The DARK CONTINENT and BIMI
by Ron Bragg, Africa Director

David Livingstone said, “No great result is ever attained without patient, long, continued effort.” This has been the testimony of BIMI in Africa for the past 35 years and will continue to be until our Lord returns. The miracle of God planting the seed of burden in the heart of man to accomplish a purpose for His glory and seeing that small seed grow to fruition is a mystery that cannot be explained. This was the case in 1960 when a small group of men armed with a burden and a vision for the lost, along with the promises of God, launched out into something that has certainly changed the course of history and the destiny of thousands.

Dr. Tom Freeney, Dr. Lee Roberson, Dr. Dolphus Price, Dr. J. R. Faulkner, Dr. Harold Sightler, Dr. Bruce Talley, Dr. E. C. Sheehan, and Dr. Bill Rice, along with 160 pastors and laymen, officially gave birth to BIMI. Because of turmoil, civil war, and the communist takeover in the old Belgian Congo, now Zaire, seven of our first missionaries (Barton & Onie Browning, Martha Kunberger, Veneta Hancock, Clifford & Faye New and Marie Forsberg) came from the Congo Gospel Mission when it disbanded. These servants, along with several others, launched BIMI into Africa as well as into all the world.

The question is asked in Zechariah 4:10, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” What started with a handful of men and a few thousand dollars in 1960 has blossomed over the years to $5 million in support in 1977, to the present with almost $20 million donated annually and 945 missionaries reaching multitudes in more than 80 countries around the world.

BIMI now has 40 missionaries working in eleven different countries across Africa with the prospect of entering Chad and Ethiopia in the near future. The “dark continent” is living up to its reputation in these days of upheaval, AIDS, civil war, anarchy, and political overthrow which seem to be epidemic. In spite of all the obstacles, our missionaries are pushing on with new determination to reach those even in the most remote and difficult places.

In 1966, Dr. Dan Truax, a veteran of many years in Africa, came with BIMI as deputation secretary and soon thereafter was given the responsibility of Africa Director. It was under his leadership and because of his love for Africa that BIMI began to launch out into countries all across the continent.

One of his biggest burdens was the Moslem people along the Sahara Desert. In the early 1970s God called several couples for that work; after more than 20 years, David Edens is still translating the Word of God into that difficult desert language and giving out the Gospel. Because of political unrest and a closed door to new mis-sionaries, J. B. Godfrey and I were led to pioneer a work in the Moslem stronghold of Senegal. Swante Lindquist followed a few months later.

Bob Johnson, Roger McCrum and Joel Bain are all twenty-year-plus veterans who have built solid works in South Africa under very difficult, and at times very dangerous, conditions.

One of the most productive fields for BIMI has been Côte d’Ivoire, the former Ivory Coast. Johnny Todd is our veteran there and he has also served a term in Ghana where we have two national missionaries, Harold Holdbrook and Christian Dogor, who are doing a fine job. Younger missionaries coming to Côte d’Ivoire such as Arthur Truax, Jeff Bassett, Tom Vineyard and Jim Neeson have given new force and vigor to the work. Local churches have been planted, Bible schools have been organized, and nationals are pastoring their own churches. Just this past year, a national from Ivory Coast was sent as a missionary to Burkina-Faso, totally supported by national churches in Côte d’Ivoire.

Unstable would be a conservative word to describe Nigeria, but David Long, Mark Sigstad and Solomon Owolabi have established great works and thousands have come to Christ and are being trained for the ministry.

These are exhilarating days for BIMI in Africa, with new fields being opened and a projected goal of five new fields in the next few years as God provides laborers. Kenya, Uganda and Malawi are the most recent new fields for BIMI. Our first-term missionary, Mark Deloach, has established an exciting work in Kenya. Uganda, named the “Pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill, was ruled by a ruthless tyrant, Idi Amin, who killed over 500,000 of his own people in the 1970s. That dark time in history has been replaced by optimism with an open door for the missionaries to return to that fruitful vineyard.

Bryan Stensaas and Al Hamilton arrived in the fall and winter of 1994 and a church has already been established. In the next ten years we believe that Uganda will be one of the most productive mission fields in all of Africa. With one out of every six dying of AIDS in that country, the missionaries’ task is a formidable one.

