My Day with the Afar

by | Nov 1, 2018 | Articles, Missions, Resources

This suburban boy from middle America just spent a day in the middle of nowhere.

If you know anything about The Stone Table, you know we have a huge passion for the unreached places in the world. We leverage our resources, often through business as mission (BAM), to take the Gospel and plant the Church where there is no church.

The Afar are an unreached people group of goat herders that live in parts of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Of around two million Afar people, we know of only a few hundred Christians. In the region we visited (which I need to keep anonymous), you could count the believers on one hand.

We got up early and drove three hours to the end of civilization – then we drove an hour and a half further. There were no roads to this place they’ve accurately nicknamed “Moonscape,” and even our utility vehicle struggled at times over the jagged terrain. We saw wild camels roaming amongst the small, rural mosques. The Afar are a syncretized mixture of animism and folk-Islam, but the roots of their Muslim faith are as clearly present as Jesus is absent.

Sharing Their Lives

We were warmly welcomed by the village elders and had a chance to sit and chat with them for quite some time about everyday life. They generously brought out blankets and pillows and asked us to take off our shoes for what turned into an hour-long conversation. We brought an award-winning videographer to do some filming of their community and customs and they were more than thrilled to share their lives with us.

Nothing is green – everything is brown – and so the bright colors of their native clothing popped in stunning contrast to the dull earth tones all around them. We toured their traditional housing, took selfies with the kids (they loved seeing themselves on our iPhone screens), and even drank some native spiced tea (a move I questioned later when they showed us the frog-infested, sledge-covered water source from which it came).

We wrapped up our time with a traditional meal, a young goat killed that morning alongside a giant bowl of rice, all of which we ate with our hands as the juices ran down our forearms. It didn’t take long to notice the two front teeth smiling at us from the serving plate. “Please try and eat as much of this as you possibly can,” we were told. “This cost the family a great deal to serve to you today.” We closed our eyes and reached for seconds.

Why We Go

Why do we go to these places? There are so many in our own backyard that don’t know Jesus. You could argue that our secularizing western culture is as far from the Gospel as any remote African tribe. And you might be right, except for one key difference.

Yes, there are those in our own communities that are desperately far from Jesus, and we need to live with His Kingdom in our lives and on our lips right in our own neighborhoods. But when we talk about unreached – the truly unreached – we are really talking about access.

There are 3 billion people in the world (over 40% of the global population) that are completely devoid of any true Christian witness. When you meet someone who has literally never heard the name of Jesus, it will change you forever.

And most have no opportunity to hear, they have no access, unless we change that for them. This is why we must pray, we must send, and we must GO.

We need Western missionaries to go.

We need African missionaries to go.

We need missionaries from every nation to go.

Cross-cultural missionaries.

Near-culture missionaries.

From all, to all.

A Call To Missions

The Afar need access to the Gospel. The unreached in every nation need access to The Gospel. These are the hard places.

Very few of us will ever physically go and live in places like I visited earlier this week, but all of us are called to the unreached. How are you praying for them? How are you investing your resources? Is God stirring your heart to go?

Everyone deserves access to the Gospel. Will you help us?

If you feel God is stirring your heart for the unreached, we can connect you to some incredible opportunities. Learn how you can give or go, right now!

Erik Cooper

After starting his career in the business world, Erik spent 12 years in full-time ministry, both on staff at a large suburban church and as a church planter in a downtown urban context. In addition to his role at The Stone Table, he also serves as the Vice President of Community Reinvestment Foundation, a nonprofit real estate company that provides high-quality affordable housing all over Indiana while investing its profits into missions through The Stone Table.

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