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Thousands focus on Africa during worldwide prayer event

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania (BP)–Three Muslim men sitting on some stairs smile and greet the group of women walking past. They are an odd-looking bunch. Three dress in traditional African clothing, complete with head-ties; the other five wear American-style clothes. As they walk the narrow streets of Zanzibar’s “Stone Town,” the group stops randomly and whispers among themselves before continuing on.

Again the women pass by the same men — only this time, they are walking in pairs at different paces. Some stroll along leisurely, stopping to talk or look at the ornately carved doors. Others walk with soldier-like determination.

The third time past the stairs, the men ask if they are lost and need directions.

“No, we are just walking around taking in this part of town,” one woman said. “We like this area.”

The men stare back in amazement. No one likes this part of town. Every storefront invites patrons in for beer and dancing. Homosexuality is hidden in the back rooms while prostitutes openly sell their bodies. Tourists don’t come to this part of town — unless they are prayerwalking.

The women visiting Tanzania’s island of Zanzibar joined hundreds of thousands across the continent and the rest of the world in praying for Africa Aug. 3. The special day set aside for prayer was celebrated through a variety of events, from prayerwalking to 24-hour prayer vigils to community-wide rallies.

The executive director of the Nigerian Women’s Missionary Union joined the prayer team in Zanzibar. Every time Yemi Ladokun thought of people praying for her beloved continent, tears came to her eyes.

“Thank you, Lord, for bringing different nations together to pray,” she prays. “The whole Christian world is lifting up prayer and focusing on Africa. This prayer effort is making a difference already simply by bringing so many people together for one common cause — to turn Africa to You.”

The women walking through Stone Town had an international flair to them. The team came from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Virginia, Ohio and Florida. They spent four days on the island, praying with a unique approach. They sectioned off the island and circled each section seven times in prayer. The first six laps were spent praying for God’s victory; the final trek thanked God for the victory He would accomplish.

Gay White, volunteer from Richmond, Va., said she was surprised to see the aloofness present in most of the people’s eyes as she walked around praying for those who have never heard the gospel.

“They just don’t have a clue about the one true God. They are taught one thing all of their life — and it isn’t the truth,” she said about the Muslim island. “It is our responsibility to do something. Whether it is through witnessing, praying, giving or going, it is our responsibility.”

The idea for a special day of prayer came after International Mission Board missionaries in West Africa gathered around a map of Africa to pray. As the group prayed for the needs of their continent, it just seemed too overwhelming. Africa needed more prayer support.

“2001 Pray Round Africa — Yes” coordinators Anita Hunt and Sharon Pumpelly started working on logistics for the special event more than two years ago.

“Once you write down the needs of Africa, there’s nothing to do but pray,” Pumpelly said. “The situation is so much bigger than any of us. Human response to all of the famines, disasters and persecution will not save people’s lives. God is the only one who can.”

The goal was to have as many people praying in each country of Africa as possible and even more support around the world. More than a thousand volunteers from the United States as well as Africa and Europe responded to the call of praying onsite. Other Great Commission churches represented in Africa joined in promoting the special day of prayer, too, making it an event that transcended denominational lines.

Even more joined in by praying from their homes and churches. Christians in China were the first to bow their heads in prayer for the Dark Continent. A church in Spain invited the entire community to join them in prayer for the entire 24-hour period.

All around the world, people stopped to pray.

— In Ghana, two summer missionaries rode their bicycles to small villages, praying. People in one small village are now attending local church services after seeing these young men bicycle to their village to greet them and pray.

— Christians from the Tennessee State Prison for Women joined in prayer. They prayed 24 hours, one hour each on their knees in their individual cells.

— Churches in the United States partnered with churches in Mombasa, Kenya.

Through e-mail the churches from the two continents connected and voiced prayer concerns. The Americans prayed in their homes and churches, while the Kenyans prayerwalked their own communities.

— Silverdale Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tenn., hosted a citywide event, reaching across denominational lines. Prayer clusters met in individual homes to intercede for Africa.

— West African Baptist leaders left their homes to travel throughout Africa to pray. Leaders went to Zimbabwe, different countries in North Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania to pray.

— The Xtreme Team, made up of college students, was organized just for the 2001-PRAY event. They backpacked into Marense villages in Burkina Faso to pray. It was originally thought that there were no Marense churches, but the Xtreme Team found a small church in one village.

The special emphasis on prayer for the continent brought attention from local African newspapers as well as television stations. In Uganda, the event was advertised on television while in many more countries it was on the radio. In Thyolo, Malawi, a reporter from the national newspaper attended the large prayer rally. At this particular rally, Great Commission believers from 20 different churches prayed together for Africa.

As prayer was lifted up throughout the world, the small group in Zanzibar stood at the eastern most point of Africa and faced west. They prayed for the continent, country by country.

“I realize that we are not going to change Zanzibar or any other place because we prayed,” Pumpelly said. “I think what is going to happen is that all of us will be changed because we prayed.”
Editor’s Note: Missionary Sharon Pumpelly is from Ohio. The team representative from Florida was IMB missionary Roxie Eaton. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: HEART OF CONCERN, INTERCEDING and HOMELAND.

— It’s not too late to join the 2001PRAY movement! http://2001pray.org

— Sharing hope, God’s love as AIDS ravages Africa: http://www.imb.org/learn/news/story.asp?id=687

— Compelling on-line video about Africa’s AIDS crisis! http://www.tconline.org/Stories/July01/aidsvid.html

— Africa AIDS photos: http://www.tconline.org/Stories/July01/aids1.html

— A full-color map tells the story of AIDS in Africa: http://www.tconline.org/Stories/July01/map2.html

— FREE! 14-day prayer guide on the Africa AIDS crisis and Africa prayer map http://www.imb.org/resources