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November 08, 2013

“Such men deserve recognition” (1 Corinthians 16:18)

By Brittany Tedesco

One of many Fulani herdsmen who are now followers of Christ because of Gabriel Barau, his missionary coworkers, and supporters of Christian Aid Mission.

Last week, Gabriel Barau, a visiting native missionary from Nigeria spoke in our staff meeting. Christian Aid has a 27-year relationship with Barau, who has led thousands to Christ since the beginning of his ministry in the early '80s.

He's currently reaching 16 people groups, two of which are nearly 100% Muslim, in a very strategic way. Before sending trained missionaries to live among a targeted people group, he first studies their culture, customs, beliefs, and needs—as well as potential obstacles to their acceptance of the gospel. This data enables him to present the gospel in a truthful, yet pertinent, way.

For instance, he's learned how to share Christ with Muslims by using only the Quran—its discrepancies as well as its references to Jesus. Often these discussions begin after Barau and his coworkers have met a practical need—whether for clean drinking water or education.

Each tribe is unique. The Fulani herdsmen, for instance, hold their cattle in high regard. Knowing this, Barau trained some of his missionaries in veterinary medicine to treat sick cows. The 12 believers Barau counted among the Fulani when he first began his outreach have blossomed into 50 Fulani churches, comprised of between 30 and 50 adult members each.

Though Barau's approach to various people groups may be different, his goal remains the same: to reach every tribe in Nigeria that is still without a witness for Christ.

A goal like this explains why Barau, in reading the book of Acts, stopped in his tracks at chapter 19, verse 10: “This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.”

“I wondered how could Paul, without the aid of planes, cars, or phones, managed to reach everyone in Asia,” Barau told us in staff meeting.

But he soon found the answer to his question, he said, in Romans 16. There, the Apostle Paul mentions a slew of people who helped him, and were therefore instrumental in his reaching all of Asia.

The Romans 16 list isn't comprehensive—Paul mentions others throughout his writings. Onesiphorus, an Ephesian Christian who showed great kindness to Paul by faithfully providing for his needs, is recognized in 2 Timothy. Paul also honors the Philippian Church who sent him gifts while he was in prison, as well as the Corinthian believers, Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, whom Paul says “refreshed my spirit.”

“Such men,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:18, “deserve recognition.”

Last week in staff meeting, we at Christian Aid received recognition from Barau—a modern-day apostle—for helping him reach the lost in Nigeria. He acknowledged that he couldn't have done what he's done without us.

I was greatly affirmed. But you weren't there—you who give so faithfully to Christian Aid—and I'd be remiss if I didn't share the experience with you to confirm that your gifts are “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18) and they are refreshing hard-working believers in nations of great poverty and persecution.

One day, when you arrive safely home to heaven, you'll meet people who've also arrived safely home because of you—because you gave so that they might hear the saving message of Jesus Christ through modern-day apostles.

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