One out of every eight people on earth lives on the continent of Africa.
One out of every eight people on earth lives on the continent of Africa. But the mystique of that ancient continent—with its stunning natural beauty and its enchanting native lore—has been bowed by the twin epidemics of poverty and HIV/AIDS. The World Bank identifies Africa as the greatest aid challenge on earth, reporting that more than 314 million Africans—nearly twice as many as in 1981—live on less than $1 a day. Thirty-four of the world’s 48 poorest countries, and 24 of the 32 countries ranked lowest on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index, are in Africa. Moreover, more than 3 million Africans are killed each year by HIV/AIDS and malaria, diseases that, combined, are estimated to cost more than 1 percentage point of Africa’s per capita growth each year. (http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/AFRICAEXT/0)
Interface these statistics with headline reports of explosive growth in the Seventh-day Adventist church in Africa (the fastest growing segment of our global spiritual family), and the rationale for a Pan-African church leadership summit here at Andrews University this weekend is more than obvious. How shall the global church join with the churches of Africa in strategically bringing the everlasting gospel to bear on the endemic challenges of poverty and AIDS? And how shall we effectively nurture and disciple the millions of new Adventist Christians that throng the church in Africa?
Here on campus for that summit, our pulpit guest today is a friend of mine, since I had the opportunity of ministering with him in Johannesburg, South Africa, in March, 2005. He was president at that time of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But later that year he was elected general vice-president of our world church. And I’m grateful Dr. Pardon Mwansa joins us today in worship.
I have invited this church leader to the pulpit, not only because of his influence in the church’s strategic mission to Africa and to Islam, but also because this campus parish represents the Adventist Church’s western challenge—the mobilization of a new generation of young professionals in the mission of Christ in Africa and on all the other continents of earth. The staggering statistics of global poverty, disease, and political and religious instability notwithstanding, this must become our “finest hour” in the mobilization of new leaders, new missionaries, new servants of humanity. And who better to go for Christ than the young of this movement? And who better to articulate that call today than our guest preacher?
But then, the commission of Jesus belongs to all of us: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15 NRSV). Irrespective of our disciplines, our majors and our professions, it remains our highest calling, does it not?