‘I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa; sharply distinct from the work of secular NGO’s, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa, Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good” -Matthew Harris, Atheist
I am very encouraged about the first launch! It gives me hope about the future. This launch has confirmed that ServeNow’s holistic approach is coming to Africa at the right time. It is going to assist and empower our pastors in different local churches, even in the more remote and harder to reach places. –Pastor Clement, Benin Coordinator
In this blog post, I want to make a special case for Africa. As an organization, we have experienced some growth in the last few years. As we expand in different regions/countries of the world, one of the most strategic and impactful growth opportunities we see is Africa. Here are a few facts to ponder from the book The Challenge for Africa written by Noble Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai:
- Whereas in the early 1960s only 10 percent of the world’s poor were African, by the year 2000 50 percent were (pg.49).
- By 2001, the number of people in Africa living in extreme poverty had nearly doubled to 316 million, from 164 million twenty years before (pg.53).
- Almost half the population of sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than one dollar a day, the highest level of poverty in the world. (pg.129).
Did you know that Burundi, a country in East Africa, is ranked the world’s poorest country? (https://www.gfmag.com/global-data/economic-data/the-poorest-countries-in-the-world). Burundi is one of the countries we launched this year. It is also where our primary coordinator for West Africa resides. But besides this, did you know the top ten most impoverished countries in the world when writing this is ALL African countries?
At the heart of this lies a few solutions. First, there is a need for national leadership from within Africa herself. Maathai writes, “Principled and visionary leaders are still too few in number…” (pg.11). Second, there is a need for the African people themselves to rise up and use whatever they have in their hands and hearts and heads. Again Maathai writes, “It entails implementing decisions that encourage the dynamism and entrepreneurship of African peoples, protecting them from unfair competition, and nurturing economies that add value to the commodities the rest of the world desires so much” (pg.19).
I have been so impressed over the years by the creativity, innovation, and ingenuity of people worldwide, including Africa, when given a chance. While we have been providing some humanitarian relief due to some crisis related to COVID lock-down measures, and in response to other natural disasters where survival is at stake, we are focused on a holistic approach that includes small grants for people to start their own businesses.
For example, Florence is a woman who lives in Burundi and a recent recipient of a small grant. She shared with us the following: “Every day I wake up to sell my goods on my little table. I gain something for the day and save for the group. Together in the group, we can achieve more even as each is responsible for her own small business in the community where she lives. Before, it was tough for me because I did not have any capital to undertake a business. But now, with the small grant I received, I can fill my little table with goods to sell! I am thankful to God that I now have something to do. This new ministry of Basic Things came to support me spiritually, socially, and financially. I feel now that I am living little by little, life has a meaning. As a family and a group, we pray that God will continually help us grow and reach a big capital.”
Another group shared that they were able through their earnings within a month to provide a small grant to two more women!
I love these initiatives because they did not come from us and were not our ideas. It was the ideas of the African people and leaders we coordinate with. It is also a gift that keeps on giving and multiplying as they generate an income and empower others to do the same. Simultaneously, through our Basic Series discipleship books, their spiritual needs are also being met.
I believe Africa is ready to arise and could prosper like never before. But they face some intense challenges ahead. Patrick Johnstone, for example, wrote the following in 2011 in his book The Future of the Global Church, “The proportion of humankind living in slums is unlikely to be reduced by much over the next 40 years. Indeed, while the percentage of slum dwellers in Asia and Latin America may fall, there will be a marked increase in Africa unless there is a radical change towards effective governance. The situation in that continent will probably be horrific, with over 40% (840 million) of all Africans living in slums. Who will win the hearts and minds of these destitute, desperate people? (pg.7).
ServeNow is working with some fantastic leaders, pastors, and churches who can do just that…win the hearts and the minds of the most vulnerable and poor in the world. We share in their dreams for Africa that have arisen from Africa and her people/leaders itself. And we are already beginning to make a massive and life-transforming difference, though we are just getting started! I invite you to join us in praying, believing, giving, and eventually going to see for yourself and meet some truly remarkable people!
To participate with us in what God is doing in Africa and other parts of the world feel free to reach out to us at ServeNow@weservenow.org or visit our website here to learn more: weservenow.org. You can also contribute through generous and meaningful giving opportunities here.