We’re no longer in Africa but Africa is still in us.
I’ve been thinking about the Sahel this week. It’s where Sand Africa meets Grass Africa.
“We were showing “The Jesus Film” outdoors in a village. Just at the moment of Jesus’ crucifixion, a snake slithered through the crowd. There was chaos. The viewers literally ran out of their shoes fleeing. The next day, a Sunday, we lined up all of the shoes left behind on the altar and the owners reclaimed them during the offertory.”
-From an African Missions newsletter
“There is no neutral ground in this universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”
-C.S. Lewis Christianity and Culture.
Lewis’ statement is true and never is the spiritual struggle more visible than in our part of Africa.
I’m not sure I’d ever been further from home.
It’s called the Sahel.
A broad band stretching across Africa from the Red Sea to the Atlantic.
It’s where the Sahara Desert meets Tropical Africa.
When we first arrived in Africa, our oldest grandson Noah asked, “Are you in Grass Africa or Sand Africa?”
In the Sahel, you’re on the edge of both.
Still a rainy season but months without any chance of rain.
Sahel means coast.
In this case, the coast of the world’s largest desert.
It’s as if the Sahel is the prize in a great tug of war between the world’s largest desert and the greatest tropical areas such as the Nile and Congo riverine systems.
Desertification is the term for areas that once were verdant become covered in desert sand.
Then there’s the reverse. Areas where the mighty Nile River still overflows and claims territory for crops, swamp, and human habitation.
That give and take that has went on beyond history.
Here in the Sahel, there is another grim battle.
It’s the fight to the death for two belief systems.
Christianity, tied up in reverence to the deity of Jesus Christ.
And Islam with its adherence to the Prophet and the Quran.
The Sahel is the site of the battle for the spiritual soul of Africa.
North of the Sahel, the Sahara is where Islam is strongest. This also includes the east and west coasts of Africa where Arab traders planted the Muslim faith.
South of the Sahel—Grass Africa—is where Christianity has taken root. It is the belief system of millions of Black Africans. Many, their faith tested by tragedy and hardship, have a much deeper faith than I’ll ever claim.
In most parts of Africa, including parts of the Sahel, Islam and Christianity dwell together cautiously but peaceably.
There’s always the challenge of exclusivity of each religion.
Islam is founded on the words of the Prophet.
We Christians hold to Jesus’ claim to be “The way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.”
The exclusivity of Jesus Christ will always offend.
But he said it.
We cannot deny it and still call ourselves followers.
I believe that one of the greatest reasons for evangelism is that everyone deserves the opportunity to hear at least once about Jesus Christ and who he claimed to be.
Our Western culture has been so gospel-hardened that we seldom realize that many have not heard, and will not hear unless we go, send, and give.