Community center to advance Gospel

By July 11, 2011

Mozambique (MNN) — "The reason we should not let these missionaries come here is because if we let them in…we are all going to convert to Christianity." These words from a Mwani tribal man only encouraged Steve and Sharon Entwistle, missionaries with Africa Inland Mission to the Mwani people on the coast of Mozambique. While they have been met with opposition, their ministry has only grown. Their most recent celebration was the opening of the Tumaini Center.

"Tumaini" is a word meaning "hope." Hope is just what the Entwistles and their three children are bringing to the Mwani community with this new center. It has a pre-school that currently teaches over 30 students, a store with nine workers employed, a well-stocked library, space for English language classes, and a sports recreational area. With this new community center, the Entwistles are demonstrating the love of Christ in a very practical way.

But the Entwistles have not stopped at practical demonstration of the love of God. They have been directly ministering to the Mwani people with the message of the Gospel as well. Sharon leads a sewing ministry with the women and teaches English. Steve disciples Mwani believers twice a week, preaches, ministers to a local prison, and hosts showings of the JESUS film.

With the work of this couple and the movement of the Holy Spirit, ten Mwani people out of the 100,000 tribe members have been brought to Christ. This is incredible, considering the strong Islamic influence in the tribe.

When the Entwistles came to live with the Mwani tribe and minister to them, they came to one of the most unreached people groups in Africa. According to missionary Karen Zimmerman, "To be Mwani means three basic things: to live near the ocean, to eat seafood every day, and to be Muslim. These things are non-negotiable."

Islam was adopted by the Mwani hundreds of years ago from Arab traders. These beliefs were combined with their superstitions of the spirit world. As a child in the Mwani tribe, you grow up Muslim. You learn how to pray to Allah, you learn the Islamic traditions, and you attend school until around fifth or sixth grade. There is no question — it's just the way it is.

This is why the community was so closed off to the thought of Christian missionaries entering their community. The Entwistles were met with much opposition, and the going has been slow–even frustrating at times. Islam being the prime religion for the Mwani, any tribe members who convert to Christianity have already been threatened and persecuted.

"But one thing we have realized is that [our ministry] is about being steadfast," says Steve, "being faithful to the calling God has given us. It's not about the numbers. It's not about seeing quick results. It takes patience. It takes love. It takes an attitude or perspective that sees the long haul, the eternal picture. God is the One who is really in control…and we trust Him for the results."

The patience is slowly paying off. While there are still thousands of Mwani people to be drawn to Christ, the Tumaini Center is a huge success in the advancement of this ministry. This community center provides a central place for growth in the Mwani people, and many have already asked the Entwistles why they are doing this. Answering these questions has opened doors for discussions about Christ and His message.

Please pray that the government will approve the Tumaini Center as an official association. Also pray for the Entwistles as they finish up their term among the Mwani people. They are hoping that others would rise up to continue God's work among these people who are just now becoming receptive to the Gospel.

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