Crossing the Sahara: The Call to Go North

AIM’s involvement in a new collaborative effort to mobilize and equip Sub-Saharan Africans as disciple-makers and church planters among the peoples of North Africa

By John Becker with contributions from Mike Adegbile and Jean Nzabarushimana

A vision is born

A few years ago I delighted in a wonderful experience of vibrant worship of Francophone Africans singing in an International Church just outside the walls of an ancient medina. These were men and women mostly from West Africa who had found themselves either intentionally or unintentionally in North Africa. Here they were – God’s instruments of praise in this somehow hostile environment towards the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

How is God raising up more of his people from South of the Sahara to bring the good news to the Muslim peoples and communities of North Africa? I will never forget one of the origins of this question during a mission network gathering in Kansas City several years ago. (1) A growing number of mission leaders wanted to know who was working together to find ways and means for more Sub-Saharans to intentionally be on mission in North Africa.

Networks collaborate

We began to work on answering that. What developed was a series of communications linking different voices. This culminated in a historic meeting in Abuja, Nigeria at the MANI (2) consultation in 2011. It was the first time a delegation of North African leaders from the North Africa Partnership attended. The conversation was rich and forged relationships which would help MANI truly fulfil its vision to reach all the unreached people groups of Africa with the Gospel including those in countries north of the Sahara. This became known as the Go North Vision.

African leaders from across the continent began organizing meetings and conducting research to determine viability and next steps. The first such meeting was January 2015 in Malta: During the very first meeting a formal partnership known as S2NAP (South to North Africa Partnership) was initiated. Later that year the leadership team produced a document to define the goals and objectives. Their first initiative was to move to North Africa to strengthen this nascent partnership.

Mike Adegbile, Executive Director of Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association (NEMA) has been a leading voice in this collaborative effort. Mike writes:

“There is great need for the Sub-Sahara African Church to harmonize, pool its resources together in greater networking efforts in order to synergize and reach the North. How we work together is as important as what we do! It sets the tone, culture and spirit of collaboration. It affects our motivation, commitment, engagement, and impact for the Kingdom. Working together in Networks should imply that each member of the network comes into the team with a mind of entering into the tie that binds the team together.”

This spirit of collaborative unity led them to Tunis the next year, where they took time to meet the church leaders and share the vision. The idea was rather well received, and this is where S2NAP decided to organize the CARTHAGE EXPERIENCE, a kind of annual forum where leaders of Sub-Saharan African churches are invited to come and see what God is doing in North Africa, so that later, they can engage their churches to participate actively (pray, send, support).

During that meeting, Pastor Jean Nzabarushimana joined the S2NAP leadership team, under the recommendation of the Reformed Church of Tunisia. God had given Pastor Jean similar vision in 2007. As a Sub-Saharan African, living in North Africa since 1997, S2NAP was exactly what Pastor Jean was longing for.

Come and See!

Pastor Jean enthusiastically invites fellow Sub-Saharans to join him in the Go North Vision. He writes:

“Among the nations of the 10/40 Window, God is at work, just as he is everywhere in his world. Our Almighty God never fails! Nevertheless, we doubt this because of what we see and hear happening in certain parts of the world. We act as if some doors are closed to God. We created expressions like “closed countries”, rather than just simply mentioning people groups that still lack the Gospel. In response, the Go North vision is here to challenge us and change our ways of thinking and doing Mission. It’s a vision calling us to work together and take action as we better understand the realities on the field. For this reason we say, “Come and see!”

First of all, people need to come and see what God has done and is doing in North Africa today! Come and see where God did great things in the early church. It may be a surprise to many Sub Saharans, but North Africa has a very strong Christian historic heritage. Come and see where the Canonization of the New Testament, the book that all Christians read and cherish, took place. Come and see where Tertullian lived and worked as the key leader in Canonization of the New Testament. Come and see the historical land where the first courageous Christian were martyrs – Africans in Africa! This is not fiction! You will see where the Church fathers had their important gatherings to discuss the inerrancy of the Bible, the Church and its future.

In a way, coming and seeing North Africa, will be as if you were doing a pilgrimage. Particularly a visit to Carthage, Tunisia, will help you understand deeply what Tertullian once wrote in 197AD: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church!” Come and see the implications of that strong statement. Come learn about the amazing martyrs Felicity and Perpetua, followers of Jesus the Body of Christ should celebrate rather than forget. And there are others such as St. Augustine who were in North Africa long before us. We still hear the echoes of their words!

