Niger (MNN) — In Niger, half the country's population is going hungry
following droughts which have led to crop failures and food shortages. United
Nations numbers estimate that 400,000 of the country's children are at
risk of dying of starvation.
The United Nations pumped $6 million into
relief to alleviate the suffering of millions. To complicate matters, most of the
population hasn't recovered from last year's food crisis caused by drought, which means the next "lean season" is expected
to begin earlier and last longer next year.
That means demand will be higher for
existing food, and increased demand will drive up prices. By the end of December, food experts think about
six million people will be affected.
It's against this backdrop that church
leaders find themselves trying to be the hands and feet of Christ. Jonathon Shibley with Global Advance says their
team recently went to Niger for a Frontline Shepherd's Conference to provide
pastors with the tools they would need for ministry. Shibley's team "got a sense of some of the desperation from a national sense, but also [we witnessed that] the faith of our brothers and sisters in that country is so high."
While actual reports of churches being
involved feeding the hungry are still in the field, it's generally accepted that
churches respond first. Shibley agrees. "There's always been a connection to the
advance of the Gospel with humanitarian help in that nation, when things are
done in the name of Jesus. We need to pray that more of happens, as they're faced with this
At the Conference, it was clear that
leaders needed encouragement, too. "There are only an estimated 400 churches
in the entire country. We were able to bring together about 250 pastors and their
wives and leaders….which represented almost a quarter of the churches there."
The team ministered on a variety
of topics from vision, faith, church leadership, spiritual gifts, prayer, training Biblical elders, the Great Commission, church planting, and much more.
Shibley reflects, "This was a really
mission-drenched conference, where there was a recommitment [by leaders] and a re-fire
that came from the Holy Spirit to reach their nation for Christ." In addition, church leaders and pastors got the encouragement and respite
they needed "to continue in the good work even though it's a struggle; they've been called to a very tough land."
Toward the end of the conference, "Over
50 felt that God was calling them to try and plant another church in the near
future," Shibley says. "Thirty of them committed to go themselves as missionaries to the tough,
In the past few years, there have
been indicators that the body of Christ is strategically positioned for a
season of multiplication. Shibley says, "Pray that they're renewed in their
faith, that they're encouraged daily in the Lord, and that there will be more
workers sent to the harvest field in Niger. We believe it's a ripe place for
the Gospel even though it's well over 95% Muslim."