by John Stonestreet
When Jesus said, “In this world you’ll have tribulation,” He might have had Africa in mind.
Imagine, if you can, that you hear rumors of Muslim terrorists coming to take over your hometown. You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. You don’t even know whether to stay or flee. Finally, someone you trust tells you they have started burning down churches. Frantically, you gather up your family and a few meager possessions and run as fast as you can in the other direction — praying they won’t catch you.
After days of exhausting, harrowing effort, you and your children finally arrive at a relief camp for the displaced and you get in a food line. But when you come to the front, the man in charge says coldly, “This relief is not for Christians.” To the Muslims running this camp, you’re a mere pagan. To add insult to injury, you find out that Christians here are not even allowed to gather for worship.
Christians in Nigeria’s Borno state have been living this scenario since 2009, when Boko Haram began wreaking havoc.
Africa’s tribulation seems never-ending. From the Ethiopian famine decades ago to the more recent chaos in Sudan, the headlines we receive here in the West are nearly always grim. In fact, Africa is facing yet another seemingly unprecedented crisis — a famine stretching from Somalia, to South Sudan, to Nigeria, in which 20 million people are at risk of starvation. That’s right, 20 million.
According to our friends over at Open Doors USA, an average of 184 children die each day in Nigeria from malnutrition. The saddest fact of all is that this famine is caused by people, not the weather. It’s caused by instability, war, economic collapse, and discrimination.
Here’s another fact — Africa is heavily Christian. Its share of Christians has exploded from about 9 percent in 1900 to almost 50 percent today, including two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa. These are our brothers and sisters facing this tribulation, and we owe them more than a quick shake of the head before moving on to the next news story. Whatever our differences, those who follow Jesus Christ are members of the same body. When one hurts, we all hurt — and compassion fatigue is no excuse for looking away. As Jesus said, when we serve the “least of these,” we serve Him.
And it must go beyond helping fellow Christians, as important as that is. Christians aren’t the only ones starving — or watching what those of us in the wealthy Western countries do. Muslims, animists, and secular people — they also need our help, and we need to do our best, as a matter of gospel witness, even biblical justice. Maybe we can’t do everything, but surely we can do something, for such a time as this.
And of course the African continent is on the frontlines of a long spiritual contest being played out daily between the followers of Jesus Christ and the followers of Muhammad. It’s a battle waged in the heavenlies but also in cities, villages, and country sides of Africa. The eternal destinies of millions hang in the balance — to say nothing of their acute physical needs.
That’s why prayer — the kind that drives us to our knees and makes us cry out to God for mercy — is so vital right now. Will you pray with me for the starving men, women, and children of Africa, who need not only physical food and drink, but spiritual food and living water that only Jesus can provide?
Once you’ve done that, would you please give as much as you possibly can? Come to BreakPoint.org, and we’ll link you to organizations that are organizing targeted relief efforts for the African famine. One of them is Open Doors, which works with partner churches on the ground. Their goal is to save the lives of 3,000 families. For perhaps the cost of cable or internet service for a month, you can provide a Food Survival Kit to feed a starving family of five for two months, very possibly one that can’t get help any other way. Again, come to BreakPoint.org to learn more.
You know it’s the right thing to do. Thank you for doing it!