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Neville Callam The Joy of Giving Africa — what an intriguing continent! So vast, so complex, so often negatively profiled in the media! This mineral-rich continent is home to some 1.02 billion people speaking some 2,100 languages. The vast size of the continent is reflected in the fact that its geographical dimensions exceed the combined size of the USA, Europe, China, India, Argentina and New Zealand. As is well known, it was at a conference convened in Berlin, Germany, in 1884 that colonial powers in Europe divided the African continent among themselves so that, today, the borders of many of the 54 nation states in Africa can be traced to an act of colonial decision-making. No wonder the official language of so many African countries is of European origin! Twenty of the 28 countries whose official language is French are in Africa; four of the nine countries whose official language is Portuguese can be found in Africa! One of the 23 countries with Spanish as the official language is in Africa and 17 of the 52 countries using English as their official language are also in Africa. Notwithstanding the many obstacles encountered and the challenges present, Africa is today a continent with an outstanding record of evangelization. Since the middle of the last century, the growth of Christianity in Africa exceeds the rates recorded in every other part of the world for a comparable period of history! Today, nearly 50 percent of Africans call themselves Christians and, from Africa, almost 25,000 missioners are taking the Gospel to countries outside of their continent. Within the BWA family, Africa hosts 59 conventions and unions with a total membership of more than nine million baptized believers and representing approximately 22.5 percent of the worldwide BWA family! Currently, we are in the process of considering six new applications for BWA membership from conventions and unions in Africa. Africa is a major player in the life of the global Baptist family. I was privileged to share in the Assembly of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, the first such assembly I have attended. From what took place at the meetings, it seems there is growing awareness among Baptist leaders on the continent of the vital role the churches there have to play in the life of the worldwide Baptist family. Over the years, Africa has provided the BWA with one president — William Tolbert from Liberia who served from 1965-1970. Twenty of our vice presidents have originated in Africa. They have come from South Africa and Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Kenya, Zaire (Congo), Angola, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana and Tanzania have supplied BWA regional secretaries for Africa. We expect this rich tradition to continue. Expectations are that great strides will be made especially in one additional area. Africa will want to play a more dynamic role in helping the BWA secure the funds needed for its worldwide ministry. BWA member organizations on the continent will want to contribute more financially, according to their means, to the ongoing work of the BWA.

Of course, God expects us to give as we are blessed. When we present our gifts in Christ’s service, we are not in competition with others. Our giving is proportionate to our earnings. When we fail to give, we deprive ourselves of a blessing God wants to bestow upon us. Giving is not just a challenge; it is also an exercise in joy. None of us would want to rob ourselves of the joy of giving! In his book, The Spirituality of Fundraising, Henri Nouwen states that asking people for money is “giving them the opportunity to put their resources at the disposal of the kingdom.” He also points out that gratitude “flows from the recognition that who we are and what we have are gifts to be received and shared [with others].” And isn’t he right? As in Africa, so also in the other five regions of the BWA we wait with confidence for the day when the joy of making our contribution — not only in terms of our enormous human resources, but also financially — will issue from the experience of faithful stewardship of our responsibilities as a part of the Baptist family worldwide.


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