OM is known for its history as a fruitful sending agency, a cross-cultural training ground where workers learn to love and serve outside their own cultural contexts.
An emerging and growing aspect of OM’s work is investing in national workers, indigenous mission workers who are discipled and equipped to serve within the culture they know best: their own. Advantages include cost-effectiveness and avoiding the pitfalls that can come with navigating a known but secondary culture not one’s own.
Moses is an OM worker whose story illustrates the far-reaching and life-giving payoff such a shrewd investment can achieve. Moses is a man who grew up, came to know Jesus, was trained by OM in his native Zambia and was then sent to Chitwe, a village on the great Lake Tanganyika that borders Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Tanzania.
Stretching 420 miles long and 31 wide, Lake Tanganyika is the world’s second largest body of fresh water that beautifies Africa like a glittering pool when seen from outer space. But, with a lake bottom that sits almost a mile below the surface, it is also Africa’s deepest lake, giving the water a dark and abysmal quality, as if to symbolize certain occult beliefs associated with the lake.
Once a month, the bright light of the full moon drives fish to very deep parts of Lake Tanganyika leaving the fishermen without a catch. Not understanding natural laws, the tribal fisherman concluded that angry lake gods were at fault. Each month, after consulting a witchdoctor, a fisherman would sacrifice their youngest child and sprinkle his fishing net with the blood and remains before going out to fish. This would appease the lake gods and ensure their hand in an ample catch of fish until the next month when the pact would be renewed. This practice is a tradition that goes back for centuries.
Into this context OM sent our worker, Moses. He settled into this unreached village, perched on the border between Zambia and Tanzania, with a boat OM supplied so he could live as a self-sustaining and credible presence, using relevant skills in this unreached community that depends on fishing for its main industry and sustenance.
Moses remembers going to this community, “to be a light in that place. I didn’t go to tell them what they were doing wrong; I went to show them how to live right and bring the teachings of Jesus.”
Moses understood that on bright moon-lit nights, fish were just in a different part of the lake. He caught fish on those nights of the full moon. The village fisherman took notice. Soon a change came over the village that would eradicate the fearful superstition with its cost of young lives.
Moses and his fishing boat became the talk of the village, gaining controversial recognition as the “prayer boat” when it surprised locals with a series of bountiful catches without any aid from ritual sacrifices. As word of this “miracle” spread, other fishermen came to Moses wanting to join as crew and were welcomed, giving him the opportunity to share the message behind the boat’s name, King of Kings, and its unconventional approach involving prayer.
In addition to catching fish without sacrificing young lives, Moses loved and respected his wife and showed love while interacting with his children in the village. His Christ-like attitude and interactions both in his personal life and with his crew on the boat demonstrated a light and a different way of being the villagers hadn’t witnessed before.
One of the first to hear and embrace Moses’ message and lifestyle was a village chief named Andrew. He prayed to receive Christ in large part because he was impressed with Moses’s distinct character and lifestyle.
Soon, many came to faith. Moses got to disciple them on the boat during the long hours on the lake helping their faith and understanding to grow. They learned for the first time about the Creator God who became a man and offered Himself as a human sacrifice, paying the price of sin once and for all in order to restore mankind to relationship with Himself. They learned that the King of kings is supreme and, unlike the angry and bloodthirsty lake gods, provides for those who seek Him with no further need of sacrifice and bloodshed.
Today, Andrew is no longer consulting witchdoctors, beating his wife or relying on alcohol to cope with the guilt and superstitious fears from which he has been freed. Andrew became the church leader and is at Moses’s side in ministry, evangelizing neighboring villages along Lake Tanganyika and mentoring a group of younger men to become Africa’s next generation of native missionaries. The growing band of fishermen comprises a group of OM workers native to Africa who are upsetting tradition while bringing fundamental change to a remote and least-reached area of the world. Nicknamed the “fishers of men,” they own and operate a fishing boat business, with two more recently purchased “prayer boats,” that relies not on blood sacrifices but on the power of prayer. The business and its profits are a self-sustaining means to their missionary work.
A community of Jesus followers, impacting the society in which it exists with local leadership, is now multiplying itself in the surrounding area. A vibrant community was born and is bringing other vibrant communities to life, after investment in one indigenous man.
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