The Cry of East Africa

Acts

The Cry of East Africa

March 1st, 1970 @ 8:15 AM

Acts 14:27

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
Related Topics: Africa, Evangelism, Missions, 1970, Acts
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THE CRY OF EAST AFRICA

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 14

3-1-70    8:15 a.m.

 

 

Well first of all, let me get hold of myself.  I am so grateful to God to be back.  And thank you for remembering us, and thank God for blessings that are beyond imagination.

The fourteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, after the first missionary journey, it says in the concluding verses that:

 

When they sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

 [Acts 14:26-27]

 

And if we could substitute for the Gentiles a section of that great portion of humanity, the text would apply exactly this morning.  First we shall follow the journey:

  • from Dallas to Rome,

  • and from Rome across the Adriatic Sea, and across Greece, and the eastern Mediterranean,

  • and through Egypt, following up the Nile,

  • and across the Sudan,

  • and finally into Ethiopia, and its capital city of Addis Ababa,

  • and out of Addis, a journey into the interior of that high and rugged country, most of which looks to me to be like ten thousand Grand Canyons put together. 

  • Then from Addis Ababa, following the Great Rift southward, that Great Rift is one of the geological wonders of the world, formed in the Jurassic geological age, millions and millions of years ago.  It starts at the Sea of Galilee, and comes down through the gorge, the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea; then follows on down through the Gulf of Aqaba, then the Red Sea; then comes into Africa at Ethiopia, and follows all the way down through that continent through Madagascar. 

  • Following the Great Rift southward, crossing the equator at Mount Kenya—which is over seventeen thousand feet high, and though under the equator is eternally covered with snow.

  • then to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya;

  • turning westward from Kenya, crossing the equator again, and Lake Victoria, which is the second largest body of water in the earth that is fresh, landing at Entebbe in Uganda;

  • then from Entebbe to Kampala, the capital of Uganda,

  • and from Kampala to Jinja; and there I looked upon one of the great, momentous and significant and historical sites of the earth.  This is the beginning of the Nile River, pouring out of the great freshwater lake of Victoria.  For thousands and thousands and thousands of years, the phenomenon of the Nile River bursting out of the desert and overflowing its banks was an impenetrable mystery to the ancient and the modern man.  It was only in the last one hundred years that the source of the Nile was discovered.  Livingstone’s eyes never looked upon it.  Following up the Nile, going south, the explorers were stopped by the great Sudd, that vast, almost illimitable swamp in southern Sudan that is filled with papyri reeds, beyond which a man could not penetrate.  And the source of the Nile was hid from human eyes, and one of the great inexplicable mysteries of the geographical world, until within the last one hundred years, but there it pours in a vast flood of stream, out of Lake Victoria.

  • Then from Jinja to Imbali, the mission station of Jim Hooten and his family, whose family belongs here to our church. 

  • From Imbali up to the country of the Karamojong,

  • and back to Imbali;

  • then a great arc through Uganda to Soroti,

  • to Lira,

  • to Masindi;

  • and from Masindi to the Murchison Falls National Game Park, where the Nile River is forced through granite banks just eighteen feet apart, one of the most spectacular things to be found in nature. 

  • From Masindi back to Kampali,

  • to Entebbe,

  • then crossing the equator again to Kisumu in Kenya. 

  • Then from Kisumu, back across the equator, out in the bush. 

  • Then back to Kisumu and to Nairobi. 

  • Then from Nairobi to Malindi on the Indian Ocean, still in Kenya;

  • and then to Mombassa, still in Kenya, one of the ancient seaports of the earth. 

  • From Mombassa into Tanzania, ancient—what was called Tanganyika—to Moshi, going by the Kilimanjaro Mountain, the most spectacular and impressive mountain I’ve ever seen in the earth.  

  • And from Moshi to Arusha, to our great and prospering and God-blessed Baptist seminary—that’s the seminary for East Africa.

  • From Arusha to Lake Maranya, the great game park;

  • and from Maranya to Ngorongoro, a crater that is about twelve miles across.  And the vast African game herds pouring out of the Serengeti Plain migrate into that crater; and it is like a vast zoological zoo, a thing that is almost indescribable, that crater holding those uncounted myriads of African animals. 

  • Then from Ngorongoro back to Arusha;

  • and from Arusha down to Tanga, on the Indian Ocean again, this time in Tanzania;

  • and then following Zanzibar down to Dar es Salaam, which is the capital of Tanzania. 

  • From Dar es Salaam to Lusaka which is the capital of Zambia, the great copper producing area of Africa; and formally called Northern Rhodesia.

  • From Lusaka, crossing Mozambique, which used to be eastern Portuguese, Portuguese East Africa, and coming to Malawi,

  • and to Blantyre;

  • then turning north to Lilongwe,

  • and from Lilongwe to Salima, which is down on that beautiful, incomparable lake, called Livingstone’s Lake; it is Nyasa, or today, Malawi Lake. 

  • Then back to Lilongwe

  • and back to Blantyre;

  • and then crossing Mozambique again to Salisbury—the capital of Rhodesia—

  • and from Salisbury to Sanyate, where the brother of our deacon David Ford is the doctor with his doctor wife;

  • and from Sanyate to Gwelo, where we have our seminary for southern Africa.  

  • And from Gwelo to Bulawayo, a city in southern Rhodesia;

  • then three hundred miles in a little plane to look at the Falls of Victoria, Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, one of the most awe inspiring sites in the earth. 

