A few weeks ago I listened to a great interview by Thabiti Anyabwil and Carl Ellis. Thabiti started by asking Carl how he would define missions? Carl simply said, “Seeking to make disciples of all nations.” He breaks it down further and explains discipling individuals and culture. He said you need to be involved in both. Discipling individuals will impact cultures, and discipling cultures will impact individuals. God has never left himself without a witness. There was something about hearing Carl putting it in those simple, yet profound words. It makes sense that is mission.
I can honestly say when I first heard the term missionary or mission, I thought of older women wearing long skirts and having their hair wrapped. If I could be more honest, I thought there were only white missionaries. I remember watching television and flipping it to Christian channels and they would only show white people doing missions, especially in Africa and Haiti. I don’t remember any of the channels showing people that look like me as missionaries or leading those missions’ trips. I always wondered why? Are Blacks not missionaries? Are we not called to do missions locally and globally as well?
We are! The Holy God that created us in His image makes no mistake. Psalm 100:3 says it perfectly. “Know that the Lord is God. It is he, who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
We are called, we have always been called. Image bearers like George Liele, who was an African American and emancipated slave who became the founding pastor of the First African Baptist Church, in Savannah, Georgia. He became the first American missionary, leaving in 1782 for Jamaica; this was ten years before William Carey left England for India, and twenty years before Adoniram Judson left America for Burma. Another gift to the Kingdom was Betsey Stockton. She was an educator and was commissioned by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions as a missionary, and became the first single African-American woman sent overseas as a missionary. Stockton left on November 22, 1822 for a five month voyage and settled at Lāhainā on Maui. She was the teacher of the first mission school opened to the common (non-chiefly) people of Hawaii. Betsey also trained native Hawaiian teachers who took over from her upon her departure until the arrival of another missionary.
When I read of our Black History and where we have come from. I am proud of who we are. We can connect to Jesus and the cross. We are a people who know suffering, endurance, perseverance, redemption and can connect with the stripes of Jesus. We have a story. God has given us a story that a lot of people around the world wants to hear. It is a gift to share it and make disciples of all nations, especially the Black nations.
When I read the passage from Revelation 7, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” It brings me great joy and hope to know we, the Black community made the cut. We are there. We will be shouting Holy, Holy, Holy in all our different languages from all over.
In the interview Carl mentions that there has been a missions/missionary coma among the Black church ever since colonizing got intensified in Africa around the late 1880’s. In the midst of that conflict Black missionaries were expelled to and from Africa and were denied for reentry. He believes that has put the Black church asleep when it comes to missions. I believe that to be true as well. For over a hundred years now you don’t hear of Black people going overseas as missionaries.
Where are the Black missionaries?
That question hits home. I am of Haitian decent and feel called to respond to the great commission by living to Haiti. I serve as the director of Ayiti Underground, a Haitian led non-profit missional organization that exists to empower, mobilize, and resource the Haitian community to discover their passion, confront injustice and to attack it at its roots through Jesus Christ for the sake of His Kingdom in Haiti. I remember going to Haiti and being called “blanc” (white) often. I was always confused and hurt because clearly I am not white. So on one trip I decided to ask, “pou ki sa w rele m blanc?” (Why do you call me white?) They said, “We only see white people and missionaries come to Haiti. We are not used to seeing Haitians come back and be missionaries.”
My heart broke, because it was true. I don’t remember hearing or seeing Haitians going back to Haiti as missionaries yet alone to other countries. I realized at that point something needed to change. Something needed to be awakened in my heart and how I see the Black Church. I am the Black church. I am the Haitian church. I am a part of the great commission to go and make disciples of all nations. The specific calling and nation for me right now is Haiti.
Here is the Global Awakening: The Call to Go! Y’all!
It is he, who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. We are the image bearers of God the Father. We walk along side Jesus, who walks alongside the poor, the broken and the lost. We are led by the Holy Spirit who fills us up and transforms people’s lives. My beloved Black church, it is time to awake from our sleep. Let us impact the individuals. Let us impact our cultures. Let us continue the legacy in the mission movement. Let us go.