Mali Memories, Part 3: Sharing the Gospel the ‘Smart’ Way

Posted on May 9, 2021

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By David Ettinger

Note: Back in October of 2007, First Baptist Church of Orlando – for whom I worked as a writer – sent a team to Mali to share the Gospel in this West African nation. I had the privilege of being a part of that team. I am sharing 7 of the stories I wrote about that missionary outreach.

Meeting the Challenge
Bringing the Gospel to the people of B-Village (where are team was located) definitely was a challenge, the biggest one being that 99 percent of the community couldn’t read. But the six-person missionary team of First Orlando found a way to get it done.

Jim Nassar, in red shirt, led our missionary team. That’s me just behind him.

“Our goal is not to go into Mali and evangelize,” said Jim Nassar, who headed up the outreach.

Now wait a minute. Isn’t that what missionary teams are supposed to do? The answer is yes, but with an exception.

“The challenge that it creates,” Jim said, “is that you can go in, evangelize, and win hundreds to Christ. But then you leave, come back a year later, and realize there are no new Christians because they don’t know how to reproduce.”

This naturally leads to the conclusion that the most effective way to bring the Gospel to different cultures is to show them how to share it with others. And that is exactly what the First Orlando team did.

“The key is to train Christians how to train other Christians and so forth,” Jim said. “In B-Village, we used tools and methods available to them so that when we left, they would be able to carry on. We had to be smart about it.”

And the strategy was smart indeed.

“After we were gone, we didn’t want to give the people any excuse to say, ‘We can’t share the Gospel because we don’t have the resources.’”

So, it was a matter of determining what the people of B-Village had at their disposal and what the best way was to reach them through their own resources.

Using the Best Resources
“Because the people are illiterate, they are what we call ‘oral learners,’” Jim explained. “In other words, we couldn’t use written materials to train them; it all had to come through word of mouth. Whatever we taught them had to be done in a way that will stay with them long after we’re gone. It had to be something that would stick in their heads.”

I had the privilege of ministering to the kids. I loved it!

So, basically, the way to do that is to teach the Bible orally. The first lesson the Orlando crew taught the people of B-Village was called “From Creation to Christ.” The lesson starts, of course, with Creation, moves to the first sin in the Garden of Eden, talks about humanity’s separation from God, touches on the sacrificial system of Israel, and eventually winds its way to the redemption that can only be found in Christ.

“What we did,” Jim said, “is taught five minutes of material, asked questions to make sure they got it, then taught another five minutes, asked questions, and so on. Then, we had one of the villagers repeat the lesson back to us. That’s how we made sure they understood it. By doing that, we are confident the people we taught can now turn around and teach those they want to disciple.”

Other lessons include the Holy Spirit, the importance of evangelizing others, and the significance of Baptism.

“The biggest thing to remember,” Jim reiterated, “is that we’re not just teaching individuals for their knowledge and edification only, but we’re teaching them in a way they can teach others. In other words, if it just stops with us teaching them, we have not accomplished what we set out to do.

“It’s only when they start teaching others and start reproducing that we have accomplished what God intended for us to accomplish.”