I have recently returned from southern Africa as part of my work for the Dorothea Mission and am reflecting on a memorable trip that overwhelmed the senses.
I was left with a vision of the immense problems of the region and yet the immense opportunities.
The problems run through every aspect of life. My travels included Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa, and although there might be variations of scale, similar difficulties can be found in all these countries.
There are inadequate water and power supplies; poor food production, nutrition and drug supplies; rising crime; and a lack of employment.
The HIV/AIDS disaster staggers the imagination. In Zimbabwe, one third of all those over 15 will soon die from the disease. Try to imagine 20 million people here in the UK dying from AIDS!
In Malawi, by 2010 on present trends, life expectancy will decrease from 37 years to 27 years. South Africa will lose 30-40% of its workforce to AIDS. These losses in turn will cause many other problems.
There are about 11 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa. The problem can only get far worse. The world either turns a blind eye or tries to attack just the symptoms, after years of neglect.
Don’t misunderstand me! I am all for relief efforts of a practical nature. But these are like applying plasters to gaping wounds.
Christ the answer
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only real answer to the problems of Africa. He is the radical answer to the corruption that plagues many African governments, to official incompetence that results in so much suffering, and to AIDS.
The church of Jesus Christ has the radical answer to all these things. But if this is so, why are we not rushing to the rescue? Why are Christians not more active in missionary endeavours? Do we think the work is finished?
Are the days and courageous spirits of Hudson Taylor, David Brainerd and Gladys Aylwood, gone for ever?
Some of my time was spent in villages, squatters camps and township extensions.
Many people invited Jacques Malan (one of Dorothea’s workers) and me to sit with them and talk about spiritual matters. Many are ready to hear about Jesus Christ.
At the village of Phingo, in Malawi, 300-400 people gathered to listen to the gospel just because we showed up one afternoon. But spiritual interest in Africa is being diverted into useless channels. There are many sects and cults, which either meet in small cell groups or network into many thousands. Witchcraft is rife and powerful.
Need of the hour
There are many Christian churches, yet they lack mature Bible teachers. The great need of the hour in Africa is for mature Christians to invest their lives in the eternal future of the lost.
Where are seeking souls to turn, without falling victim to some strange sect? Where are the Christian workers?
Islam is seizing the opportunity, building many mosques in the townships, where Muslim children daily learn the Koran. Islam is also meeting some of the dire material needs of the people. It appears to be on the move, and succeeding.
Perhaps God will burden you for the people of Africa? Ask God how you might help.