January 2018

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God is Moving on the Coast of East Africa!

by Shan Berry

The islands and coastal regions of East Africa are a vast area of beautiful blue water and clear skies. Ancient Arab dhows with their blowing sails are still the main mode of transportation. Fisherman pull in their nets by hand like they did in biblical times. There is a diverse mix of bright colored African fabrics worn in a more Middle Eastern style covering faces and arms. The food is also a mixture of African farmers’ stock as well as spicy foods from India.
Amidst this array are many different people groups with their own languages, cultures, and traditions. There are also several religions found in the mix. For instance, Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs are commonplace religions on the coast of Kenya or on the island of Mauritius. Some, like the Gujarati of Madagascar manage to keep both Islam and Hinduism secondary to their strong bond of culture and language. A far more dominant religion for the region is folk Islam, a religion that expanded during the slave trade when some African traditional religious communities converted to Islam so they could save their peoples from slavery. This mixture of ancestor worship (complicated witchdoctors) and a strict Islamic calendar of prayer and fasting is by far the most common religion found amongst the unreached of the islands and coastal areas of East Africa.

Mozambique and Madagascar
The Koti people of Angoche Island in Mozambique are one such group (see day 18). In the late 90s a Japanese church began to pray for them. After several years they felt it was time for a visit. After a shipwreck, like Paul, they found the islanders to be open to the gospel and the chief and many of the islanders turned from folk Islam to the Lord. Scriptures have been translated by Wycliffe into the Koti language, and there is now a very active church. In fact, they have been sending their own missionaries to the mainland (the coast of Mozambique) in order to proclaim the good news to the Mwani people group.
The Mwani people group (day 19) live mainly along the northern coast of Mozambique and Ibo Island. They are also Islamic with a mixture of traditional religion. They are a matrilineal people group, which is rather unusual for Islamic people. There have been missionaries amongst this group for approximately 20 years. The scriptures have been translated into Kimwani and a regular radio program has been broadcast in their language for about 10 years. Yet little headway was seen until 2016, when there were several baptisms and fledgling churches started to reach out to those around them. After 20 years of backbreaking hard work, and in some cases fatal work by several missionaries, we have begun to see a church emerge amongst the Mwani people group.
Following Portuguese colonialism and a civil war, Mozambique was isolated from trade for several years. However, the coastal towns in Kenya and Tanzania had a bustling trade with both Europe and the East for decades. There are several unreached people groups (UPGs) of Asia found on this coastline. These groups may be third or fourth generation Asians who have grown up in East Africa. Family traditions and religions hold these Hindu or Muslim groups tightly together.
The Gujaratis are one such group. They have an amazing network of trade across East Africa and the islands. As yet there is no church amongst the Gujaratis of Madagascar (day 12). They are also inadequately reached in other parts of East Africa or even in India.
In other areas of Madagascar the growth of the church has been profound. Eighteen years ago there were approximately 13 unreached people groups in Madagascar, the church being predominantly Catholic. There was very little outreach or awareness of mission at that time. Today the evangelical church has grown in Madagascar with traditional mission efforts like Scripture Union in schools and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES/UGBM) at tertiary institutions and universities. Now there are several indigenous mission agencies within Madagascar, sending their own people out to the unreached in the more rural areas.

One such group has been the Sakalava people which is traditionally animist. Their culture is dominated by taboos from the ancestors. They converted to a form of Islam so they could protect themselves from Arab slave traders. They also retreated to islands and isolated coastal areas, away from the French colonialists. In the 1990s Sakalava began to hear the gospel in schools and universities. Some became followers of the Lord and took the good news back to their home villages. One such person, Rosina Ferdinando, led a team of missionaries to her own people (days 1-3). They formed a church and translated Bible stories. There is not yet the full set of scriptures in the Sakalava dialects, but the church is hungry for God’s word and Rosina is now the country leader for a missionary organization.
The Antakarana people (day 14) of northern Madagascar boast a similar history. Fiercely protective of their culture and traditions, they do not allow the Merina (a dominant people group from elsewhere) or mainland groups onto their islands. A small island in the Diego Bay is the center of their animist worship. Until recently the island of Nosy Mitsio was protected in a similar way. A missionary couple befriended the chief of the island three years ago and was allowed to bring a team of missionaries to the island to live and work among the people. Although islanders remain attentive to the word, a church has not yet been established on the island of Nosy Mitsio.

Unreached people groups on other islands in the region have had similar responses to the gospel. People have been showing themselves attentive to the word and open to discussion, but not yet taking the plunge to believe and receive Jesus into their lives. This is due to the fear of persecution if they “convert.” Family and community will almost certainly disown individuals who openly profess Christ. This emphasizes the need for praying for entire family groups to trust in the Lord, thus providing essential support and fellowship.

There are Opportunities!
An island that hosts many such reachable people groups is the island of Mayotte. This island is a department of France, and as such, has religious freedom. It is an ideal place for foreign workers and tentmakers, boasting good hospitals and schools as well as rich opportunities to proclaim the gospel to UPGs (unreached people groups). It’s high standard of living suits doctors, teachers, and other professionals, as well as entrepreneurs.
Farming God’s Way (day 23) has been another tool which has been used to reach coastal UPGs, particularly in Tanzania and Kenya. This method of farming helps to retain the nutrients in the soil as well as to increase crop yield. It has also been used both as a tool to reach UPGs, and equip local missionaries with methods of sustainability and provision for their families while on the rural mission field.
The increase in the number of African missionaries being sent from churches within the East Africa region is a great encouragement. Many churches in Kenya, Tanzania, and Madagascar are waking up to the unreached within their own countries and in neighboring countries. Short term mission and awareness and prayer meetings are often devoted to their unreached Muslim neighbors and people groups. The Lord is certainly at work in this region where He is building his church!

Let’s Pray!
• Pray for an increase in the number of sent workers this year.
• Pray for a spiritual awakening among the unreached people groups in this part of the world, especially on the island of Nosy Mitsio.
• Pray for a spiritual breakthrough among the South Asian people groups that remain unreached in these coastal and island regions.
• Pray for the mobilization of the African church into missionary work.
• Pray that the Lord would ignite a flame that cannot be put out in the Indian Ocean islands.

From the Editor

by Keith Carey

Dear Praying Friends,
Even after studying unreached people groups for decades, I am still learning about many of them that I didn’t know about. That’s part of what keeps my job fun as the GPD editor!
If you have taken the Perspectives on the World Mission Movement class (www.perspectives.org), you know that there have been three waves of Protestant missionary efforts. It started with the earth’s coastal areas in the late 1700s; then it moved inland once people discovered medication for malaria; and finally mission efforts took on the present-day challenge of reaching the unreached people groups as described by Jesus in Matt 24:14 and Matt 28:18-20.
To my surprise, there are still many unreached people groups on the coastal and island regions of East Africa. It took people like missionary Shan Berry of Mobilization of African National Initiatives (MANI) to help me realize this. I dedicate this issue of the GPD to Shan and the other workers who are taking Christ to these unreached peoples.
Shan told me something that almost became a theme for this prayer guide. God is going to move! That He is. He is moving among many of the people groups in this region, and you get to be a part of it by praying for a full harvest!