The newest member of the First Fruit team is a 20-something North American recently back from a stint in the Philippines. We asked her to try to put to words what her initial “baptism by fire” has been like as an employee of a 40-year-old foundation privileged with relationships with thousands of leaders and organizations worldwide.
Being on staff at First Fruit means being a constant learner about our changing world; in fact, it’s pretty hard to avoid. Despite having my own international experiences, keeping up with current events in so many places can be challenging—considering our giving is focused on 96 countries around the globe.
At First Fruit, we hold the majority of meetings over Skype or email. Being the newest addition to the First Fruit team, I found that I could spend the morning on Skype with a person from Africa and that afternoon Skype with someone from China. I soon realized that the world map in my cubicle was not just for decoration, but also for constant referencing.
I find it a privilege to be connected to men and women from all over the world who are seeking to further the Kingdom. These meetings present a rich opportunity to gain some understanding of current events, ask questions, and get a glimpse into what God is doing in the Majority World.
I often walk away with a reframed mindset, inspired by the boldness of the Lord’s people.
Much of what I am learning here might not be news to some of you who have worked in this area for years; however, I’m currently in First Fruit’s “introductory crash course”, so please indulge me as I share about one such meeting.
After some technical difficulties (as is often the case when interfacing with people around the globe), we settled into a discussion with a man from Nigeria, Amos Aderonmu. We wanted to learn more about Amos and CAPRO (Calvary Ministries Worldwide), the ministry he’s been working with since 1975.
We connected with Amos through First Fruit’s own Rob Martin. He introduced Amos over an email and something that Rob wrote caught my attention:
“He’s an African, sent from an African agency, primarily funded by Africans going across cultures to another African country.”
This concept of Africans being sent out on cross-cultural missions is not a new idea. CAPRO has been sending out Africans to reach Africa for years and there are other similar stories being told across the Majority World. But to me, donors who are not only coming from Western countries are a new story. I worked with a Western-based NGO in the Philippines and when it came to fundraising, the conversation never shifted to how financial partnerships in the Philippines could be formed. To be honest, I never considered that possibility. How excellent it would be to see people within a country supporting God’s work happening right outside their doors! This is something I get excited about, and the story of indigenous born and run NGOs continues to capture my attention.
CAPRO is involved in 35 countries in Africa, as well as the Arabian Peninsula, UK, and France. In East Africa specifically, CAPRO has more than 600 locally resourced missionaries, who move to a region to do ministry solely because of the Lord’s calling on their lives. It is not uncommon to hear stories of CAPRO missionaries buying a one-way bus ticket to a conflict-ridden area for the sake of the Gospel. These missionaries work in some of the toughest regions: areas where conflict abounds, Christians are persecuted, and safety is never guaranteed. Because of this, CAPRO has cultivated a culture of self-sacrifice and compassion, and the courage and faith these missionaries display is spoken of throughout the regions.
Amos’ story is no different. Formerly the international director of CAPRO in Nigeria, Amos’ direction changed when he attended a leadership training in Juba, the capital of South Sudan in 2013. He could not ignore the Lord’s tug on his heart to be involved in ministry in South Sudan. After praying and talking with his wife, he relocated his family to Juba, in Amos’ words, “as the Lord called me, so I went.” I was struck by his quiet simplicity and boldness as he described his family’s transition to Juba. I doubt that such a transition was without its challenges and difficult goodbyes and thought.
This is what faith in action looks like.
Speaking with Amos provided us with a fuller context of what it looks like to do ministry in South Sudan and helped us answer these questions:
What does it mean when Amos explains that the harvest field is ripe?
What kind of ministry is needed there?
When we take a closer look at the current state of more contentious regions in East Africa such as South Sudan or Sudan, it is hard not to notice the steadily climbing numbers of refugees and internally displaced peoples (IDP’s) due to recent conflicts. Juba was the center of an outbreak of conflict in December 2013, and by mid-2014 there were 1.4 million South Sudanese internally displaced.
There is a deep need for cross-cultural missions. Amos himself is in a cross-cultural learning posture, relocating from Nigeria to South Sudan. Due to the swelling number of refugees and IDPs in Juba from flashpoint areas like Darfur in bordering Sudan, Amos desires to set up training in cross-cultural missions among the local churches. He sees a need to reach the Muslim population, the unreached, and the refugees scattered throughout South Sudan, Sudan, and Chad.
As we look towards the future, the cross-cultural movement in South Sudan is growing.
For example, Amos has connected with the small but growing Christian community within the Darfurian diaspora. These Muslim background believers have great zeal to share the gospel with their own people—a people who have suffered greatly and have been exiled from their ancestral lands. In October 2015, Amos is helping to organize a conference in Juba for the purpose of uniting the body of Christ within the Darfurian diaspora. This is an opportunity to catch the vision, to encourage one another, and to spur each other towards spiritual growth. It was so encouraging to learn that Sudanese donors paid the entirety of transportation fees for those traveling to the Juba conference from Darfur itself. They recognized the necessity in becoming prayer and financial partners and to be involved in the spread of the Gospel among Darfurians.
How exciting it is to learn of indigenous cross-cultural movement such as this! Rob Martin’s words resonated with me once again.
“He’s an African, sent from an African agency, primarily funded by Africans going across cultures to another African country”.
As I continue to settle into my new position and grow in my knowledge of our ever- changing world, I keep stories like Amos’ in mind. It reminds me of how thankful I am for my little piece of the story, for the opportunity to connect with Brother Amos, and to be moved by the sheer inspiration and courageous nature of his calling. The reach of the Gospel is unending.