West Africa (MNN) — In one of the poorest nations on the planet, International Mission Board is bringing a gift of grain to stave off starvation.
“We can’t close our eyes to this hardship,” says IMB worker Steve Roach.
Approximately one-third of Malian children are malnourished, reports the United Nations. In a Bambara village where the IMB team is working, mud-wall granaries stand empty and reddish fuzz, a sign of malnutrition, covers the heads of young children. When asked what his family has been eating lately, a young man plucks a leaf from a tree.
“It tastes very bad,” he says. “But…it keeps you alive.”
Roach and his team of volunteers set up two distribution sites with 250 tons of grain each in village schools. As village elders and chiefs come to collect their grain robed in their religious clothing and ceremonial leather meant to ward off evil, they gather to thank the Americans and new Bambara Christian men. The Christians take this opportunity to give the chiefs Christian literature in the Bambara language and explain the gift.
“We’re not trying to buy Christians,” Roach clarified. He explained that the gift was free and was prompted by Christ’s compassion. He said that anyone interested in knowing more could ask. A village chief’s son reveals his interest in Jesus and after watching the JESUS film by moonlight, another man and his son decide to follow Christ. Even the teacher of a different religion declares they could see themselves becoming a believer one day.
Partnering churches from the United States, including intermittently send teams to disciple new believers, but as they guide the young churches and see the spiritual harvest ripen, they can’t help but notice the failing earthly crops.
“It’s hard to pin down one reason why things got worse these last two years,” says Roach.
And that’s because the list of reasons is lengthy. Some fields are infested by worms, some suffer with the collapse of the national cotton market, and the rest are destroyed by patchy rains. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the rains are only part of the dramatic climate change that will continue to assault the region with severe flooding and droughts through 2050. Topping it all off is the fact that Bambara farmers only grow enough food each year to feed their families, leaving no room for unexpected disaster, and the pride in Bambara culture which prevents people from admitting they’re hungry.
Compelled by the plight of these people, Steve Roach invited a team from the South Carolina Baptist Convention and requested Southern Baptist World Hunger Funds to help fight the starvation more than 30,000 people in the area were facing. The area covers about 120 villages and camps, and recently Roach has witnessed exceptional openness to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
“Dozens of Christians are now meeting regularly for church where there were none before,” says Roach, after working in this area of Mali for the past year and a half. Less than one percent of the four million Bambara people living in West Africa are Christians, but new believers in the village where Roach and his team work are hoping to bring the Gospel to surrounding villages.
“We can only hope this will show them who Jesus is and bring them to start working with us,” says one of the Bambara Christians.
Roach hopes the grain gift will help the Bambara make it to the next harvest as it shows them the compassion of Christ. If you would like to help Southern Baptist missionaries carry out human needs projects like this one, please click here.