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FIRST-PERSON: Modern-day Good Samaritans needed for Africa’s hurts

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The story of the Good Samaritan is an all-too-familiar one for Christians. Our indignation rises whenever we are reminded of the pious, busy religious leaders hastening to their appointments, ignoring the man suffering by the side of the road.

However, it is hard to escape the indictment of the story when we realize how self-centered we tend to be, focusing on the demands of our self-imposed agenda and busy lifestyles. It is not that we neglect doing good. We are faithful to our church. We give to support its ministry to those in need and even occasionally may witness to a lost person.

But the challenge is to see beyond our narrow provincialism and self-interests to recognize that those who are different are our neighbors. We have to be willing to go out of our way and be inconvenienced if we are going to reach out cross-culturally to those who are suffering and dying, waiting for someone to pause and, with compassion, respond.

Africa is dying. Marginalized by the accumulating wealth and affluence of the West and developing countries, this continent of 800 million people is crippled by a debt burden of more than $200 billion. Devastated by widespread drought and ethnic strife, which exacerbates the debilitating economy, Africa is a picture of deteriorating health care, education, communication and basic infrastructures.

The relentless progression of AIDS and other diseases is decimating the adult population in many countries, leaving millions of orphans, but also leaving schools without teachers, factories without workers and businesses without staff. Infant mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa are 12 times as high as developed countries.

Genocide between the Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi continues with tribal warfare in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — only a sample of at least 11 current wars involving 16 nations. As many as 300,000 have been killed in the last three years in the Congo, and all over the continent millions of refugees succumb to hopelessness in squalid refugee camps.

But these tragic conditions have nothing to do with us. After all, what happens in Africa has little impact on America and world affairs. Like the battered traveler lying in the ditch, Africa is of little concern to us and our lifestyle priorities. Out of sight, out of mind.

Like the Good Samaritan, we have an opportunity to stop on our daily journey and minister to a continent that is hurting through 2001-PRAY. Pray ‘Round Africa-Yes! (PRAY) is a massive, unifying appeal for Christians to join in a crescendo of prayer for Africa during the remainder of 2001. In August dozens of prayer teams will be dispersed among cities and countries to intercede for the peoples throughout this continent.

You are encouraged to mobilize your church to be a part of the massive, unified focus of 2001-PRAY on Aug. 3. What an impact could be made as we seek God’s face and plead before his throne on behalf of those who are our neighbors in Africa.

It is not unlikely that God will move our hearts, as he did the heart of the Good Samaritan, to minister to those in need. We may be led to give more generously to spread the gospel and alleviate suffering. God may stir your heart to join a volunteer team, to adopt a yet-unreached people group or even to give of your life to join the missionaries who are seeking to touch Africa with the love of Jesus.

Africa is responsive to the gospel, but more than half of its people are still lost. Islam is aggressively spreading its influence from the north while animism and traditional religions keep the people in bondage to fear and superstition. You can make a difference. Will you be part of Pray ‘Round Africa-Yes?
Rankin is president of the International Mission Board, a Southern Baptist Convention agency supported by the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

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  • Jerry Rankin