“Are you prepared to be like the other missionaries?” asked Canon Moses, executive director of the Anglican initiated Here’s Life in Uganda. Rev. Justus, International Needs Uganda executive director, and I were meeting Canon Moses at the Namirebe Guest House in Kampala trying to discern which tribes in the country were still unengaged. Our information indicated that there were four people groups yet to hear the gospel. Two of them, the Nubi and a group of South Asians, were near Kampala. The other two were close to the border of the war-torn country of South Sudan, the Lulba, a group of refugees from the Sudan civil war (in the northwest), and the Ik (in the mountains of the northeast).
It is interesting to think that Christianity has been in Africa since Philip explained the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. I’m sure Jesus and his family discussed spiritual things with the people they encountered in Egypt. For more than 2,000 years, there has been a Christian presence on the continent.
At the birth of modern missions, Africa was a focus of many efforts that were so effective nearly every sub-Saharan African country has a majority Christian population. So, it might come as a surprise that there are still tribes in many countries who have not heard the news of great joy that is for all people.
Just within our network, Uganda has four tribes who do not have a Christian worker among them, Ghana has eight, Ethiopia has 16, and Burkina Faso has nine. The task is still not finished in Africa.
As we are planning our next steps to engage these people groups, we are fully aware that many might be resistant to the gospel. I believe we, as a mission organization with gospel outreach at our core, are uniquely positioned to address this challenge through our programs of income enhancement, education, food & water, and health & sanitation. This is the gospel proclaimed in both word and action and this has been our strategy since 1974.
I wondered what Canon Moses was really asking so he clarified his question. He said other missionaries came with their belongings packed in a coffin knowing that there was a good chance they would not return home. The history of missions in Africa, even modern history, is dotted with the gravestones of many missionaries who were killed or died of disease. These challenges continue to confront African Christians. We were reminded of this when we heard the story of one pastor who was cane beaten while reaching out to the Nubi, a Muslim tribe about a two-hour drive outside of Kampala.
International Needs is a mission organization committed to fulfilling the commission of Jesus Christ to make disciples of all people. It is a privilege for us to partner with nearly 2,000 national workers in 26 countries on this adventure. There are challenges and trials, but Jesus promises the gospel will be proclaimed to all peoples and in every language (Matt 24:14).
Thank you for praying with us as we join with God in His work of transforming lives and changing communities.
Michael T. Cooper, PhD
President and CEO