A Heart for Africa
August 1, 2003 - President Bush's tour of Africa in July focused attention on a land that many of us associate with distant and overwhelming tragedies.
by Franklin Graham
Unless you've been there, it's difficult to understand how much Africans have suffered from war, disease, famine and poverty. And only then do you appreciate how the Church stands out as a source of help and of hope.
I've made dozens of trips to Africa, and I never cease to be amazed by the faith of African Christians. They expect miracles and often see them. Their joy in worship would put most of us to shame.
Much of the progress in African history can be attributed to Christian leadership, from the abolition of slavery to the establishment of hospitals and schools, from the peaceful end of apartheid in South Africa to the unprecedented reduction of AIDS in Uganda.
When we consider Africa's growing pains, we must not forget that it has been less than 50 years since most countries gained independence from the colonial grip of Europe, and just 140 years since pioneering missionary David Livingstone died on his knees in prayer in what is now Zambia.
Today, nearly half of Africans call themselves Christians. Thousands of foreign missionaries are working there. And in a sign of spiritual maturity, African churches have begun sending their own missionaries to Europe and other places that have turned cool to the Gospel.
As the situation changes, we are ready to respond. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association held an International School of Evangelism in Malawi last year, teaching hundreds how to plant and strengthen churches. Samaritan's Purse provides practical and emergency help in dozens of countries throughout Africa, including broad-based ministries in Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique. All that we do is designed to build up the African churches.
We are encouraged by the president's interest in Africa, his concern for the victims of AIDS, and his willingness to address issues surrounding civil wars from Sudan to Liberia.
Like Livingstone, who sought "the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has been," we need a heart for Africa. God has begun a mighty work there.
We should pray on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Africa, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6, NIV).