Sent through Calvary Ministries Worldwide (Capro), West African francophone missionaries Albert and Janet have worked alongside the AIM team on the Indian Ocean Islands. Albert shares their story.
Through my experiences of serving the Lord, I have come to understand that two things are essential: to keep hungering to know him more, and to submit to his plans no matter what the cost. These two heart attitudes must define our lives and ministry. The Lord said in John 12:26: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.”
Finding God’s call
In 2010, my wife and I were just steps away from permanently leaving our church planting post in West Africa after spending seven years serving there with Capro. The goal was to follow the call we had received from the Lord eight years earlier for the Mandingo people of Mali.
The hoped-for arrangements were finally met. The transfer of our responsibilities had happened, the Capro team in Mali was ready and looking forward to welcoming us. Then I was told about an urgent need for a missionary couple to serve among the Muslims of the Indian Ocean Islands. Initially I paid no attention – we were going to Mali – I didn’t even mention it to my wife! However, a few weeks later, as I meditated on the Word, the Holy Spirit brought me back to this need. To me it echoed the SOS from the Macedonian in Acts 16:9-10. A strong conviction took place in me and was confirmed when I talked to my wife. Quickly we realised that God’s schedule for us at that time was not what we planned. Although changing all our preparations was not easy, in mid-May 2012 we landed on the Indian Ocean Islands.
Finding a way in
The Indian Ocean Islands are closed to the gospel. Islam is the only religion recognised by the state. Consequently, for an application for a residence visa it was necessary for us to have occupations that would serve the community.
Janet, in order to minister to local women, used the sewing training she had had several years before our marriage. With the help of external partners, she set up a sewing school where she volunteered to train and support vulnerable women. This allowed her not only to offer these women income-generating activities, but above all to forge strong friendships that resulted in the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I felt called to reach local teachers, parents and students. So we created a library, as a way to have local interactions. Very strong friendships were nurtured that allowed me to testify to my faith in Jesus to several households and family leaders.
Developing good relations with our local community was not enough to exempt us from the attentions of the local religious leaders. Their objections to us forced us to move from locality to locality. Through our lifestyle, those living around us noticed that our Christian faith was at the centre of our whole lives. Very quickly, religious leaders noted that our Christian presence in their midst, and the influence we had on the population, represented a serious threat to the safeguarding of their Islam. From then on, we became the object of debate in public places and of their preaching in mosques. They forced the owners of our homes to terminate our rental contracts, or they cut short our development projects. Once we were summoned to the head of the judicial police as we were accused of Christian proselytising.
However, in the shadow of all this travel and turmoil, we saw the Lord using it to spread the fame of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it was in these moments of tension that the curiosity of a greater number of people was awakened, as questions were raised about the Christian faith and about Jesus. Ironically, being forced to move around the Islands meant we were able to spread the gospel further. The presence of Christian disciples among closed Muslim communities is a scandal, but so is the gospel!
More than seven years after entering the Islands, we have come to believe that the Mandingo field in Mali is whitening for the harvest, and that according to the Lord’s agenda, he awaits us there. But his work isn’t done among the Islands. Perhaps he’s calling you there?
All names have been changed for security reasons.