A land of innumerable challenges and endless opportunities. That is how we see our context. Our context is plagued by poverty, oppressed by advancing jihadism, marked by low rates of life expectancy, and is home to many unreached peoples. Despite these innumerable challenges, God is opening endless opportunities to train national believers for making disciples and planting churches.
In 1 Corinthians 16:9 the Apostle Paul says, “A wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” Those two things always go together; open doors for the gospel always come with adversaries and obstacles. When the light of the gospel advances into the spiritual darkness of this world, the enemy fights to hold his ground as he battles tooth and nail against the advance of the gospel.
Our team in West Africa partners to train men from some of the most dangerous and most persecuted parts of our region. They know that following Jesus is not easy, but they have counted the cost. They follow in the footsteps of the first disciples who “left all to follow Jesus.” They are eager for training and zealous to return to their own people, bringing the light of the gospel to some of the darkest places.
One of the men who recently came through our training center came to faith through an uncle who had become a believer in another village. He shared that he didn’t even know that there was a religion other than Islam until he was in his early forties.
As we discussed what it was like to live in a context that is dangerous for Christians he replied,
“I’m just waiting. I’m just waiting for them to come and kill me.”
This is not hyperbole. It is part of the daily reality for many persecuted believers in our region.
As we were teaching the crucial role that prayer plays in evangelism, we discussed Acts 4 where Peter and John are arrested and told not to preach the gospel anymore. We studied how when they were released, they immediately went back to the fellowship of believers and prayed,
“Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.”
They didn’t pray for protection; they prayed for continued boldness! And the Bible says that after they prayed, they went out and preached with boldness despite the risk of being arrested.
As we were discussing this passage, one of the trainees held up his New Testament and started pointing at it. He said, “This is us! This is us! This is what we must do! This is us!” The other men in the room began to nod their heads in full agreement. These precious brothers see their lives being lived out just like those in the book of Acts.
After several months of training, the group was given two weeks off to go back to their homes to see their families. As they left, one of the men said, “If I’m in prison or if they kill me, I won’t be able to come back. Otherwise, I’ll see you in 15 days.” And when they came back from their home country, a context where just being a Christian and possessing a Bible is grounds for being killed, they shared how they had baptized 10 new believers during their break! UWM exists to equip believers such as these. Leaders who have the call, the heart, and the passion to live as the light of Christ in some of the darkest places in the world.
As these men recently finished their training and returned to their villages, I was struck by the real possibility that some of them would be called to give their lives for the gospel. But they went joyfully, knowing that lost people matter to God and that the gospel is worth it.