News Articles

ANALYSIS: Why pray for Africa? Here’s why

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Africa. You know: the place where corrupt, crumbling governments abuse their citizens, where tribal groups attack each other, where everybody dies of AIDS — if a bullet doesn’t get them first.

Those, at least, are the grim images that spring to many minds from the minimal news coverage — most of it bad — we get about Africa from major media. We may not admit it, but the temptation is strong — even for the missions-minded — to “write off” places and peoples that seem beyond hope. We can be thankful that Jesus never succumbed to such an impulse. If he had, where would we be?

Africa has big problems. It also has enormous promise. Non-Africans usually are quick to recognize the problems, but not the promise (unless it can be exploited for financial or political gain). That’s nothing new.

“Throughout recorded history, Africa has been woefully misunderstood and misused by the rest of the world,” observes John Reader, author of “Africa: A Biography of the Continent.” “Humanity simply does not recognize its debts and obligations to Africa.”

After centuries of alternating colonization and neglect of Africa by outsiders, Reader sees our debts and obligations in historical and cultural terms. But God sees them through the eyes of his Spirit. He loves the people of Africa, and he desires to be loved by them. He is there at this moment, waiting for us to join him.

International missionaries and African believers are asking Great Commission Christians around the world to join them Aug. 3 to “Pray ‘Round Africa Yes!” (2001PRAY).

“Why pray for Africa?” asks the Internet site devoted to the global prayer effort (www.2001pray.org). A sampling of the reasons:

The church is mushrooming in Africa, averaging 6 million new believers each year. “The expansion of Christianity in 20th-century Africa has been so dramatic that it has been called the fourth great age of Christian expansion,” writes church historian Elizabeth Isichei. Nearly 20 percent of Africa’s 800 million people claimed Christ as Lord by the end of the century, and more than 100 million were evangelical believers. But hundreds of millions more wait to hear the gospel.

Nearly 2,000 distinct languages are spoken by more than 3,000 ethnolinguistic peoples in Africa north and south — the world’s “greatest remaining challenge for Bible translation,” according to Patrick Johnstone in Operation World.

Islam claims 300 million African adherents, permeates North Africa, dominates a number of sub-Saharan nations and sends missionaries throughout the continent.

Africa is suffering. Of the world’s 40 poorest nations in the mid-1990s, more than 30 were in Africa. Disasters, turmoil and lack of economic development continue to subject millions to hunger or starvation. Malaria kills more than 1 million Africans every year, and the AIDS pandemic ravages whole nations. More than half of all Africans lack clean water.

There are many more reasons to pray and act, the most important being to proclaim the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. God desires us to meet him in Africa — in person and in prayer. It may not be easy, but it will be at his side.

“These past two years have been the hardest of my life,” reflected IMB missionary Josh Daffern before completing a journeyman assignment in Botswana this year. “Yes, I’ve experienced seeing someone’s eyes light up when they hear the name of Christ for the first time, seeing the joy of a new believer in the Lord, knowing these believers I worship with in Africa will be standing alongside me while we worship before the throne in heaven forever.

“But I’ve also experienced the heartache. I live in the country with the lowest life expectancy and the highest percentage of AIDS victims in the world. I’ve had lifeless-eyed AIDS orphans with open sores run up and ask me for just a few pennies for a little bread to eat. I’ve sat helpless, knowing that thousands die weekly without knowing Christ, simply because there aren’t enough Christians here to tell them.

“But deeper than the physical realities and experiences of the past two years, I’ve experienced Christ. I came here expecting to do my part, grit my teeth, suffer a little and come home the conquering hero, another notch in my spiritual belt. I came here with expectations of how I would grow as a Christian, and I go home with a deeper knowledge of Christ. I went to Botswana. God was here waiting for me. Through the good times and the bad, He showed me more of Christ, and it has forever changed my life. Would I do it all again? Yes.”

    About the Author

  • Erich Bridges