HARTSWATER, South Africa (BP)–As a child in South Africa, Andrew Murray watched his disabled mother pray daily under a lone camel thorn tree in the middle of their farm. She prayed for her children and the people in Magogong village.
“That really left a lasting impression on us as children -– that she put God first,” Murray says. It’s through the very farm where his mother used to pray that Murray has a ministry for local farmers -– “growing” men to help their communities through self-dependence and spiritual leadership.
As a national missionary and Baptist Union of South Africa pastor, he partners with Southern Baptist missionaries through Christian Youth Outreach. CYO includes four main emphases: life skills courses that missionary journeyman Lyndee Joe coordinates through volunteers; after-school clubs; one-week outreach events during school vacations that Murray coordinates using teams from Pretoria Central Baptist Church, other student teams and local volunteers; and weekend camps for primary, middle and high school students.
Murray says his long-term vision is “to disciple indigenous African young people and mobilize them for missions -– to change the paradigm from black people being the mission field to being the mission force.”
CYO’s 11-year ministry in South Africa’s Taung region has built strong relationships with 40 schools. But Murray would like to see that grow; 120 other schools in the region remain without CYO programs.
The curriculum combines Baptists’ Operation HIV (He Is Victorious) program, patterned after True Love Waits, with Decide to Decide Right, a local abstinence course used in cooperation with Scripture Union, an international school ministry.
The CYO ministry has spawned Christian “clubs” in Tswana schools where students stay after classes for singing, fellowship, Bible lessons and games. True to Murray’s vision of empowering people for ministry, school teachers lead the clubs.
“Children are often like [blank] slates -– so that’s where the greatest potential is for evangelism and discipleship,” Murray says. “It doesn’t take much effort to build relationships with children if they trust you, and you care for them and love them.
“It takes far more time in evangelizing adults because of the culture and tradition that comes in, such as witchcraft and ancestral worship. You have to break down a lot [of barriers] before you can actually get them to understand and accept the Gospel.”
Murray works his family farm as a tent-making ministry. He also involves local volunteers in farming projects to empower them to support themselves.
“Because of my farming background and growing up among these people, I didn’t have a problem establishing that relationship of trust, and it was wonderful to see their response to the Gospel.”
Presently, Murray’s work with the farming community is what he calls “more of an informal ministry.”
Murray’s personal growth and response to the Lord’s call has led him on a lifelong journey of working with African people, empowering them through community development and the Word of God.
And it all began with his mother praying under a camel thorn tree. Today, people from his mother’s prayer meetings often pull Murray aside to tell him what his mother’s life meant to them. Perhaps his children will have the same experience one day.
Heidi Steinrock is a junior journalism major at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.