His name is Gavin, and we’re seated together on the plane from Belgium to Canada. He’s lived in Brussels the past six years but hails from the Congo. When he hears I work with local churches in Africa, he says he used to believe there’s a God, but now he doesn’t.
I press further and learn that his family is Catholic, and that he decided one day to see if his life would be altered if he no longer prayed. He stopped praying, and his life stayed the same, so he walked away from God.
I urge him to try again, praying in the name of Jesus. I tell him about The Lulu Tree, how everything is done through prayer, how we don’t even fundraise and how the Lord provides; how we don’t do anything without hearing God speak first, and then we obey. And then I share with him the free gift of salvation, that it’s not something we can earn. He listens and nods.
As we’re disembarking, he says, “Thanks so much for sharing. It’s very interesting – in the airport, a Muslim was trying to get me to convert to Islam. Now you’re sharing about Christianity. I’ve got some thinking to do.”
And suddenly, I hear in my head the urgent words of Pastor Zawu from Liberia. “We have to train people before the Muslims take over.”
Everywhere we went in West Africa, white mosques loomed large, the black hijab draped over women’s faces, and the call to prayer rang out mournfully from tower speakers. The Muslims have money, so they enter communities and build a mosque and a school. Since it’s the only school, children are forced to learn the Quran if they want an education.
This is why Pastor Zawu is overseeing almost a hundred students in four different Harvestime classes across Liberia. And this is why Pastor Sonnel of Sierra Leone is training dozens of pastors who are also teachers. He plants a church, and then the pastor uses that church as a school during the week to offer the children Christian education. The school fees in turn help provide for the needs of the pastor and his family.
It’s pulling at our hearts, this need to plant churches, this need to plant pastors with hearts for the villages, this need to provide alternatives to Quranic education. The Muslims might have money but we serve a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He is taking back what is rightfully His across West Africa.
As I drive home along smooth paved roads, I recall the hours spent bumping along on the back of a motorbike over crater-filled dirt roads through village after village, and how I threaded those villages together with prayers. Prayers for churches in each place. Prayers for schools where children can be prepared for this life and the next.
Prayers for the haunting cry of a lost Ishmael to be replaced with the joyful sound of Isaac’s laughter, because he’s found the God who hears and answers prayer. Because at last, he’s coming home.