Come over and help us
By AfriGO Team
Who better to reach the mostly Muslim North of Africa than the mostly Christian South of Africa? Such was the thinking at the 2011 Movement for African National Initiatives (MANI) Conference, where the Go North initiative was birthed.
Go North was forged out of the notion that Africans are uniquely suited to minister to their brothers and sisters elsewhere on the continent. Christians living in North Africa welcomed this idea and, in 2015, The Program* to send Sub-Saharan workers was launched, with leaders from churches in the North forming relationships with organisations and churches in the South, to facilitate the bringing in of Sub-Saharan African missionaries.
Sixty-three per cent of Africans living south of the Sahara identify as Christian, whereas the populations of North Africa are over 90 per cent Muslim. Millions of Christians live relatively peaceably in the South, but the few in the North are subject to persecution. One can hear the echo of Acts 16:9 where the man of Macedonia appears to Paul in a dream and says, ‘Come over and help us!’
Pastor Jean Uwinama*, a Rwandan, is part of The Program leadership team and serves with the Church in the North. He says, ‘We act as if some doors are closed to God. We created expressions like “closed countries”, rather than 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…. For this reason, we say, “Come and see!”’
The focus of the Program is two-fold: First, to encourage Christians from the South to settle in the North, running missional businesses to support themselves. These entrepreneurs are sent out by their home churches to receiving churches in the North. The receiving church helps them settle into the community and provides fellowship and encouragement. The sending church provides financial support as long as needed, along with prayer and encouragement from a distance.
Go North’s second focus is to encourage university students from the South to attend school in the North, where they can reach people around them with a testimony of their faith. Both the business people and students are expected to live a Christian lifestyle, while becoming a part of their new community. The Go North initiative has members from East, West, Central, and Southern Africa, along with brothers and sisters from other continents in support roles. To date, most of those sent come from West Africa, due to the advantage most have of speaking French, which is often needed in North Africa. Each Christian worker partners with an existing church; indeed, their role is not to plant new churches, but to be a witness to Christ in their new communities and support the existing North African church.
Mike Adegbile, Executive Director of Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association (NEMA) and a leading voice in the Go North initiative says:
“Why else would God place over 40 million Evangelicals 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 has an agenda for the Sub-Saharan African Church at home and in the diaspora to play a key role in the final thrust of the Gospel to the North and to the nations yet unreached.”
Go North also assists North African believers who have lost jobs due to their faith in Jesus. Significant persecution persists in many areas; and security is a major concern for Christians. Indeed, the identity of both the workers and local Christians should never be publicised or shared in any way that would put them in danger. While we do not live with a spirit of timidity (2 Tim 1:7), neither do we want to create opportunities for those who are hostile to the gospel to misunderstand us.
Despite security issues, The Program has created a program called the “Come and See”* Experience. This short-term trip takes place annually in the North and is for Sub-Saharan pastors, leaders, and anyone interested in missions to come and see for themselves what is happening and what is needed in the North. Visits to historical sites drive home the point that North Africa has a rich Christian history, one which has been overshadowed and largely forgotten.
Brother Senyo*, a South African on the Go North team who was interviewed for this article, urges the African Church to “find out the reality of the Christian life – don’t just think of your own community. Think of those who live in places where to become a Christian is to face extreme difficulty. You should find out what is needed to help in other parts of the world.”
Sub-Saharan Christians are indeed hearing the call from the North, ‘Come over and help us!’ and are responding.
There are Christians in the North, but they are few. They need brothers and sisters to come and stand with them. If you are interested in learning more about the next Carthage Experience, or to engage in other ways with Go North and The Program, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Names and Places have been changed