PARIS (BP)–Southern Baptist mission volunteers from 14 states are descending on the coasts of France and Italy, not for the sun and surf of southern Europe, but for the salvation of North Africa.
By the end of August, several waves of Southern Baptist volunteers — about 100 in all — plan to distribute 22,000 New Testaments, 9,000 evangelistic videos and thousands of Christian booklets and cassettes to North Africans.
“This work has reminded me that there are people everywhere who are on God’s heart and he is faithful to find ways for them to learn about his love for them,” said volunteer Clay Weeks from Elloree, S.C. Weeks and his wife, Kathryn, are members of First Baptist Church in Elloree.
The volunteers are part of Northern Lights, a Southern Baptist International Mission Board project that targets North Africans returning home from Europe on ships bound for North African countries.
Each day volunteers thread through long rows of cars packed tightly with suitcases and people waiting several hours to board huge, white ferries. As heat waves dance off the hoods of the parked cars, the volunteers move from open door to open door, offering passengers Christian material printed or recorded in various Arabic dialects of North Africa.
These Muslim countries are closed to the Christian gospel. It is legal to be a Christian in any of them, but people who witness openly about their faith in Jesus Christ risk persecution, imprisonment and possibly death.
In Europe, however, an open witness to citizens of these countries is possible. That was the intention of a team of Southern Baptist volunteers that spent 11 days there in July, praying for North Africa and handing out more than 600 evangelistic packets to Muslims waiting to board trans-Mediterranean ferries.
“This is a seed sowing project because the people of North Africa have been cut off from the gospel for a thousand years. This is one way to broadcast the gospel seed all across North Africa. We hope to saturate this part of the unreached world by the year 2000,” explained an IMB strategy coordinator who heads the Northern Light project.
Another strategy coordinator who works with an unreached people group of North Africa sees this project taking advantage of a door to part of the world long isolated from the gospel.
“It’s a small opening, but it’s really the only door we have access to right now,” he said.
“I’ve said it several times, there may be a Billy Graham of Morocco who takes a Bible today and later is saved,” he continued.
“The Holy Spirit may use one of these packets to change a life and then lead this person to reach out to a whole nation. We won’t really know all that will happen once this literature moves into the lives of North Africans.”
NOTE TO EDITORS: Volunteers for the Northern Lights project came from New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Minnesota, South Dakota, Kansas, Texas, Wyoming, Arizona and Nevada.