Southern Africa (MNN) — For decades, missionaries have been trying to reach the amaZioni people of southern Africa with the Gospel, but the amaZioni have been unresponsive, despite their Christian heritage. Only in recent years have they begun to open up to the truth.
The story of the amaZioni begins well over a century ago, when a Christian city called Zion was established in Illinois. This group of American believers rejected all things modern and held a strong belief in faith healing. They were against the use of medicine or doctors to take care of illness.
Before long, the city decided to send a group of missionaries to southern Africa. Zion missionaries turned out to be of interest to the Africans with whom they interacted. Intrigued by the missionaries' rejection of modernity and medicine, many prominent tribesmen accepted the beliefs the missionaries taught.
However, internal and financial problems forced the Western missionaries to withdraw, not to return for decades. In their wake they left a confused people group, the amaZioni, who had few Biblical resources and no Christian role models.
The amaZioni grew exponentially over the years, and so did their newfound religion. They began to spawn churches and raise up leaders but moved further away from any Biblical teaching they had known and moved further into folk belief. They mixed Christian practices with traditional African ones, including witchcraft
Through the years, the church in Zion, IL became a strong, evangelical church. In the early 1980s, they became aware of the confused legacy they had left in southern Africa and consequently believed it was their personal responsibility to back go to the amaZioni and teach the truth.
When other missionaries had tried to reach the amaZioni in the past, the amaZioni would not budge in their beliefs. Yet when the church in Zion sent missionaries back to Africa bearing the original Zion church symbol, the amaZioni were eager to listen because of the historical and spiritual connection they had with that group.
Since then, the Zion church has founded ZEMA, the Zion Evangelical Ministries of Africa. ZEMA sends missionaries commissioned by the Zion church to Africa to teach at the four Bible colleges they've established across South Africa and Mozambique and to proclaim the truth of God's Word to the amaZioni. The hope is that eventually the entire people group will be reached by pastors and missionaries trained in the four- to five-year Bible college programs.
In the meantime, there is still a large need for foreign missionaries to go and teach the truth of the Gospel. "This is an incredible opportunity for Western missionaries, particularly people from North America, who can be approved by the church in Zion and sent out to bring the Gospel to these people," says Ross McCordic with TEAM. TEAM has a partnership with ZEMA that allows the TEAM missionaries to be sent to the amaZioni through ZEMA's commissioning, giving TEAM missionaries leverage with the amaZioni that they would not have otherwise.
Those who become missionaries to the amaZioni through ZEMA do not debunk the amaZioni beliefs; they are not confrontational. Instead, they simply teach and explain what the Bible says. As the amaZioni come to understand the Gospel, they begin to change their own practices and habits to match those taught in God's Word. More and more amaZioni are coming to faith as a result.
This is a people group rich with promise. At 18 million strong, they have the potential to change generations for Christ. If you feel that the Lord could be calling you to this ripe mission field, contact TEAM today.
In the meantime, pray for God to raise up more missionaries to the amaZioni and to prepare the hearts of the amaZioni to respond to the message of ZEMA missionaries and their peers who have come to Christ.