“We have seen that there is a great need for the love of Christ to be shared in the Sahel,” said Melvin Chiombe from Zambia, leader of the work being done by OM in Africa.
OM workers serve in eleven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, “which is predominately a Christian area and where Christianity is growing,” Melvin explained. “In the south of Africa, we have received [Christ’s] love, which we need to share with those who do not know that love.” And so, these workers are looking north to the Sahel; home to some of the most unreached people on the continent.
The Sahel stretches approximately 5,400 km through more than ten countries from the Atlantic coast of Senegal to Sudan at the Red Sea. A geographical transition zone between the Sahara in the north and the savannah in the south, the region is mainly hot and dry.
Linguistically and ethnically diverse, the people groups who live in the Sahel are faced with many challenges such as the harsh climate, droughts, famines, political instability and violent extremism. Traditionally nomads who travelled with their herds to seasonal grazing grounds, the various people groups have each maintained their own strong cultural identity which can be a challenge when reaching out to them.
“When you look at the Sahel there is a great need for a lot of things. There is a need for community transformation to take place in terms of education, health, clean water, agriculture and also just for people to experience the love of Christ,” Melvin said.
He stated that to address these issues, skilled professionals are needed to move to the Sahel. “Having a profession helps give a person credibility in a community and can open up the door for sharing the gospel,” said Melvin. He believes that professionals in areas such as agriculture and health can also conduct trainings that bring together people from various places and equips them with skills and knowledge that they can then take back to their villages and implement.
“We know that the best people—the most effective people—are the same and the near culture workers,” said Melvin. “If we are to send people from further away, those will be more of strategic and catalytic people to kickstart something for the same and the near culture workers to help their own people.”
Seeing the Sahel reached with the gospel must start with prayer, Melvin shared: “We need to put prayer first so that we seek the wisdom of God on how to share Christ’s love.” Though there may not be many churches in the region, Melvin and others want to see them actively reaching out to those who don’t know Jesus. Then, as people believe and are discipled, self-multiplying churches can spread across the region. But this vision requires partnerships. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” said Melvin. “There are already agencies that are working in that part of the world that we can learn from and partner with to increase capacity.”
“It’s a big vision but we know what we serve a big God,” stated Melvin. “And it’s not our vision; this is what God has called us to do.”