When a local missionary in West Africa told people that relationship with God through the grace of Christ, not religion, would save them from eternal judgment, Muslims and many others laughed at him.
Many in the community saw him as someone who could bring shame on their families by steering relatives away from Islam. Laughing or scorning, the villagers took a dim view of Christians and Christianity in a country where Islamic extremist violence against churches was on the rise.
His brutal murder last year marked a turning point in the community attitude toward Christians, the leader of the native ministry said.
“His death was dramatic, as he was found sitting in his seat with the Bible in his hands, with his stove lit for his coffee that morning,” the leader said. “The news spread beyond the village, and the larger world was at the funeral to hear for the first time how Christians do in these circumstances.”
Those at the funeral witnessed the late church planter’s colleagues and loved ones mourning in Christ, not grieving as others do who have no hope, he said. Many testified to the truth of the gospel.
“The message of the gospel produced the power touching hearts, and notables took the floor to exhort the family and the community,” he said. “The testimonies shared that day were like a blow of spiritual liberation in this people. Since then, we have been welcome throughout this locality; several families have asked to know how to be part of our congregations and become Christians; the fear of retaliation has disappeared, and many are interested in the gospel.”
The leader requested prayer for great spiritual harvest as he planned to send 10 local missionary couples to the community to further advance God’s kingdom.
Workers have seen other people hostile to the gospel become interested in the salvation message as the ministry provided aid and programs to address their poverty and ethnic discrimination, the leader said.
The gospel advance takes place amid widescale suffering as Islamic extremists terrorize hundreds of municipalities. In the course of sowing chaos and gaining resources for their political ends, they also persecute any Christians they might come across, the leader said.
“We have people persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ; many of those experienced the power of God in poisonings and lashings, accusations and many other abuses because of their faith,” he said. “We relocate men and women to people of peace in other neighboring localities, trying to meet their needs and social integration.”
Assistance to the persecuted is aided by workers having already identified “people of peace” in their evangelization initiatives. In a process bathed in prayer, the ministry identifies areas of unreached people and then sends workers to find people open to relationship and/or the gospel.
Having initiated relationship with such “people of peace,” local missionaries share the gospel with them and their friends and relatives, he said.
“This is where the process of making disciples begins with Bible studies,” he said. “Then they are led to Christ and baptism. Discipled leaders will be trained as disciple-makers, and this group of believers becomes a church, and then begins other new churches by sending planters in the same process.”
Workers recently planted several churches among 13 different tribal groups, he said.
Each of the people groups needs prayer for deliverance from sin, idols, demons, disease, curses, ancestral altars and powers and principalities, with the aim of freeing them for their calling and inheritance in Christ, the leader said.
“Let us pray that our leaders will have the necessary support to be more available to help believers with real maturity, intercession and spiritual warfare in order to lead their peoples to salvation according to God’s plan,” he said.
As the death of one native missionary led to the transformation of a community, the lives of other workers help transform countless others. A local missionary in East Africa also faced hostility – in his case from a woman brewing strong drink, as the worker’s preaching was turning people away from drunkenness.
“This lady was very unfriendly to the members of the church and the pastor, who always preached against taking alcohol, and this lady hated him together with members of the church so much,” the leader of the native ministry said.
When the government began banning all gatherings and closing businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, her business collapsed, he said.
“When church resumed, the old lady was the first one to attend the church and begged the local missionary to pray for her,” the leader said. “She confessed how she made many men useless in their families through taking local brew. She also confessed how she hated the Christians. The pastor prayed for her, and now she is encouraging people in the village to attend the church.”
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