KENYA, Africa (BP)–Hours from any city, traveling on roads he could only describe as “horrible,” Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page recently saw first-hand how Southern Baptist representatives are partnering to provide clean drinking water to a highly remote, nomadic people in northern Kenya.
“It was great to see the hands-on ministry and the relationships that are developing out of that,” Page said, noting the acceptance and trust the efforts have built in the area for Southern Baptist representatives. “They are a people in need of the Lord and the Gospel, and meeting human needs is a great entree for that.”
Now two International Mission Board regions — the West Africa region and the Central, Eastern and Southern Africa (CESA) region — are working together to mobilize so-called millennium (20-something) Southern Baptists to address spiritual and physical needs across the continent of Africa. Still in the development stages, the program is set to be unveiled at LifeWay’s Glorieta (N.M.) and Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Centers this summer, with the first wave of students reaching Africa in January. Page commended the effort, pointing to the critical need to involve more young people in ministry both in the U.S. and internationally.
“I see the 20-something generation as integral to reaching the world,” he said. “If we do not find strategies that involve them, we will not fulfill the Great Commission.
Page, who visited Kenya in mid-July, drew a parallel between work being done in Kenya among nomads and the millennium generation’s desire to meet both physical and spiritual needs.
“They want to minister to the whole person,” he said. “Well, if you talk about offering a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name — that’s exactly what they are doing here.”
While there has been some Catholic and Muslim influence in the area, evangelical work is unknown. Illiteracy is high, and television and electricity are nonexistent.
“It was by far the most isolated place I’ve ever seen in the world,” Page said, noting the group’s separation even from other nomadic tribes. “I’ve been many places in the world, but this was the most remote. It was the first time in my life that I had seen herdsmen actually carrying a warrior’s spear.”
The area, he said, is spiritually dark.
“They don’t even know the questions to ask,” he said. “They’ve been living in darkness so long they don’t know how to turn to the light. They don’t know where to turn or who to turn to.”
It may be possible, Page said, for Baptist medical and dental teams to play a role — having now been there himself, he would like to bring a medical team from his own church — but it will be necessary to establish an ongoing supportive presence in the area to be effective. Establishing that presence will be Southern Baptist’s greatest challenge, given the area’s harsh, arid climate, he added.
Page challenged Baptists both at home and abroad to stay focused on the task of sharing the Gospel message wherever they are at — both on the mission field and in the U.S.
“I was deeply encouraged to see that we’ve gone far enough with the Great Commission that we can reach out to small, isolated groups such as this one,” Page said, emphasizing the continued need to share the Gospel in remote areas. “We’re called to go to all of the earth, and these people are truly at the uttermost parts.”
“I am burdened that more needs to be done. But Southern Baptists are solidly behind our mission force, and we will not back down, back up or back away from that; you can count on it.”