the locals greatly and new converts felt more comfortable
Lesson 3: The access principle. I learnt from one of the most effective servants of God in Gambia a Muslim convert Fula by tribe that the way to win Muslims to Jesus is to show them God’s love. Satan may fake prosperity when you lock the gate of your house, you also lock the door of your heart. Consequently you shut out the entry point of blessing 1 Peter 3: 13 who is he that can harm you if you followers of that which is good
Lesson 4: Sacrifice- When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” To that, Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.” Soldiers and Al Queda suicide bombers seem to understand this principle better, you sign for death at the point of enrolment. A mission you are not prepared to die for can only have part of you. The Missionaries who brought the gospel to Africa were aware of the scourge of Malaria in the Tropics came to the zone of death. Why? The answer is simple, they died before they came.
Much of God’s power is locked out of our lives because we insist on service to God on our terms rather than on his terms, service without sacrifice can only produce wind. God uses ordinary people to do mighty things, the Muslim world is not as difficult as we presuppose if we will move out of our comfortable environment to seek and save the lost. But we need to be sacrificial. I met Sheik a Missionary whose outlook is a disguise in order to reach the Muslim world. Sheik is a Master degree holder from University of Maiduguri when he decided to enroll in Islamic Primary School in Yobe State where he learned Arabic and read Islamic Studies thoroughly, he criss crosses the sub Saharan Africa with the gospel. On a typical day, you will bet your nose that he is an Islamic teacher. He has been jailed, deported, harassed but he forges on, teaching and reasoning with the Muslims persuading them that Jesus is the only way to eternal life.
Lesson 5: Training: We need to send trained hands; it’s unfortunate that our best hands are not on the mission fields, our best resources are not there. We chip our resources from the bottom, we send the leftovers. There is a need for reorientation and a redirection of the economic and financial resources of the Church. This is what Mission Supporters League sets out to achieve.
Lesson 6: Support Base. Missionaries need a strong support base, financially, morally and spiritually. I have heard many say the most important need of missions today is not money but prayers. Agreed, men whose hearts are committed are those who pray. Those who pray will send their treasures to evangelize the lost. Most Mission agencies send their workers without any form of financial support. The reason for this is because the Mission agency itself is established to train willing hands but does not have a structure for income flow as a ministry. It is not a Church that takes tithes and offerings, hence there are usually limited funds for a willing Missionary. Some trained Missionaries wait for years just to get transport to the base they believe the Lord is leading them to. Its in response to this need that God directed the establishment of support groups like MSL. Churches and families can participate in the work.
Lesson 7: Urgency in view of need: William Borden, was reflecting on the numbers of Christian workers in the U.S. as compared to those among unreached peoples in China when he said “If ten men are carrying a log — nine of them on the little end and one at the heavy end — and you want to help, which end will you lift on?” the answer is obvious the one at the heavy end needs urgent help.
Lesson 8: Compassion: I realized that except the Lord breaks my hardened heart that lacks compassion for the lost, I will be completely irrelevant as far as His purposes are concerned. We interceded daily for the nation. The Lord gave us a word that if there is sustained intercession, the wall of unbelief will break and God will bring in the sheaves of salvation of indigenous Gambian people
I taught the word of life in two Churches on Sunday and Tuesday. We were invited to share the word with a group of Christian women who meet every week to sharpen themselves with the word in the home of our hosts. We thank the Lord for His compassion to Gambians; it’s a privilege to have an insight into the heart of God to save the land en mass. I cherish a profound conviction that we are at the brink of a major outpouring of revival in the land
We must thank Msl members in Gambia who honoured us tremendously and received us as ones sent of God with a message and a blessing. Our hosts Pastor Steve Musa Kormayea and his wife Helen and their Children, Esther, Samuel and Hannah were wonderful. Hope you kept on with the quiz. We learned how to sharpen our love as we watched these wonderful servants of God in their homes. We say thanks.
To Paul Colley, National Director Msl Gambia who ensured that we were comfortable. You are a chosen vessel to bring God’s glory to the Nation. To those who insisted we had a meal in your home, our gratitude knows no bounds. Sister Cynthia Mahorney, apart from giving us a meal ensured we left Gambia with Gambian Native attires. Thanks to Judith and Patrick Owiafe, Ezine and Dr Joseph Okebe, Elizabeth and Ernest Odo, pillars and arrow heads of the MSL work in Banjul. Special thanks to Pastor Modou Camara and his wife Mariana, you took us round your home and Church, the joint meal we had gave us a feel of what the early church love feast must have been like, we had fun and the insight we gained from your ministry are incredible. The wonderful things you are doing in the Kingdom cannot be assessed here only eternity can reveal. Thanking you all for your love and gifts. To Pastor Tony and Pastor Bidwell Mendy, Presiding Pastor of Calvary United Community Church, Banjul who though we never met gave us your pulpit to share the word of life to the people and gave generous gifts, who personally attended our conference and encouraged members, your heart for God is transparent, we say thanks.
We commend the mission drive of Redeem Christian Church of God RCCG reaching out to the locals. Jim taught on one of their mission fields and the results of their work are amazing. Keep the good work. The Lord of the harvest comes shortly and His reward is with Him. Finally, I must thank Pastor Crusoe Osagie and his wife Rita, who do more than host me each time I travel for missions, you both render the apprehension of the usually hectic transiting Lagos end of the trip null and void by ensuring our comfort. Words cannot express our gratitude, God sees the secret seeds and will repay you publicly.
In Christ’s Service,