The Soninke are an unreached people group i.e. with no known Christian church or outreach. Their rank in the global political economy is humble to put it diplomatically. Less than two million people. Predominantly resident in Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world. Social and cultural practices snubbed by the West as primitive. And if a global movement has to beg the police to stop killing innocent Black men in America, it goes without saying that Black men in Africa are not held in any higher regard.
The Soninke are also Muslim. According to the tenets of their faith (which also incorporates traces of animalism), they will kill anyone who professes another religion. Any Christian interested in doing a mission trip there would have to face the reality of brutal martyrdom.
External vs Internal
As dismal as the prognosis seems, ministry to the Soninke people isn’t out of reach nor guaranteed to end in torture or death. Christians make up over two billion people of the world’s population and enjoy 53% of the world’s annual income (approximately $12.3 trillion). With those human and financial resources, it would be very feasible to fund a team of missionaries with sufficient protective equipment and infrastructure to evangelise to the Soninke people..
If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us are simply not interested or willing (far less passionate) about reaching the Soninke people. In our hearts, they are simply not worth the trouble and risk. They’re weak, poor, unimportant on a global and personal level. The absence of evangelism to the Soninke people and other unreached people groups is not due to an external limitation but an internal one.
The disregard for the Soninke people is not the root, but a mere branch, of our spiritual deficiency. It is one symptom of a more ingrained, depraved iniquity from which we desperately need deliverance.
Charity begins at home
To a lesser extent, we bring the same selfishness into all our relationships, even our closest family members and friends. Think of the unparalleled intimacy shared a husband shares with his wife: sex, living together, birthing and raising children, joint bank accounts, daily interactions and sensitive secrets. And even this intimacy does not move married couples to willingly and sacrificially serve each other. Evidence of this is baldly seen in adages like “Sex starts in the kitchen.” As I explain in a previous article, it teaches husbands to serve their wives as a means of getting sex in return instead of serving out of selflessness and unconditional love.
To be clear, wives can be just as selfish and ungiving as husbands. Ephesians chapter 5 verse 1 commands all believers (not just husbands or married couples) to love each other like Christ loves the church. Yet we are all guilty of making a mockery of the deep, abiding, unconditional, relentless love of Christ with selfish, transactional imitations in marriage and the church as a whole.
If you cannot bring yourself to love your marital spouse – whom you promised to love in the presence of God, wedding guests and your country’s legal system – you will never love a dirt-poor stranger from a far-off land who will brutally murder you.
Marriage to Missions
I believe the Lord is using subsequent generations to challenge their predecessors and incite transformational deliverance that will spur all of us towards deeper faith and Christlikeness.
My generation has been marked (for better or for worse) with fierce independence and the vestiges of the purity movement. We challenge our parents’ notions of a ‘good’ marriage by stretching and pushing far beyond their standards of not committing heinous acts (like domestic abuse and adultery). In doing so, God is opening the door to expecting and demonstrating actual sacrificial love.
Once open, our hearts can extend that sacrificial love to others beyond our bedroom, even to missions to murderous Muslim extremists in poverty-stricken lands. Just like my generation is challenging our parents with their expectations and standards for marriage, I believe the next generation will challenge mine with our (lack of) missions to those Christ commanded us to reach in the Great Commission (Matthew chapter 28 verses 19-20).
Missions to Miracles
There is a measure of faith needed to do missions to people like the Soninke. You have to completely depend on God show up in supernatural ways to provide for and protect you. That faith is the foundation of believing that God will show up in other supernatural ways, like healing the incurable or raising the dead.
In John chapter 14 verse 12, Jesus said “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.” I can picture my grandchildren asking my children how many people they’ve raised from the dead or how many blind people they’ve laid hands on to receive sight. It will once again be a challenge from one generation to the preceding one, testing if what they read in scripture is what they actually hold to be true. That applies to loving your spouse, evangelising to dangerous unreached people groups, or performing miracles.
Passing the Baton
God moves incrementally. He builds on faith and carries His people from strength to strength. May each of us walk in the grace given to serve God's purpose in our own generation (Acts chapter 13 verse 36) and the humility to stretch our faith to new dimensions.
Kacy Garvey is a Christian poet, speaker and activist. In 2011, she launched "Rahab", an outreach to prostitutes in Geneva, Switzerland. She is a USAID certified HIV Testing and Counselling Provider and has also successfully completed training in Trafficking in Persons conducted by the International Organisation on Migration (IOM). She performs original pieces of spoken word poetry to various audiences, and in 2014 and 2018, she launched “Undone” and “Water Jar”, the first and only Christian poetry albums published in Jamaica thus far. As a founding member of the Love March Movement (since 2012) and #MarriageMattersJA (since 2018), she is a regular presenter on the science, politics and biblical worldviews on sex and sexuality. In January 2021, Kacy launched Caribbean Christian Response, an online movement that reviews the news from a biblical worldview and gathers millennials across the region to pray together and seek God’s heart on these issues.