A South African husband and wife team, Michael and Renee Watson of Frontline Fellowship, completed an epic seven months overland mission trip through 12 African countries this year.
The intrepid missionary couple covered 29 000 km as they ministered in Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Congo, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa. Along the way they conducted more than 390 meetings, services, outreaches and seminars, and distributed almost 3 tonnes of Bibles, Gospels, discipleship manuals and audiovisual equipment to pastors, teachers, chaplains and evangelists.
“When God gave me the vision to go to Sudan (and all the countries between here and there) and as I considered all that would be required to accomplish such an extensive undertaking, I realised that we did not have the necessary equipment and resources to even begin this venture,” Michael Watson reports.
“We had no suitable vehicle, no funds for fuel and expenses, inadequate equipment — all we had was faith that God who calls will also provide.”
“Having been inspired by the example of 19th Century Missionary to India, William Carey, and his famous quote: ‘Attempt great things for God! Expect great things from God!’ I resolved to reach higher, dig deeper, and stretch further trusting that God, Whom I believe placed this vision in my heart, would also provide for all the needs that would arise. Within three months, God provided all that we needed to equip ourselves with the necessary and vital gear that such an endeavour demands. Although we did not have enough fuel money to get us where we were headed, we did have enough to successfully embark on our journey. What we lacked in cash we had in faith — God had provided this far and we knew He would carry us the full distance — and He did,” says Michael.
The Frontline Team conducted 18 Great Commission Seminars, 15 Reformation FIRE Seminars, 2 Muslim Evangelism Seminars, and 2 Biblical Worldview Seminars totalling more than 150 lectures and 35 devotions. They showed the Jesus film more than 40 times, preached 23 sermons, ministered in 14 schools, spoke at 85 midweek meetings, and arranged and participated in, more than 40 outreaches.
“As you may well imagine, a mission expedition of this nature will have its ‘fair share’ of challenges, hurdles, trials, and fun.
“There were times when we had to use armed escorts to get us through the ambush alleys, whilst at other times we were irritated and harassed by corrupt officials looking for a bribe, and once even threatened at midnight by a drunken police official armed with an automatic rifle.
“We also had plenty of mechanical breakdowns sometimes in dangerous bandit rebel territories. On one occasion it took us five days to repair our trailer whilst even having to dodge bullets and take shelter behind our rig until the dust had settled. We faced many rivers with broken bridges, some easier to cross than others. Some we were not able to cross at all and had to find a way hundreds of kilometres detour around another way.”
Malawi Muslims meet the Master
“Amongst the Yao people in Malawi there are a number of courageous Christians who have started a small church against terrible odds. They live in a strong Muslim community that persecutes the Church. Any converts to Christianity get beaten, stoned, stripped of all their possessions, and thrown into the street as outcasts.
“It was an immense privilege to minister with these noble believers. We were showing the Jesus film in this area with much trepidation, not at all sure how the Muslim community would react to such an invasion. We were amazed to see many Muslims coming to watch this film. At the preaching of the Gospel afterwards a significant number of them made a public confession of faith in Christ Jesus!”
“One of the main goals of this Africa Overland Mission was to minister to the chaplains of South Sudan, the newest country in the world, that has suffered some of the worst persecution whilst fighting Africa’s longest war against the Muslim North. These chaplains were eager and excited to receive training, encouragement, and equipping. Some of those in our training seminars were of the original group of the first chaplains ever trained in the SPLA, by Dr Peter Hammond in 1996. They were still fervently and effectively serving the Lord fulfilling their God given duties against terrible odds. One particular chaplain has now started and built three churches and has trained others to minister to soldiers on the frontline of the border war with the Arab North.”
“I think that the ultimate highlight of this entire Mission was the amazing opportunity I had to preach to soldiers at the general parade of the division headquarters of the SPLA military in South Sudan. There I was standing in the middle of the parade grounds surrounded by hundreds of soldiers in uniform standing to attention as their commander handed his soldiers over to me to preach the Gospel to them. These soldiers were responsive and attentive, listening with a keen ear and a sparkle in their eyes. The electricity of this moment was magnified due to the fact that this was taking place in what used to be an Arab-Muslim military headquarters during the war years and had only recently been liberated. An abandoned mosque ominously loomed in the near background as I shared with these men who daily face the dangers of death, on the importance of being right with God through the blood of Jesus Christ.”
Kasese keen for knowledge
“We were blown away by the response we received amongst the pastors and churches in Kasese, Uganda – a small town on the foothills of Mount Rwenzori which the locals call ‘the Mountains of the Moon’ (due to its snow-capped peaks). We preached in seven different churches on the desperate need for reformation in our societies and churches – calling folk to return to Biblical repentance and away from selfish, comfortable Christianity. The pastors openly admitted, in front of their congregations that they have been guilty of using the church as a means to selfish gain — that they have been preaching a weak and watered-down Gospel, and they proclaimed their immediate repentance.”
“As this year is the bicentenary of the birth of Dr David Livingstone, we took particular effort to find and film as many memorial sites relating to this legendary missionary explorer as we possibly could.
“The fruit of the work of David Livingstone was beautifully evident particularly in Malawi where magnificent church buildings have been erected in honour of his work. Not only are the structures impressive, but also the Church itself is thriving and spreading rapidly across the country. Other countries such as Tanzania and Zambia remember and appreciate him for fighting against the Arab slave trade, as does Malawi, but the Malawians primarily appreciate the fact that he brought Christianity to their land.”
“When we look back on the opportunities, adventures and trials of this year, we are reminded of the words of David Livingstone: ‘Can that be called a sacrifice, which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay?… It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather, it is a privilege!’ ”
More testimonies and pictures from the Africa Overland Mission and the Missionary work of Frontline Fellowship can be viewed on the Frontline Fellowship Facebook page, the website: www.frontline.org.za. More information can be obtained by emailing email firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 021 – 689 4480.