Central African Republic (MNN) — Song is second-nature to the African people. Music is used to express emotion, and everyday life is saturated with singing. Wendy Atkins, a missionary with Africa Inland Mission, uses this concept to reach the hearts of indigenous people in a small C.A.R. village. Using music, her ministry breaches the areas of culture that haven't been addressed by the Gospel.
"I challenge Christian leaders to put Scripture to song using ways that people can easily relate to," Atkins says in a recent AIM article. "We call it 'heart music' — songs that reach deeply into the core of a person and communicate God's life-changing message."
Although AIM has worked in the C.A.R. since 1927, Atkins believes that there are areas of African culture that haven't been addressed — issues like jealousy, idol worship, alcohol and witchcraft, all of which are glorified by traditional Zande songs.
"The Gospel has definitely been preached," said Atkins. "The church exists, but there are areas of the culture of the people that the Gospel has not permeated yet."
Atkins says that in her village, mythological beliefs cause villagers to struggle with jealousy. Villagers believe in the "theory of limited good," which states that each village is allotted a certain amount of "good." This must be spread equally among all villagers; so when one person begins to succeed, they are believed to have stolen some of the village's "good."
Atkins worked with composers to find what the Bible taught about jealousy and how believers were supposed to deal with those feelings.
The group decided to compose a song using teachings found in Colossians 3:12 and 1 Corinthians 13:4. Because of the song's style and easy-to-learn lyrics, it quickly spread to surrounding churches. The AIM missionary recently taught the song to a small church group and was encouraged by the group's response.
"Within two or three minutes, everyone was singing along, singing all of the words, standing up and dancing along. Then it gave a great opportunity to share with them what that Scripture verse really means."
Atkins says believers can join AIM in praying that behavior would change as a result of hearing these songs.
"Those words are in their heads, and we just pray that they'll permeate their worldview and permeate their entire lives to bring about change."