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Mission in reverse

October 2015 | by Andy Dalton

Robert Moffat, the pioneer missionary to Africa, was converted as a young man through the witness of a small congregation at the hamlet of High Legh in the Cheshire countryside, in the early 1800s.

At the time he was working on the High Legh estates as a gardener, but, after reading an advert for a missionary meeting in 1815, he was filled with a burning desire to take the gospel to people who had never heard it. 

He left High Legh and became a pioneer congregational missionary for the London Missionary Society in southern Africa. David Livingstone later became his son-in-law.

The High Legh congregation later affiliated to a small denomination called the Independent Methodists in 1851 — which is best described as Congregational Methodists.

The country chapel maintained its Christian witness in the middle of the Cheshire countryside until its closure in 1996, upon which their premises were converted into the Northwood Christian Centre for camps and conferences.

Exactly 200 years after Robert Moffat’s missionary call, the centre at High Legh welcomed a ‘reverse missionary’: an African woman evangelist, who came to share the gospel at a camp for children from the West Yorkshire town of Morley.

Rwandan Claudine Uwizeye is a member of Cannon Park Congregational Church in Middlesbrough. She recently began working as an evangelist with the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Great Britain and is working alongside several EFCC (Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches) congregations.

These include Cannon Park in Middlesbrough, Whitby and Bulkington, where she is assisting with children’s meetings, holiday Bible clubs and camps. 

Morley camp

She was invited to the Northwood Centre this summer by youth workers from Morley Community Church (EFCC), to be the guest speaker and share the gospel with 17 young people from Morley. This yearly camp for Morley youngsters has run continuously since 1999. 

They pitched their tents for a whole week in early August and took part in an action-packed week, which included water sports, games, swimming and quizzes. There was a night walk, a trip to a theme park, a visit to a maize maze, plus hiking and other activities.

Ms Uwizeye led sessions each evening, in which she explained the gospel in an engaging way to the children, most of whom had no church affiliation at all.

Each morning, there were short and simple Bible study groups, with a team member giving a testimony after supper each evening.

Camp co-ordinator Andy Dalton said that it was significant that, 200 years since Robert Moffat left High Legh to evangelise Africa, an African had come to evangelise the British.

He said, ‘The story has gone full circle. Is it not amazing to see the results of missionary endeavours two centuries ago? Moffat and his fellow missionaries opened up Africa for the gospel, and today we see the results of their labours with millions of Christians and churches. 

‘It has been moving to see this young African evangelist engaging effectively with these children and young people from the UK’.

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