The following four imperatives are essential for accomplishing our mission in Niger. Our strategy can be laid out, planned out and worked out to the last detail. but without these imperatives, the strategy will never lift off the page and translate into lives changed.1. Deepen our walk with Christ
Only disciples make disciples. Paul summed it up in five words, “I want to know Christ” (Php. 3:10). Whatever our stage of discipleship, Jesus is beckoning to us, “Come to me” (Mt. 4:19). He invites us to go further and discover a new level of relationship with him. His invitation to come precedes the command to go and do.
This pursuit will take us through valleys of hardship and trial. But it is from this relationship that we find our source of love and motivation. Without this, we dry up and will serve ourselves. As Mark Buchanan says, “We let ourselves be consumed by the things that feed the ego but starve the soul” (The Rest of God).
The greatest hindrance to a deeper relationship with Christ is our busyness. We very possibly could be the busiest, most distracted group of missionaries in the history of SIM Niger. This comes from the out-of-control, constantly connected, over-entertained world that we live in. We risk multi-tasking the vitality right out of our souls. If we fail to nurture our inner lives individually and as a team, we forfeit the disciple’s heart that is characterized by love, humility, joy and patience.
We want to create an ethos in SIM Niger of slowing down, being still, listening for the voice of God at regular intervals in order to navigate through the fast-paced, rapidly changing world we live in and be the salt and light that God created us to be.2. Reach the Muslim population around us
In Niger, we live in a context that could be as much as 98% Muslim. Followers of Christ are a minute minority. In this context, there is a tendency for the Church to isolate and protect itself in a small sub-culture, especially in the face of persecution. Missionaries can easily be caught up in this same sub-culture without ever engaging the Muslims all around us. Experience has shown that a Muslim coming to faith in Christ rarely happens as a result of a brief encounter. It is most often in the context of a long-term friendship. This requires investment. We need to be better prepared to listen and understand our Muslim neighbors and let the love of Christ in us speak to their hearts.
The greatest hindrance to reaching Muslims is tied to point number one. Our busyness keeps us from forming these kinds of relationship. Also, a true friendship develops when we have genuine love. Genuine love results when a disciple actively walks with Christ. Our neighbors must be seen as people, not projects.
We want to break down the walls of separation with the Muslim people of Niger by being well-informed about what they believe, think and feel. Despite opposition, we want to show sincere love (Rom. 12:9) and not fear those God has place around us. Paul says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). We want to be a model for the Church of engaging Muslims through love and understanding. The gospel will only penetrate the darkness when the whole body of Christ, not just a few specialists, chooses to love their neighbors.3. Rebuild trust with our Church partners
We have begun in this area; we still have much further to go. In the next few years, our love and commitment to working with the Niger Church will be put to the test in the crucible of everyday life and ministry together. We have begun to understand some of the differences in values between African and the Western cultures and how these have affected our relationships. Understanding these differences is a great help, but it does not solve all the problems that these differences create.
We want to further invest in relationships with our Church partners. Again, the motivation and resources for these relationship springs from point number one. Paul said of the Thessalonian believers, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).
It is our vision to hand over to the next leadership team of SIM Niger healthy, trusting relationships with our Church partners. We would like to see the energy and creativity of the next generation of missionaries and local believers released as they put their talents and gifts together without hindrances and political road blocks. This will not be achieved unless this generation of leaders breaks the cycle of suspicion and mistrust. A step in the right direction was taken in January 2012 with the Leadership Summit at Siloé where the leadership of SIM and the Church leaders publically asked for forgiveness of each other. This was further reinforced at the 2013 Pastor’s Summit in Maza Tsaye where the entire assembly publically declared that they desire to walk in the spirit of reconciliation and mutual forgiveness.
4. Develop a lifestyle of making disciples
Dale Losch, president of Crossworld, wrote an article, A Better Way, Make Disciples Wherever Life Happens. He describes what it means to make disciples in the “925 Window”. Our greatest opportunity to influence and impact lives is to use the relationships that God has placed around us on a daily basis (at work “9 to 5”). Disciplemaking is the work of every missionary as well as every member of the body of Christ. We all have people God has placed in our lives on a regular basis. We need to intentionally develop the people around us. Our medical institutions and office contexts are some of the best opportunities we have to invest in the lives of people if we take them.
Once again, success in this area depends largely on our growth in point number one. We want to be followers of Christ who make disciples, who in turn make disciples. We want to see this happening in our homes, schools, communities, places of work and ministry. We want to also cultivate a culture of learning and growing within our mission family.
SIM Niger will be most effective when it gives the best of its resources to developing people. The well-known Athenian statesman and leader, Pericles said, “What you leave behind is not what you engrave in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”