LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–America’s leading unofficial export to Africa is making evangelism in that country a more complicated enterprise these days.
Charles Juma, a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Boyce College, recently led a group of eight Boyce students on a mission trip to his native Kenya. During their two weeks there, Juma said the identity of America’s leading export — Hollywood — came into clear focus.
“The average person in Kenya equates American culture with Hollywood,” Juma said. “When they think of America, they think of Hollywood, and that is how this whole country operates.
“It makes evangelism more difficult because that view of America has made Kenya a more complicated place. The people are more educated there now and are asking the deeper theological questions. You have to be prepared to give real answers.”
The group worked in both Kenya and Tanzania. Despite the increasing westernization of Africa, more than 500 people embraced the gospel of Christ for the first time. Many of the conversions came from Tanzania, a region that is decidedly less westernized than Kenya.
“Tanzania is different,” Juma said. “There is a hunger in Tanzania that is so evident for the gospel. It is much stronger in Tanzania because it is less tainted by western culture than Kenya.”
In Kenya the team was able to proclaim the gospel in two schools with 200 resulting decisions, Juma said.
A particularly encouraging aspect of the mission was the number of Muslims who demonstrated a visible interest in the Christian message. Juma thinks the events of Sept. 11 may have some members of the Islamic faith questioning their beliefs, but he suspects the interest in Christianity has more to do with an overwhelming spirit of universal brotherhood in Tanzania.
When members of the team were preaching the gospel daily in the open air in Tanzania, many members of the Islamic faith remained and listened. Given the exclusive claims of Islam and its hostility to Christianity, Juma said the fact that they stayed put to hear the message shows a divine loosening of the Islamic bonds from their hearts.
“We saw Muslims join us openly almost every day when we were preaching the gospel, and some of them came to faith in Christ,” Juma said. “That is not like Islam. It goes against their tenets of faith to be out with Christians in public. I think part of the reason they remained was because of the overwhelming sense of brotherhood within the culture of the peoples of Tanzania.
“They see the brotherhood with other Tanzanians to be much stronger than their religious differences. But even more than that, I think the religious world is waking up to the fact that Islam is not a gentle, peaceful religion after all.”
In addition to preaching the gospel and performing dramatic skits, the group sought to teach Christians in Kenya and Tanzania how to carry out missions. Juma said most people in both places have developed a caricature of missionaries as ministers who have entered Africa from the West.
“In their minds they see a missionary as a person who has come from the West,” Juma said. “They think that you always have to wait for somebody to come to them from the West. We tried to teach Africans a more biblical understanding of missions and about God’s program for all the peoples of the earth. We also helped them understand the concept of sharing the Gospel with their fellow countrymen.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PREACHING THE WORD TO ALL NATIONS and GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES.