Seeds of Reconciliation in Fields of War: Discipleship in Mali
“The situation is explosive with the displacement of people and the movement of troops. Many different regions have become combat zones…there are a lot of uncertainties. But God knows. Now we have need of prayer that the war will end. Pray also for God’s protection for His church and for our families.”
– Isaac*, Chalmers Center Trainer
Isaac lives in Mali, a country currently experiencing a civil war. Until recently, Mali was considered one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, a region dubbed the “coup belt” because of its countries' frequent changes in leadership. In the past year, however, splinter political and religious groups began vying for power in Mali, trapping many Malians in violence and instability. But against this backdrop of brutality and civil unrest, God is using the gospel to thaw ethnic and social tensions that have existed for centuries.
The Chalmers Center is privileged to work with church leaders throughout West Africa, including Mali, through its ASSET Program. The ASSET Program was launched in four French-speaking countries in West Africa in mid-2011. In each country, two church leaders were equipped to offer Chalmers’ transformative small group curriculum to pastors and ministry staff members. These grassroots leaders then set up small group ministries where low-income people share their struggles, receive prayer, learn to save their own money, and are discipled. By the grace of God, the ASSET Program continues to grow. These church-centered development ministries have proved to be a powerful tool as local congregations share the gospel in both word and deed with the materially poor.
West Africa in Focus
For more information, visit West Africa Gateway
Isaac is one of Chalmers’ two trainers in Mali. The pastors whom Isaac is discipling recently had to wrestle with what truly loving people in word and deed looks like. These pastors are from the Bwa people group, a group with a historically tense relationship with the Fulani people. In one of their meetings with Isaac, a Bwa pastor shared that a Fulani wanted to join a small group because he was hungry for relationships and community. The pastors had a decision to make: should they keep the healing work of Christ to themselves, or should they share it across the lines of ethnic divisions? In the face of already existing instability and violence, should they bother with the messy process of reaching out to the Fulani?
Isaac eventually paused the conversation, graciously reminding the pastors of the debate between Peter and Paul. “Peter was not comfortable sharing the gospel with gentiles, but Paul insisted that the gospel was open to all people. That’s why we [the Bwa] have access to the gospel today. Should we close this door to the Fulani? Never forget your call in the village you are living in. Search for all those Jesus called.” The pastors then agreed that Fulanis should be welcome in their groups.
The broader political crisis in Mali is still unfolding, and believers are facing increasingly intense persecution as the conflict spreads. Despite the regional unrest, Chalmers plans to expand training to two new locations in West Africa and pilot the ASSET Program with four church equipping organizations in 2013. It is a joy and privilege to see God working in the lives of the people of Mali, showing them the global scope of His mission. As Isaac shared with the Bwa pastors at the end of their conversation, “You have an opportunity to show the Fulani what Jesus did for humanity: reconciling all nations before God.”
Please join us in praying for Isaac and the people of of Mali. Pray for peace, and pray that the witness of believers in the face of persecution would point others to God and His restorative power.
*Name changed for security reasons