“One-hundred and fifty years ago, many Southern Baptist men and women loaded their belongings into caskets and set sail for the continent of Africa. They went knowing that the majority of them would live, minister and die in obscurity—their lives, in the eyes of the world, wasted in a foolish and fruitless task. 

“And yet, because of their faithfulness, the seeds they planted have continued to grow. And they have continued to grow until today, when Africa stands at the heart of the next great wave of missionary advance to the world.”

Mark Phillips, a cluster leader in Sub-Saharan Africa for the International Mission Board (IMB), began his testimony this way in Southwestern Seminary’s chapel service, Sept. 20. The testimony was part of the seminary’s International Church Planting Week, Sept. 17-21, which provided students the opportunity to learn about missions opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Phillips proceeded to share that the Gospel is advancing through men like Ibrahim, a member of an unreached people group (UPG) in Africa. After Ibrahim heard the Gospel and believed in the name of Jesus for salvation, he became vocal in his faith. Despite “numerous threats” from the elders in his village and the loss of his home and farm, Ibrahim led multiple people to the Lord, including his wife. 

When his wife died, however, the elders gathered a crowd in Ibrahim’s home. “Don’t you see what happens when you follow a different path?” they said. Looking at Ibrahim, they continued, “Your foolishness has cost your wife her life. She needs to be left on the ground to rot like a donkey or a dog. But if you’ll come back to the faith of your fathers, we will help you bury this wife of yours.” 

Unshaken, Ibrahim boldly declared, “There is no way I’m turning my back on Christ. If I have to bury her by myself, I will. But I am not turning my back on Him who saved me and has given me new life.”

“But then something incredible happened,” Phillips said. “One by one, other believers in that crowd, who up until this point had kept their faith a secret out of fear, began to step forward and gather around Ibrahim. And together, they took his wife’s body out to the bush and buried her.” 

“Something began that day that almost no one noticed,” Phillips continued. “Yes, it was super clear that these men had lost one community, but what was not so obvious was that they had gained a new one. And it was a better one. It was a community that would endure long past the kingdoms of this world.”

Phillips said that this community has continued to meet and grow in their love for Christ, making disciples who make disciples, sending out cross-cultural missionaries, and even planting churches in dangerous areas. 

“And yet the task is not finished,” Phillips told the chapel audience. “There are still so many who have never heard. And we need men and women who will take the Gospel to places it’s never gone; to count the cost and go to extreme places among extreme peoples. 

“What an incredible opportunity we have. What an amazing privilege to engage in the missionary task among the peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa and, through them, to the ends of the earth.”

Earlier in the week, the Southwestern family also heard a chapel testimony from Daren Davis, a Southwestern graduate (Master of Divinity, 1992) who now serves as the Affinity Group leader for Sub-Saharan Africa. Also, the week featured a missions information night, informing students about how they can get involved with the IMB; and “Tastes of the Nations,” an international potluck celebrating the unity and diversity of the worldwide body of Christ found at Southwestern. 

Remaining events include Thursday evening’s Free Pizza Night, a laidback evening with free pizza and a panel discussion by IMB missionaries; and Friday night’s One Magnificent Obsession, an evening of praise, presentation and prayer for Sub-Saharan Africa.