In 2006 the United Nations published a document that said that the biggest challenges facing East Africa were AIDS, land tenure issues, and climate change. I had hoped to focus this GPD issue on these three prayer challenges, but not every people group that we will pray for this month is necessarily facing one of these problems.
You will notice that we are using a list of topics that the UN came up with nine years ago. Many of the articles that deal with them are old, which hopefully means that there is progress in these areas. At the same time these are all problems that will not go away completely. And the Lord has answers that will help the peoples of Africa if they will only obey His ways.
According to a 2006 AIDS Epidemic Update, Sub-Saharan Africa bears the brunt of the global AIDS epidemic, with the “epicenter” of the problem being in the countries in southern Africa. The good news is that access to medical treatment has saved an estimated 790,000 lives in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2004-2006.
The bad news is that since the AIDS epidemic is centered in primarily “Christian” countries such as Lesotho, what does this say about the depth of Christianity in that part of the world? It’s true that in southern Africa, it’s very common for husbands to be away from their wives for long periods of time, and that is a recipe for problems. The local cultural norms allow men to visit houses of prostitution, and biblical teachings are ignored. AIDS is one sad consequence, and it affects this entire region. An October 2003 article in The Lancet, said that the AIDS epidemic has left so many sick or dead parents in some parts of southern Africa that it is very difficult for people to harvest enough food. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673603145485).
The Lord has answers! What if there were efforts to disciple African men to obey scriptural commands to be faithful and loving towards their wives? What would happen if men from “Christianized” people groups decided to learn, teach, and obey what the Bible says about male-female relationships? The results would be revolutionary, and God would be glorified.
Africa is a rich continent. They have tremendous resources in terms of mineral and agricultural wealth. Yet economic growth and a reduction of poverty eludes them. According to a November 4, 2013 article in a World Bank publication called, “This is Africa,” the gap between the rich and the poor is vast in this part of the world. Land administration is almost non-existent; only about 10 percent of Africa’s rural land is registered. The remaining land is undocumented and informally administered. The result is that the poor are vulnerable to wealthier people who can grab or claim their land. In today’s world international corporations are making bigger inroads into the African continent, so we can expect to see more of this in the years to come.
It is very common for women to be breadwinners for their families either because they has no husband or because the husband works elsewhere. Seventy percent of the farming population is women, and they are usually not given the chance to own the land they farm. These women are easy prey for land grabbers.
Even in the cities undocumented land and property is a problem. Today there is a dramatic shift of the population from rural areas to cities. As this trend continues, Africans will need to find a way to document property ownership for people in the cities as well as for those in rural areas.
Pastoral people and especially nomads are also vulnerable to land grabbers. Many of these people have used the same land for hundreds of years but they have no formal documentation. Nomads often live on the poorest lands which no one else can use. But this isn’t always the case. Land grabbers can take whatever land they find useful, even if it has been used “part time” by nomadic communities.
In the world, greed has no limit. The strong will take what they can from the weak. The result is that poverty becomes devastating. But the Lord has answers! The Bible teaches the importance of fairness and justice for everyone, even the weak. Wouldn’t it be revolutionary if the peoples of Africa obeyed these teachings instead of taking what they can get for their families and friends at the expense of those who don’t have the power to protect themselves?
Many parts of eastern Africa have been in a state of almost constant drought for decades. There are various reasons for this. Climate changes are happening all over the world, and Africa is getting the brunt of it. Much of this is beyond the control of the average African farmer.
However, there are things people do that make the situation worse. There are many armed conflicts on the African continent, which force refugees to live a hand-to-mouth existence. For example, refugees commonly use scarce wood and plant materials as fuel for fire. A little bit of smoke does little harm, but this situation causes bad situations to become worse. First of all, the smoke adds to air quality problems. Secondly, and more importantly, as trees and shrubs are uprooted for fires, nothing holds the rich topsoil in place when the wind or heavy rains come. Soil erosion is the result, and farm yields decrease. When there is less grassland for livestock, overgrazing is a real possibility. Without the grass to hold the soil in place, erosion will happen, and the ground will become less productive for many years.
Ecosystems can repair themselves over time, but if the situation persists, the environment will become permanently damaged. What was once productive land becomes degraded or useless for plant life. This process is called desertification. An ecosystem which once was useful for growing food can no longer do so.
How long does this take? We don’t know for sure, but what we call drought cycles are lasting longer times than they did in the past. The peoples of Africa are primarily farmers, and they are very vulnerable to these climatic changes.
Typically people think that the answer comes from outside resources. We have been sending in outside resource for decades, and the result has been a greater dependency, and a lack of local initiative. Instead of using local resources, Africans have been taught to wait for outside resources. The African people are very strong and capable. With the strength and genius God gave them, they can produce creative answers that will provide them with economic and spiritual answers for the 21st century.
• Pray for the Lord to raise up godly African leaders who will serve their people by seeking Him for guidance and use His answers to improve the lot of their communities.
Pray for the peoples of Africa to develop their own sustainable answers to their problems, which will glorify God and give them the abundant life He wants for them.
Pray for a revival to hit East Africa in such a way that it will transform their communities and greatly improve their economies.
by Keith Carey, editor, GPD
Dear Praying Friends,
Happy New Year! This is a time when we make new promises and commitments, but often break them by the time February rolls by. We try to read the entire Bible, start an exercise program, or get rid of a bad habit.
One good habit we want to keep is praying daily for an unreached people group through the GPD. God honors and blesses us as we do our part to fulfill the Great Commission. For that reason the late missionary statesman, Ralph Winter and his wife, Roberta, developed the GPD in 1982. Each month we take a region of the world and tell prayer warriors about their culture and how we can pray for them. Did you know that we often use stories that illustrate something about the beliefs or cultures of unreached people groups, but they may not be things that actually happened? Starting this month we will indicate this in our prayer entries. That is my new year’s resolution!
Unfortunately, the unreached people groups in eastern and southern Africa have not made New Year’s resolutions to stop fighting one another or to seek the Prince of Peace. For that reason, we will need to pray diligently for them. Will you resolve to give this issue away to another intercessor when you are done? The bowls of incense are not yet full!
Blessings in 2015!