It was a ‘gut-reaction’ question from a friend that started Rachel Chard thinking about why God had placed it on her and Andrew’s heart to serve in Africa, considering they had two young children and another on the way.
Late in 1991, while talking with fellow students at Moorlands Bible College about our imminent overseas placements, we were asked, “But why Africa?” Surrounded by people who were equally committed to cross-cultural mission, it was evident that God had given us passion for different parts of the world.
A few months later, I confided in a close friend that I was pregnant with our third child. Instead of the congratulations I expected, her response was a very serious question: “Why would you bring another child into the world knowing that you are going to live in Africa?” and continued by stating, “You are needed here in Britain; why go to Africa at all?” She was, and is, a valued friend and a mature believer and her question was valid, for it is unreasonable to expect everyone to see things the same way that we do. Why indeed should we bother with Africa, when there is much need here and in many places of the world? If my memory serves me rightly, I replied that while the need for Gospel workers in the UK was huge, there were more than enough Christians and resources to reach the British and that God was asking us to go to help reach the peoples of Africa.
God had already used that chapter of our life to convict us of the claim of ‘the unreached’ to be given top priority in all missionary effort. I don’t recall what the statistics were back in the early nineties, but right now in Africa alone there are approximately 950 identified unreached people groups, mostly very Gospel-resistant people. I don’t know why God gave us more passion for the unreached of Africa than for the unreached of anywhere else but we have never needed to know that. After all, while we and Aim International focus on Africa and Africans, others will focus on other needy areas of the world. It’s just teamwork on a grand level.
…while we and AIM focus on Africa and Africans, others will focus on other needy areas of the world. It’s just teamwork on a grand level.
“Desires of your heart”
At about the same time as those two conversations, another friend drew my attention to Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”. It dawned on me that if we commit to living wholeheartedly for God, it is He who conceives our ambitions and desires within us and then grants them, bringing glory to Himself and blessing to his people. Of course, going to Africa with three young children was a big deal and yes, ‘bothering with Africa’ has brought many challenges, often large ones, but the blessings have been no less. We have always told our children that the rough and smooth are together the true spice of life for Christians: few spices taste good on their own, but the combination of the bitter and the sweet often produces the best of flavours. That’s what serving God in Africa has been like for us.
So why bother with Africa? Because God loves Africans, Jesus died for them and too many don’t know that yet. I praise God that He shares out the load of taking the Gospel to the nations. I praise God that married, single, children or no children, we can be used by the Creator of the Universe to take the best news possible and make it available to those who need to hear it.