I am not sure when I am going to get this out. I am too cheap to pay for Internet access here in Accra, Ghana, and I am too tired to go out and find an Internet café. This was written on Thursday, December 2nd. Sorry for the typos…
Today we met at the offices of Pioneers Africa (staffed by African leaders, of course). We were given a full briefing on the good and the bad of ministry in West Africa in general, and Ghana in particular. There are many contemporary accounts of Christianity and Islam clashing along the Sub-Saharan religious fault line that runs across Africa above the equator. Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and other nations are along the Western edge of this fault line.
A heavy southern push by Islam to gain territory lost this past century is underway. If one were to look at the unbelievable growth of the Christianity in Africa over the past 100 years, it’s obvious that Islam has lost incredible sway on the continent. Africa entered the 1900s with a Christian population of just under 10% and emerged into 2010 with close to a 50% of Africans amounting to over one half of a billion Christian adherents.
To regain their lost territory (which is virtually impossible demographically), North African and Middle Eastern Muslim missionaries are investing people and money into countries like Ghana. Building mosques, educational centers, and businesses in the northern regions, they are seeking to influence tribes that practice traditional African religions. Muslim men are encouraged to take wives from Christianized tribes in an effort to wield marriage as a proselytizing tool. This is particularly effective in a religious system where multiple wives are allowed. If it doesn’t work out the man is free to choose another woman while the Christian wife is marginalized.
Christian missionaries, meanwhile, are resorting to simple church models in an effort to indigenize a movement of churches planting churches. A handful of highly committed and motivated workers are seeing success on the ground, typically laboring with few resources other than Bible story-telling (many of the people in northern Ghana are illiterate) and prayer.
Not all missionary efforts have been aimed at practitioners of traditional African religions. A handful of brave, indigenous workers have goals to see churches started among Islamic tribal groups. Opposition and harsh persecution have not stopped a handful of believers that have chosen Christ over Islam.
As an aside, I want to relate a story of answered prayer. Bad weather kept my flight from getting to New York on time. As I landed at JFK, my traveling companions texted me that I was missing the outbound flight. I sprinted across the airport, knocking over one gentleman in my haste (dude, if you’re reading this, I am so sorry!). The gate was closed when I arrived. My friends on board told me to search for a “Delta rep with a red coat on” and I found one, explaining my situation. A fury of phone calls and radio transmissions ensued.
Miraculously for me, the door on the airplane was having difficulty closing. “Quick,” I was told, “let’s see what we can do.” As we walked down the jetway, we saw a group of workers trying to maneuver the door into position. There was about two feet left, so I dropped down on my knees, shoved my bag in, and crawled onto the airplane. As I stood up, the door clunked into place.
Thanks goes to Delta for going the extra mile, resubmitting the passenger manifest, and encouraging me to give it a go. Rebecca and Sherwin, thanks!! Perhaps it sounds mystical to you, but I am certain that a little intervention from above kept that door from shutting.