In December, The Times Online published an article entitled “As an Atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God.”
I was as intrigued to read the article as I was skeptical to see what the inevitable “spin” would be. Come to find out, Matthew Parris, the author, was born in Africa and raised throughout the country, and was personally familiar with Christian missionaries who often lived and worked in villages close to his own.
As a frequent contributor to The Times, he was asked to go to Malawi to see the charity that the paper supports. In his first few paragraphs, Parris comments that:
“. . . travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
“Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”
Reading that ignited myriad thoughts and questions, and for a brief moment, I sat in simple silence as I basked in God’s love for this man.
“An observation I have been unable to avoid since my childhood” is nothing short of the gracious, patient and relentless love of a real God gently knocking on the door of his heart waiting to be invited in.
The “spiritual transformations” he has witnessed and has humbly admitted to, despite his own personal belief to not believe, must be speaking louder in the halls of his heart than he realizes.
He goes on to say that the change and impact that Christianity has brought to so many people, tribes and nations throughout Africa is undeniable and is worthy of recognition. He remarks that “only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it.”
So why am I telling you this?
Because I am so encouraged. I am encouraged because God is still seen and reflected in and through the lives of His children. Despite the turbulent circumstances that plague our world, the love and light of Christ is recognized. I am encouraged to see that the Word is in fact living, active and true.
The most encouraging thing is knowing that Compassion is a part of the change and impact that so many are seeing, believers and nonbelievers alike. We work in many of the countries that Parris mentions, and while he may not have seen our children, he did notice and feel the difference that the Spirit of the Lord makes.
So perhaps what he felt and what he saw was the result of faith rising in the hearts and lives of little ones who are in fact being used to make a lasting impact and change. Maybe what he witnessed was the result of a child’s pure and innocent faith being proclaimed in a way that only children can demonstrate.
It could be that the children we are serving in Africa are in fact now serving us in America.