When we think of Africa, the first thing that comes to mind are the wild animals. Some of our men can attest to the danger of certain species. Jim Neeson was pinned in his vehicle when a water buffalo decided to fellowship with him and came through his windshield. Bob Johnson had a close encounter with a hippopotamus that nearly took his life and landed him in the hospital. J.B. Godfrey’s specialty was killing big snakes. I remember one night in Zaire when a cobra crawled through the outdoor kitchen and the place was vacated in record time.

Moreover are the dangers involving the two-legged type of enemy. Tom Vineyard found himself flat on the floor to keep from being hit by flying bullets during a coup attempt in Zaire. Dr. Doug Howard recently caught a bullet when leaving church on Wednesday night in South Africa. We were in harm’s way one night on a lonely mountainside in Zaire when bandits surrounded our truck. God intervened miraculously and we were set free. Mark Sigstad was robbed at gunpoint.

Our news media portrayed last year's horrors in Rwanda; likewise thousands have been killed in Zaire and Liberia in recent years. A young Liberian preacher after seeing his entire family decapitated, fled for his life and found himself a refuge in Côte d'Ivoire. He was almost in despair, but God reached down and gave him renewed hope through the preaching of the Gospel in a little tin-roofed shack called a church. He stated to me, “I forgot who my Father really is and that He is not through with me yet.” These faithful soldiers are going forward in spite of great personal tragedy.

Then comes disease and discouragement. The West Coast of Africa was called “the white man’s graveyard” in the early days of missions. One whole mission group was completely wiped out by malaria within 18 months of their arrival. Long distances and scant medical facilities sometimes cause the new missionaries much anxiety.

The difficulties of a totally new way of life and teaching the people in another tongue are very real pressures. Several years passed before the first soul was saved in Senegal. After over 20 years of tedious labor in Niger, in the heart of the Sahara Desert, there are just a few who have been bold enough to come forward for Christ.

With all these obstacles, some may ask WHY GO TO AFRICA? Because even with all the dangers and difficulties, BIMI stands on the threshold of a great harvest. During these years of pain, sickness, discouragement, and danger came men who were willing to pay the price, and now we are going to see a great in-gathering of souls. Right now in Africa there are approximately 51 countries and by the year 2000 a population of 890 million is projected. We must go so they can hear.

Africa has long been noted for its intrigue, excitement and danger. This has not changed. The Bible says in I Corinthians 16:9, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” We cannot focus on closed doors but on the doors that are open to us. Paul knew well that behind every open door the enemy would be waiting.

Yes, the adversaries are many, but the doors are still open and we must take the opportunities that God has given. Will you GO, will you GIVE, will you PRAY? Let the following poem encourage your heart as it did John Stam before he was martyred in China:

Afraid? Of What?
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid? Of That?

Afraid? Of What?
Afraid to see the Saviour’s face,
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of Grace?
Afraid? Of That?

Afraid? Of What?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;
Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid? Of That?

Afraid? Of What?
To do by death what life could not—
>Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Til souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid? Of That?

- E. H. Hamilton

We look forward with anticipation to what God is going to do in the days ahead in Africa. One thing is sure: what we do in Africa must be done quickly and efficiently for our time is short.

I cannot help but be reminded of Nehemiah and the building program God had entrusted to him. There was much blessing but also incredible opposition. The Sanballats and Tobiahs are ever present in our day to oppose and hinder everything God wants to do. BIMI’s emphasis is not on buildings, though they are necessary, but on the building of souls and the training of pastors and lay leaders to carry on when the missionary must leave for health or political reasons. We look back as Nehemiah did and we can say, “God has done great things, and we have come a long way.”

However, Nehemiah’s greatest opposition came at the halfway point. When we turn around and see how far we must go to finish our course, we sometimes get discouraged and weary in the work. In Nehemiah 6:9, he exhorted his workers with these words, “For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done, Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” Then we find in verse 15 the words we all want to hear, “So the wall was finished . . .”

I have traveled across Africa and I marvel at what our men are accomplishing; yet, I see the hundreds of villages and towns that have yet to hear the glorious Gospel of Christ. I am reminded of Robert Moffet (1795-1883) who gave testimony about Africa. “There is a vast plain to the north, where I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been.” This testimony was given, and a young man by the name of Livingstone answered the call of God and gave his life to the winning of the lost in the heart of “the dark continent.” We need God to strengthen our hands for the great task ahead of us, and He will give us laborers for the fields that are white unto harvest.

BIMI started with a few visionaries and laid a solid foundation which has endured 35 years. But we can never be content as long as souls stand on the edge of eternity not knowing the Christ of glory. We must press on!

Missionaries of the Day
Thursday, October 30, 2014

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014