Yet now, the Sub-Saharan African Church is invited to make this step of faith. Church leaders are encouraged to come and see, in order to go back and mobilize their church members to consider the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-29), as far as North Africa is concerned. The Sub-Saharan African Church learned and received much from the Western church and, in some ways, the African Church in the South continue to benefit from the Western churches generosity. It is time now to think about our neighbors next door.”

Mike Adegbile shares this challenge:

“Why else would God place an over 40million man-army of Evangelicals in one country in Sub-Saharan Africa, endowed with capable leadership and resources able to overrun Africa and the World with the Gospel? Why would God place such enormous human resource in close proximity to some of the neediest, least reached Muslim Unreached People Groups in the Sahel and across North Africa? God definitely has an agenda for the Sub-Sahara Africa Church at home and in the Diaspora to play a key role in the final push and thrust of the Gospel to the North and the Nations yet unreached.

Finally, as Joshua and Caleb exhibited before Israel in the face of the daunting challenges to possessing the land of Canaan – Vision, commitment, courage, daring faith, self-sacrifice, and persistence – we in S2NAP need these same qualities so that the Church and Missions Movement in Sub-Sahara Africa can be effective in the gathering of the final harvest towards completing the Great Commission in the North.”

What a joy it is for AIM to participate with other Kingdom minded groups and networks in fostering gospel movements of discipleship to Christ within every people, region and strata of society across the North. No place left means; no people/ethnic group, no city/segment of society left across the Maghreb where Christ is not made known and His Salvation not experienced (Psalm 67:2).

–Jean NZABARUSHIMANA is a Pastor from RWANDA serving within the Reformed Church of TUNISIA
–Mike Adegbile is Executive Director of Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association -NEMA
–Together John, Mike, James, and Jean serve together in S2NAP.

1) Vision 5:9 North America Roundtable, Kansas City.
2) MANI – Led by Nigerian, Rueben Ezemadu- The Movement for African National Initiatives is a network of networks focused on catalyzing African National Initiatives and mobilizing the resources of the Body of Christ in Africa for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. MANI’s purpose is to affirm, motivate, mobilize and network Christian leaders by inspiring them with the vision of reaching the unreached and least evangelized in Africa, and the wider world, through the communication of up to date research, reports and models; consultations and prayer efforts focusing on the unfinished task.

Going North through Prayer

By James Forlines – Executive Director, Final Command Ministries

Africa has an interesting paradox. While there are an estimated 180 million Evangelical believers on the continent, almost exclusively concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa, some of the least reached Muslim people groups on earth reside on the same continent; concentrated mostly in the North. Workers in these areas are often isolated and face very challenging circumstances. Conversions are highly discouraged or even illegal. In most cases there is no freedom to gather openly as a church. Workers use creative ways of being in the country since religious worker’s visas are not allowed. Legal standing in the country is tenuous.

This African paradox will not be solved by strategies, personnel, gatherings, partnerships, or more creative access opportunities alone. A collaborative prayer effort, beyond what we have seen before, that transcends agencies and denominations, is needed. Truly, prayer movements will precede disciple-making and church planting movements. A collective group of 15+ agencies working in the region has come together and developed a Prayer App to focus intentional prayer on this needy region.

Anyone in the world can download the YKC Prayer App (Your Kingdom Come). It is available in the iPhone App store and Google Play for Android users. Simply search for YKC. During the registration process you can choose a preferred language. You can also choose various regions in Africa from which to receive requests. There is an additional step needed to receive permission to “post” requests. Once you have downloaded the App, open it, and look for the three white lines in the upper left hand corner. Tap on that and click “Contact Us”. Let us know the organization you are with and after confirmation you will be granted “Requester” status.
Requests can be posted in Arabic, French, and English. Instantly they are posted, and people will receive them in either of the three languages. The app translates them automatically.

Once they have read the request there is a “Pray” button they can click. It is very similar to “Like” on Facebook. The poster of the request will be able to see how many people are praying. The intercessor can also post a message of encouragement or a scripture reference and send it. In this way isolated people workers among Muslim people groups can instantly feel the prayer support coming from all over the world. Join this prayer effort to see His Kingdom come and His will be done in every people group in Africa.

Download the YKC Prayer App

Also visit AIM’s related prayer resource: PrayAfrica

More stories in this series on African Mobilization: