DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (BP) – The power, energy and conviction of the Swahili prayers of the African women remain in the memory of Southern Baptist executive Charles Grant months after he joined South Carolina pastors on a mission vision tour to three African hubs.
The women prayed aloud, needing no prompting.
“I couldn’t understand the language, but obviously they prayed with conviction that God is going to do something, His power is going to show up, and the way they unashamedly cried out to God in unity,” said Grant, associate vice presidentfor Black church relations with the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. “They do that automatically.”
Michael Pigg, director of African American engagement for the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC), developed and conceptualized the Africa Vision Tour to encourage African missions among Black pastors in the state.
He recalls the enthusiastic appreciation of the African Baptist pastors who received the team of U.S. pastors and leaders. Among the South Carolina team was Alex Sands, who was serving as SBC second vice president.
“They were literally excited that actually a leader of the Convention was coming to see them,” said Pigg, “If they’d had a red carpet to roll out, they would have done it. It’s great to realize when you’re helping people, but when they see it as God’s answer to their prayers, it (motivates) your Christian walk.”
The Africa Vision Tour was a main topic of the Connect2Africa missions promotional event sponsored Sept. 8-9 in Simpsonville, S.C., by the International Mission Board with SCBC support. At Connect2Africa, pastors, IMB personnel and Grant encouraged other African American pastors and believers to conduct and support African missions.
Most pastors who participated in the vision tour were inspired to conduct missions to Africa with the congregations they lead, Pigg said, and those who attended Connect2Africa were thereby inspired by the pastors’ testimonies.
“It’s bigger than just our mission trip that we took in May,” Pigg said. “Because of what we did on September 8th and 9th, the mobilization of missions is actually going to happen in a bigger way.”
Seven pastors were among the South Carolina team that traveled to Africa, with teams ministering in Luana, Angola, and Lusaka, Zambia. Grant and Jason Thomas, IMB African American mobilizer, ministered in Dar Es Salaam.
Sands, pastor of Kingdom Life Church and Connect2Africa host, led pastors on mission in Luanda during the vision tour. He was impressed by the commitment and brotherhood among pastors of the Baptist Association of Angola, and their excitement in sharing the Gospel.
“One of the areas we could really help them out with is theological education,” Sands said. “The closer you get to the city, the more established the churches are. When you go further out into the provinces, they don’t have as many resources. So training pastors to go further out, is one of the things they had expressed as being a need.”
Walter Belton, pastor of Radiant Church in Charleston, S.C., led the Lusaka mission team. He had participated in several international mission trips, but it was his first time conducting missions in Africa.
“There was just a great interest to go to Africa to take the Gospel to people who look like me,” Belton said. “The idea of going back to the ‘mother land’ … it was just, for me, a trip of a lifetime.”
He described Zambia as an educational center home to 25 colleges and a young population that is majority Christian. He participated in door-to-door evangelism and spoke at an area seminary, among other outreaches.
Belton leads an ethnically diverse congregation and is committed to engaging them in international missions, as he did with his previous congregation.
“A church will not stay on mission if the lead pastor is not passionate about missions,” Belton said.
Other pastors participating in the vision tour, as well as Connect2Africa, were Andre Melvin of Temple Zion Baptist Church in Columbia, Andre Rogers of Concord Fellowship Baptist Church in Columbia, Ron Henderson of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church in Spartanburg, Will Broadus of Reconcile Community Church in Greenville, and Rickie Sarratt of Innov8tion Point in Gaffney. Several wives also attended.
Grant saw the vision tour and the Connect2Africa event as outreaches that would be beneficial across the SBC.
“The experience gives you a heart for international missions. If you step out and do it, you’re going to get a heart for it,” Grant said. “At some level you’re going to want to continue to engage, because you’re experiencing the heart of God out there.
“And while we do that domestically, you take it to another level internationally.”