The move of believers from meeting secretly in homes to meeting openly began with a telephone call…The voice on the phone said: “This is the police.” Pastor Joe paused, dumbfounded as the voice continued: “We know you are getting ready to baptise Ahmed this weekend.” Joe’s mind raced. How could the police know this – the person’s name, the event, the time? Unable to deny it, he replied: “Yes.” Joe will never forget what the voice said next: “Then why don’t you do it in the empty church? We know you are meeting in homes weekly.”
Joe and his family have served for more than 20 years in North Africa, during which time he has been planting spiritual seeds, discipling believers in a country where only 0.4 per cent of the population is Christian.
Joe’s journey to North Africa began many years ago when he arrived there as a university student from sub-Saharan Africa. When he wasn’t studying accounting, he was active in a local church and soon felt the Lord’s call to missions, telling his pastor: “I feel I may leave to study theology and return long-term.”
The pastor said: “Because I know this is from God, I will give you all the support I can. You find a school and I will try to find a scholarship.”
One Sunday, Joe told his pastor the name and the cost of an African seminary he’d found. A few days layer, the reply came: “We’re glad to offer Joe a full scholarship for four years!”
Near the end of Joe’s fourth year, the church offered him a staff position. Joe and his wife Esther, who also had a heart for mission work, took the offer and made this place their home.
In time, the church invited the couple to consider ministry in another North African city, where an empty church building had stood with no pastor for more than 40 years.
The couple and their family relocated, ministering to local believers and sub-Saharan Africans students, who were there on scholarships.
They met secretly in houses – until that unexpected call from the local police.
Taking courage, the believers began to meet publicly in the church, despite the insults that it drew. In the beginning, Joe sensed the presence of police in plain clothes in the street whenever the church held activities. Today, however, the police provide open protection, arriving in police vehicles and full uniform, telling him: “You take care of security inside; we will take care of security outside.”
Joe is partnering with Faithful Witness to see more workers strategically placed in the North Africa region and his passion is to see more Christian workers, particularly Sub-Saharan Christians, serving in North Africa where there are numerous opportunities for ministry.
“North Africa has a rich history of Christianity,” says Joe. “God has put it on my heart to share more of the opportunities of what God is doing in North Africa and I want to remind people that we can’t think that things will stay the same. The more we serve God, the more we pray for wisdom to use our resources.”
Students reaching students
As leader of the North Africa Faithful Witness team, Joe’s vision is to see scores of French-speaking students on scholarship in North Africa to reach their fellow students.
Joe says, “If God has opened doors for us – sub-Saharan Africans serving in the Arab world – maybe others can come too?
“Difficult does not mean impossible, especially with God. If God opens the door, who can close it?”
- For five more francophone units from sub-Saharan Africa to join the North Africa Faithful Witness team.
- For protection for workers and local believers in the region.
- For many students to discover Jesus and have the courage to follow him.