Dr. J. L. Williams was an evangelist and teacher who traveled around the world in apostolic ministry as God led and enabled him. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, he mentored key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures. He was relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships. J. L. went home to be with the Lord on December 28, 2016.
Many anthropologists consider Africa to be the cradle of human civilization. They believe that Africa is the “mother continent” that has birthed humanity. That’s because some of the oldest “human fossils” have been found there. Regardless of the anthropological, geological or historical data substantiating this claim – the African continent unquestionably has played a significant role in both antiquity and modernity.
As one of the largest and richest continents on planet earth, Africa has played a defining role in the history of the world. Without a doubt, Africa’s history has impacted the history of much of the rest of the world. Previously known as the “Dark Continent,” Africa has been divided and bloodied by the legacies of colonialism, slavery, tribalism and nationalism. And the African continent today continues to be exploited by friend and foe alike for her abundant natural and mineral wealth – with gold, diamonds and oil being the most sought after and fought over.
But Africa continues also to lead the world in the two biggest medical and social pandemics in human history – malaria and HIV. Consider…
Currently malaria is the number one killer in the world – and Africa leads the way. It is called “Africa’s Silent Tsunami.” Malaria kills more people worldwide than any other communicable disease other than TB. And as is always the case, children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable. Sub-Saharan Africa tops the list of Malaria deaths – killing over 1 ½ million a year. That means that 3,000 children die EVERYDAY from Malaria in Africa – or an average of 3 lives every minute are taken by this mosquito-born disease!
And then there is HIV, the world’s first moral-based pandemic. Here too, Africa is “off the charts” – followed by India. There are currently some 25 million people living with – and dying from, AIDS. The average is 6,000 deaths a day. The result is that there are now some 12 million AIDS orphans in Africa! The social and economic ramifications of this is staggering – to say nothing of the spiritual implications.
However, in spite of the epidemic diseases, tribal genocide, poor education, grinding poverty, political intrigue, inept governance and institutionalized corruption – God is mightily at work on the African continent! Because of the explosive spiritual growth of Christianity, there is an average of over 20,000 people a day becoming Christians! That means that Sub-Saharan Africa has literally become the “Christian Continent” – with a higher per capita born again population than any other place on earth. Africa can no longer correctly be called the “Dark Continent.” If anything, she is the “Light Continent” with one of the most explosive and exponentially growing Christian populations in human history! That’s why I continue to travel and minister in Africa multiple times a year!
But Africa is also one of the MAJOR global battlegrounds between Christianity and Islam. Militant Islam is on the march across Africa. Radical Moslems have as their battle cry: “From Cairo to Cape Town, we will sweep the African Continent!” Ever since the days of Mohammed, Moslems have controlled virtually all of North Africa. There the crescent of Islam flies unchallenged. But they know if they are to bring all of the African Continent into their Islamic fold, they have to stop the explosive growth of Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Further, they specifically have their Islamic cross-hairs set on Ghana in the West and Ethiopia in the East. That’s because those two countries have the longest and most deeply entrenched Christian histories on the African Continent. So they cannot sweep West Africa without Ghana – and they cannot sweep East Africa without Ethiopia. Both of those countries NDI has been consistently involved in for over 30 years. We have some of our most long-term partnerships and projects there. And I will be back ministering in both West and East Africa several more times before the end of this year.
With those words of introduction about the historic and spiritual significance of Africa, please look at the following pictorial report from my recent ministry there – this time in Zimbabwe, Sudan and Kenya. It was truly another exciting and fulfilling “Ministry to the Motherland!”
Zimbabwe is literally our oldest country of involvement in Africa – dating back to 1983. I was first invited there by Dr. Jim Seymour, who was serving as a missionary there during those tense days leading up to Zimbabwe’s Independence. He had accepted Christ as a university student at a Crusade being conducted by Leighton Ford. New Directions provided the music and counseling at those events in large tent in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Appropriately, one of our Black teenagers counseled with Jim when he came forward to publicly accept Christ. That began a relationship with NDI that has lasted and grown until this very day.
Remembering how NDI’s interracial ministry had impacted his life as a college student, Jim invited me to come to Zimbabwe with one of our Black musicians to minister in those racially-charged days immediately after Independence. He felt that such a “salt-and-pepper” team-ministry could incarnate the racial reconciliation that Christ brings. God wonderfully blessed that first ministry trip to Zimbabwe – and to the African Continent. I have been incurably “hooked on Africa” ever since!
So it was a great personal delight to return to Africa with Dr. Seymour on this mission (He is currently Chairman of the Religion and Philosophy Department at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, NC. He is also the Director of ARKS, or Accumulated Resources of Kindred Spirits, which facilitates and funds ministry domestically and internationally). Over a year ago Jim and I envisioned together a special outreach we called “Ministry to The Motherland.” It would be a unique mission trip that would be exclusively for African American pastors. So this trip I have just returned from was the first historic mission for this new ministry – that will become an annual event for us at NDI and ARKS. The following pictures share some of the highlights of that trip…
After our 5 days of ministry in Yei, Sudan, we flew back to Nairobi, Kenya. From there we took a small AIM AIR charter flight up to Kurungu and South Horr to be with our Samburu partner, Stakwell Yurenimo. He is such a dedicated and dynamic young leader who heads the “Samburu Youth & Sports Camp” that we have been developing in Northern Kenya. This Camp has become one of the most popular places for tribal young people to compete several times a year. Each trip we are able to make improvements and expansions in the facilities that greatly enhance its outreach. So enjoy a few pictures from this tribal area of Kenya…
Thanks so much for taking a few minutes to travel with me through Zimbabwe, Sudan and Kenya by these pictures and captions. I pray that you have been blessed, edified and challenged. And I especially pray that you have been greatly encouraged by the fact that each of these mission trips to minister with our beloved National partners – is totally made possible through the prayers and financial support of friends like you! Without your spiritual and financial support, we could not be helping these strategic partners and projects move forward and upward for God’s glory and for the blessing and benefit of the local people. It is your investment in us that makes our investment in them possible!
Click here to look at the photos from the trip and select Photos from the Field and select May/June Africa 2007.
In His partnering love,
PS: For those of you who are serious Bible Students and hearty readers, I have also posted a timely study for Father’s Day entitled “Authentic Fatherhood.” I hope you that many of you will take time to read and study it – and down-load it to share with others in your church, Sunday School Class or Bible Study.