The bumpy road to CAR

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After years of praying and waiting, Steve and Sharon Entwistle moved to CAR in September 2015, to reach out to the nomadic Mbororo people. With plans underway for a Focus team to join them this month, we asked them to tell us a little bit about the country.

When people hear us say we work in the Central African Republic, they usually shut down pretty quickly. CAR is a little-known, land-locked country right in the heart of Africa. If it makes any headlines, it is usually for all the wrong reasons. Like when a rebel army staged a coup in 2013, ushering in an ongoing struggle for power throughout the land. Or when the Lord’s Resistance Army migrated into CAR to continue their terrorism on villages and abduction of children. With a smallish population of just over four million, a GNP which annually ranks in the world’s “Top five poorest,” and a history of political instability, CAR doesn’t beckon your average tourist or businessman.


Inroads for the gospel

Contact with the Mbororo has already been made! Just last week I was invited by a Zande friend on a trip down to the Mbororo camp. After eight kilometres of riding our bicycles through elephant grass, we finally arrived. My arms and neck were ablaze with itching welts from the grass, and it was hard to concentrate as we were ushered into the Mbororo round shelter hut. Their chief, Ardu Amadu warmly greeted us, and beckoned us to sit. Tea, milk (straight from the cow), and rice boiled in sour milk were on the menu as we talked. I tried my best to communicate through broken language, but I doubt they understood much about where my heart was. I pray that God will build on this very feeble effort to one day draw the hearts of Ardu Amadu and his Mbororo people to the truth of the gospel!

Though forgotten by the world, CAR is the apple of God’s eye. As far back as 1908, during AIM’s field conference held in Kenya, it was decided that a great expedition into the hinterland of Africa must be made in order to engage the powerful, storied Zande people in mission. By 1913 a small group of AIM missionaries, including Sharon’s grandparents, finally met the Zande face to face in Dungu, of the Belgian Congo. Later, AIM began mission stations further north, to reach out to the Zande living in CAR.

A new direction

God’s work in CAR is certainly not new, but a new chapter has begun. The Zande have heard and received the gospel. But with the arrival of the eastwardly-travelling, nomadic Mbororo people into CAR, there is now a need for missionary work once again. For centuries the Mbororo have followed the way of Islam as they lead their vast herds of long-horned cattle across Africa’s pasture lands. And for centuries most of them have gone without ever hearing of the wonderful, saving grace of Jesus.

In 2008 God began tugging at my heart. At a mission conference in Kenya, one of AIM’s leaders spoke of the Mbororo in CAR. Though firmly entrenched in ministry in Mozambique at the time, I sensed God was speaking directly to me. When I spoke with Sharon I was amazed to hear that she had a dream—independent of knowing my own experience—where she was standing in front of a Zande church (Sharon grew up as a ‘missionary kid’ in CAR) telling them that we have come to share God’s love with the Mbororo and also with the Zande. Wow! God’s leading seemed pretty clear.

Though the road has been long, bumpy, and confusing at times, we are finally on the ground in CAR! Our goal is to reach out to the Mbororo, and empower the Zande church to fulfil the Great Commission. And so, houses are being prepared, language learning is happening (along with plenty of embarrassing moments!), and friendships are being formed as we prepare to have a team of missionaries join us shortly.

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