Category Archives: Christianity in Africa

Pastor prayed and fasted for neighborhood, one ‘hooligan’ responded

Nigeria missionariesBy Lortoume Hang’andu —

Bitwell grew up in Lusaka, the red-soiled capital of Zambia. Along with his friends, the fatherless teenager assaulted people to fund his drinking habit. They also engaged in hooliganism at the local soccer stadium and fought rival fans.

His mother, a Christian, tried in vain to control her son.

Then a pastor moved in across the street and fasted for seven days for the neighborhood. The Spirit moved on Bitwell’s heart. At 24, he was tired of endless crime and alcohol, so he began attending church.

“I wasn’t really converted,” he says. “I just went to church.”

Then Bitwell got struck with Cupid’s arrows. He saw Mary walking to the store and struck up a conversation with her. Mary was a more serious Christian and refused his advances. He persisted, and Mary laid down an ultimatum: Either he go to church seriously or give up hopes for her.

Bitwell still drank, but he worked hard to hide it from Mary. The first time he went to Mary’s church, he was hung-over. Three years later, they were married.

Back to AfricaSeeking a better life, Bitwell and his wife applied for and were granted a tourist visa to visit a friend in Chandler, Arizona. Bitwell flew to the U.S. three months before his wife.

He was on a layover in New York on 9/11 when the Twin Tower terrorists struck and he was grounded at the airport. Eventually, Bitwell took a Greyhound bus to Chandler to join his friend, a zealous believer at the Door Church.

Bitwell accepted an invitation to attend church. He never heard preaching like that before. After hearing moving sermon after fiery sermon, he decided he needed to get serious about God. With his wife at his side, he gave his life to God and was born again.

Pastor Joe Campbell became a father figure to Bitwell and Mary. He gave them a car and was constantly checking up on them. They matured in the Lord and participated in ministry for four years.

One day, Pastor Campbell called them into his office. Would they go back to Africa to pioneer a church? They belonged to a group of churches that focuses on church planting.

It was no light matter. They had overstayed their visa and were “illegal.” If they left the country, under current rules they would not be granted a visa to America for at least 12 years.

“God called me to go,” Bitwell says. “When I was in America, God provided for me. So I thought that if I went to Africa, God would still provide for me.”

Jesus says to count the cost. For every Bitwell, there are hundreds of illegal immigrants who get saved, called, and decide not to return to their home countries. The American Dream often holds greater sway than the dream of ministry. Don’t miss the surprise ending of pastor returns to Africa.

Tammy (Lortoumi) is Pastor Mike Ashcraft’s student at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Los Angeles.

Advertisements

‘Machine Gun Preacher,’ from biker gang to fighting Joseph Kony

machinegunpreacherBy age 11, he was doing dope. At 13, dropping acid. After he turned 15, he was sticking a needle in his arm, shooting cocaine and heroin.

“I went in deeper into selling drugs. I’m not talking about small amounts. I’m talking about large amounts of drugs. I kept going deeper until I became the shotgunner, the hired gun for drug deals,” Sam Childers says in a Next Step film.

Childer’s wife, Lynn, can take the credit for wrangling this rebel into the Kingdom of God. She was an ex-church-kid-turned-stripper who fell in love with the bad boy. They did drugs together. But eventually, Lynn, despairing of pigs’ portions in her prodigal path, returned to Jesus.

orphanageafricaThis did not sit well with the renegade outlaw. For two years, he fought her to give up her “religion.”

Then Childers got into a shootout in a barroom over a drug deal gone bad.

“I almost lost my life that night,” he recalls in the film. “I don’t have a problem with dying. I got a problem with what I’m going to die for. I knew that if I kept on living the life I was, I was going to die for some stupid reason. On my way home that night, I said, ‘God, I’m done living this life.’”

He showed up for revival services in an Assembly of God church in mid-1992, surrendered his heart and life to Jesus, and was born again.

The pastor prophesied that night that Childers would minister in Africa.

angelsofeastafricaRemarkably, Childers went from biker gang member and barroom brawler to eventually becoming a preacher. When he became a Christian, he didn’t give up the guns. He kept them handy for what would become very dangerous work overseas.

