Christian Aid Welcomes New Africa Director
June 26, 2013
Gary Darcus makes new friends at a village in Tamale, Ghana.
When Gary Darcus boarded a plane bound for Kenya in 2003, the phrase “seasoned traveler” was not a part of his everyday vocabulary. The 48-year-old had left a successful career in restaurant management to accept a position with an organization supporting native missions. Flying by himself to Africa required an extra measure of faith for someone who had never ventured outside of North America.
That three-week journey to Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda would break his heart and set him on course for a new life´s work beyond anything he ever imagined.
“I was totally overwhelmed. I saw God do some miraculous things. I saw the desperate need for the gospel to be shared, and the desperate need for social and humanitarian concerns to be met,” he recalled. “When it came time to leave Africa, I broke down because I was so overcome by what I had seen—the darkness, the ravages of sin, the plight of the people.”
During the past decade Darcus traversed the continent numerous times, visiting 25 countries. It didn´t take long to develop a warm affection for the people and the land. He befriended villagers living in straw-roof huts in the jungle. Zebras have raced past him in full gallop. Snow-capped Kilimanjaro has filled him with wonder at the beauty of God´s handiwork.
Now Darcus takes his accomplished leadership and vision on a new path as he assumes the role of Area Director for Africa at Christian Aid Mission. The position was previously held for 20 years by Rae Burnett, who left in February to launch her own ministry.
As he well knows, the continent faces a myriad of challenges—immense poverty, government corruption, AIDs, malnutrition, and famine often make international headlines. Persecution of Christians and the influx of terrorist groups add to the woes.
An estimated 3500 people groups reside in Africa, and some of these groups have yet to hear the name of Jesus Christ. There are roughly 2100 different languages and dialects. Over half of the population is 15 years old or younger.
“Africa comprises a continent of people who are still developing, still coming into their own, still hunting for themselves,” Darcus explained. “To be able to help them hear the gospel for the first time, to be able to help others who have heard the gospel to hear it more clearly, and maybe to be able to read it in their own language, those are the kind of things that matter to me.”
Christian Aid currently assists indigenous ministries in over 20 African countries. These ministries provide training for Christian leaders, plant churches among unreached people groups, and support children´s homes where neglected or orphaned youngsters can receive emotional and physical nurturing in a Christ-centered environment.
Darcus would like to encourage these ministry partners to develop income-generating projects and enlist the support of donors to jumpstart their efforts. The projects, ranging from crop production to handicrafts to medical clinics, provide missionaries with a visible means of support when they relocate in villages they are reaching with the gospel and help poor believers support themselves and the work of the Lord. In time as the groups become more self-sustaining, Christian Aid could “graduate” them and invest in new ministries.
“The apostle Paul was a tentmaker. While he did the work to glorify God, he also labored with his own hands,” said Darcus. “How can ministries do the two together? That´s something that is a burden on my heart. Hopefully that´s something I will be able to encourage among the ministries in Africa.”
There´s no doubt about it, Gary Darcus thrives on a good challenge. In fact, he is accustomed to overcoming hurdles—literally. The eighth of nine children and a preacher´s kid, he was always trying to figure out where he fit in. Tired of walking in the shadow of two older brothers who were All-American high school basketball players, the frustrated teen found his niche on the track and field team.
During his senior year Darcus became a state champion hurdler, ranking third in the nation in the 110-meter high hurdle category. He earned All-American honors and received a track scholarship to the University of Tennessee. His superior performance continued on the college level, leading to a ranking of 11th in the world. Injuries thwarted his dreams to represent the United States in the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, but he refuses to focus on what could have been.
“A year later I was ordained in the ministry,” he said. “All those years of searching for God´s purpose for my life, of wondering if He cared about me, and He revealed to me that He does.
“Now I am standing with indigenous missionaries and helping them fulfill the calling of God. We don´t want to stifle the abilities of our brothers and sisters in Africa. We want them to realize the gifts God has given them.”
Darcus met his wife, Krista, while attending the University of Tennessee. The couple has three grown children—Happy, Joanna, and Stephen.