My association with African Enterprise began after my twelve years of service with CMS in Tanzania and the Australian home base. Back again in parish ministry I met with people who had become very committed to a new kind of African ministry called African Enterprise. I joined their Board and in due course became it’s Chairman and later International Chairman. I think that in that time I learned these four important things about AE.
First, it is indigenous i.e. it sprang up in Africa to be operated by Africans who minister to their own people in their own unique and special style. My connection with African Enterprise began sometime after my experience as a CMS missionary in Tanzania. Back in a Sydney parish again I met some people who were keen on this new kind of African mission which had begun to have a base in Australia. An old friend, Dr Paul White, was the Australian Chairman and I was soon invited to join AE’s local board. In due course this new connection took me to Africa, to AE’s people-on-the-ground and eventually to my Chairmanship of their International Board. Over the years which this involved I learned to cherish various aspects of AE’s ministry
We don’t send missionaries to them - they are the missionaries and sometimes they also bring a powerful message to us. In Philip Jenkins book The Next Chistendom there is a fascinating account of how Christianity has grown in the Southern Hemisphere, in Latin America, parts of Asia (who knows about China) and also in Africa. African Enterprise had played a significant part in this great movement.
Secondly AE is holistic i.e. although its major task is preaching the Christian Gospel it realises that it also must do something to alleviate the sufferings and the deprivation of the poor: it builds clinics in the slums, hygienic latrines and pipes in good water there. On one occasion AE helped to bring millions of trees to an area where an increased population had removed them. In the Christian world there has sometimes been a sad division between those who believe in evangelism and those who accentuate social action. Thankfully at the great Lausanne conference in 1982 evangelicals began to rethink this dichotomy and repent of their neglect of the poor and disadvantaged (something that their evangelical forbears had never neglected). So it was not surprising that AE has always had the two streams running together not using social action as a bribe to win converts but as evangelism’s necessary companion. E.g.in the mission to Lilongwe as the preaching continued so latrines were dug in large schools which had previously had none! AE is proud of the words ‘word and deed’ in our mission statement.
Thirdly - and most importantly - AE is an evangelistic ministry, targeting the huge and growing cities of Africa using the unique method of ‘stratified evangelism’ i.e. reaching every aspect of the city from homes, to market places, office blocks, schoolrooms, army and police barracks etc. Africa is, despite its many problems wide open to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and one thing the media never bothers to tell us is that there are large and growing churches in Africa south of the Sahara When I went to Tanganyika (later Tanzania) in 1960 there was one CMS aligned Diocese but now there are many in a continually growing and expanding church. Muslims too are working hard in Africa, fuelled by petro dollars to win Africa, hoping to plant a mosque in walking distance all the way from Cairo to the Cape. So these are the days of huge opportunity in Africa and we must not miss the great evangelistic opportunity which we have.
Fourthly AE, although based in Africa is an international partnership - and that is where we in Australia come in. At the International Board meeting there can be representatives from 13 to 14 different nations (mostly African) but also with reps from the UK, the USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia. We in Australia have the huge privilege of being part of what the teams are doing right throughout Africa through prayer and also through financial support. AE continues its evangelistic ministry to the great cities of Africa through word and deed in partnership with the churches.
Written by David Hewetson (AE Board Member 1979 – 2012)
Ben Campbell (Sydney) is the CEO Africa Enterprise.