His first mission trip to Uganda was a 5-week stint building roofs in a village where there were landmines. While there, he happened across the legless body of a boy decimated by a landmine placed by Joseph Kony’s insurgency. Kony, a brutal warlord, had been conscripting child soldiers, perpetrating mayhem throughout the region.

When he saw the condition of the boy, Childers smoldered with rage.

“I knew I had to do something,” he declared. “I’m devastated inside. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I had to do something. I stood over that body, and I said, ‘God, I’ll do whatever it takes.’”

“I returned home. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t hardly eat,” he recalls. “All I could see in my memory was children that were starving.”

In response, he sold his fishing boat, camper and other possessions to raise funds for Africa. He tried to enlist others in the fund-raising.

On a subsequent trip, he felt God tell him to open an orphanage, situated in the hottest thicket of danger. In that Valley of the Shadow of Death, he linked up with Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which granted him his own militia to protect the orphanage — and to battle Kony’s forces, according to the Washington Post.

He became known as the “Machine Gun Preacher” after a documentary on his life revealed him walking the bush of Sudan with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, deep in the warzone of Kony’s insurgency. Read the rest about the Machine Gun Preacher Sam Childers.

Send a missionary to Sierra Leone during its Civil War? It made no sense. But it created a wave of church planting.

Sierra Leone ChristianityTo many observers, it appeared foolhardy to send such a fruitful worker to such a hopeless nation. A lot of church planters in the Christian Fellowship Ministries, following prevailing wisdom, looked to plant churches in resource-rich England and South Africa.

But Pastor Harold Warner didn’t flinch when he launched firebrand preacher Alvin Smith into Sierra Leone in 1989. He had heard from God. And nearly three decades later, the results are dumbfounding.

The original church in Freetown has exploded to 80 churches. The nation that once was classified as the second poorest in the world now has planted churches in Liberia, Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Congo, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.

African missionaries in Europe

Pastor Desmond Bell, from Sierra Leone, in Marseille France.

They have even sent three missionaries to Europe.

“To take people, to take young men and women from one of the poorest countries in the world and (for God to) say, ‘I’m going to shape and I’m going to fashion them because they are going to accomplish my purpose not only in their own nation but also beyond the boundaries,’ is one of the greatest privileges of life,” says Warner in a 2018 conference video. “I just sit back and chuckle because this has to be God.”

Not even the African pastors could believe how God would use them when, as young men, they converted to Christ in a ramshackle school building with no lights where they listened intently to Pastor Smith preach his heart.

pastor harold warner tucson door church

Pastor Harold Warner from the Door Church in Tucson

“Pastor Smith was instilling into our spirit that we were going to all the world to preach the gospel. In the minds of many of us, we were like, ‘This is an impossible dream,’” says Edward Saffa, who took over the headquarter church in Freetown. “All of us were from nothing — nothing.”

Sierra Leone was a diamond rich nation racked by government corruption and successive civil wars. The average life expectancy was into the 30s, and people ate only one meal a day. The worst kind of malaria wreaked havoc on the population, and the guerrillas chopped off limbs of civilians to sow terror.

That’s the milieu into which Alvin Smith, a retired US Air Force helicopter pilot, injected himself with his wife Renee.

“We owe something to Pastor Smith who left America. He came in the time during the war. That was a lot of sacrifice,” says Aruna Bangura, now pastoring in Marseille, France. “When people are too educated, they become logical when it comes to serving God. But for us, we were just explosive. We want to go to church everyday. Whenever it is time to go to church, we were running to go to church. We were coming from distance.

“I can still remember that old rugged, dirty building. All the windows were battered. We were using candles. But there was a life coming out of that building. That’s how God works. God likes to do things the way man cannot do it.”

The young men who attended Smith’s sermons often lacked adequate clothes, but they didn’t lack zeal. Or maybe it was the absence of material distractions that helped them to center all their attention on God.

They had nothing, so they had nothing to lose when they put their faith in God. Pastor Smith challenged the youth to get married, regardless of their financial situation. Some of the leaders today set up cardboard partitions in their parents’ living rooms to consummate their wedding. Read the rest of the story of improbable revival from Sierra Leone.