  • Then back to Bulawayo,

  • and then down to Johannesburg in South Africa. 

  • Then from Johannesburg to Nairobi,

  • Nairobi to Rome,

  • to New York,

  • to Dallas, and here today; this was the journey of the last five weeks.

Now the assignment was extremely difficult and heavy.  I will take just the last week of it. 

  • From Tuesday to Friday, I conducted a revival meeting in Malawi, speaking twice a day. 

  • Then Saturday, a mission meeting in Rhodesia;

  • then last Sunday, three services.  In the morning at a church, in the afternoon—and this was the pattern of every Sunday—a great rally for the whole city, then that evening again in the church. 

  • Then Monday I conducted four services;

  • and then Tuesday, two services.  That’s one of the weeks.  And sometimes those services were hundreds and hundreds of miles apart. 

    It was a tremendous and heavy assignment.  But I can see the hand of God in that dark continent.  I felt time and again the tremendous spirit of revival.

One of our great missionary statesmen has said, that, “Not in the history of Christendom has there ever been such an open door as we have today in Africa.”  Another one of our missionaries said to me, “If Africa is not Christian, we have no one to blame but ourselves.”  The African is not anti-white.  Those three great streams of humanity that have converged in that dark continent, the Nilitic, the people of the Nile, the Hamitic, the people from the Sinai Peninsula, and the Negroid, the people from the heart of Africa that burst out over the whole continent, these three great streams have ever been open-hearted toward the white man, and they are today.

One of the missionaries said to me that within the next ten to fifteen years there will be eighty million Africans that will make some kind of a commitment.  The communist is there; you see him everywhere.  On the streets of Dar es Salaam, I bought that red testament of the thoughts of Mao Tse-tung, for about twelve cents.  A New Testament will cost you about twenty-three.  And the Chinese Reds are pouring into eastern Africa by the untold thousands.  And their influence is felt everywhere.  The Hindu is there.  You’ll see his temples.  And the Muslim is there; you’ll see his mosques.  Within these immediate few years, the decision will be made in Africa.  Oh, that our people might respond to the incomparable open door that God has set before them!

And in the services that I conducted, I have been overwhelmed by the response of the people and by what I have seen.  In the area around Kampala, our Baptist work in that part of the earth is new; we have not been in the eastern part of Africa but a few years.  In 1967, there were three Baptist churches in the area around Kampala.  Now there are more than sixty.  It’s unbelievable!  At the home of our missionary, Jimmy Hooten, I took the picture of an African pastor, how unobtrusive and unostentatious; but since September he has baptized more than four hundred.  When I spoke at the dedication of the Baptist school at Fudime, which is just beyond Kasumi, I saw a throng of faces; many of them had walked thirty-five miles, some of them had crossed lakes to be there.  The tremendous interest of government officials, the highest in the land, were assembled that day.  And the revival meeting at Lilongwe in Malawi was almost beyond anything you could ever see.

When I’d give an invitation, sometimes it looked to me as though hundreds were responding.  And the spirit of revival and the outpouring of God’s presence moved your soul.  And the way the people sang—I want you to hear a congregational song.  I had one of the missionaries who had a fine recording instrument, I said, “Take down one of these songs.  I want my people to hear the spirit of these Malawians as they sing.”  There’s not just one leader up there, they have four.  There’ll be a leader there, and a leader here, and one here, and one there; and they rhyme it out, they line it out, they’ll sing the first word or so, so the people know how to follow, then they all join in.  And the uplift of the thing, without instruments, is oh so moving.  I want you to hear it.  I’ve asked those men in the electronic booth to play for you one of those congregational songs in the revival meeting in Malawi.  Do it now.

[music playing]

And so on for forty dozen stanzas, without any books, without anything, just singing out of their hearts.  And the way they harmonize, and the way they put their souls in it, and the way they move, oh! To me it was revival, standing there, giving an appeal, and singing those songs, and the people coming, it overwhelmed me!  It was beyond most anything I’ve ever felt in my life.

Well, directly after that meeting, I preached in the capital city of the next country to which I went, and I preached in the white church and the colored church.  And going directly out of the meeting in Malawi, which is a primitive state, and into this capital city, and I sat there in the pulpit and looked at the people:  they all had shoes on, they were well dressed, the standard of living of the blacks had come up greatly in that capital city.  But when they sang, they had lost their zeal and their wonderful and beautiful outpouring of heart before God.  And though when I gave the appeal after I preached, there were many who came, coming directly out of the meeting in Malawi; I could sense the tremendous loss of expression and zeal for God that I found in those primitive people.  And as I watched it and looked at it, I thought in my heart, “What a shame and what a loss and what a tragedy, that when we become educated and when we become affluent, we thereby, it seems, and almost inevitably, we lose that wondrous expression of joy and gladness in Christ Jesus.”  We become cold, and inhibited, and inexpressive, and indifferent, and finally come to those high ritualistic services that are finally attended by less than two percent of the people of a nation.  And I don’t understand it.  I can’t see it.  Why is it that education or culture or affluence should make us lose that wonderful zeal and outpouring of the Spirit, the feeling, the emotion that I think pleases God?  For love is an emotion, patriotism is an emotion, how you feel toward your children is an emotion, and how you feel toward God is an emotion.  But why should we lose it and become inexpressive, and cold, and indifferent, and removed?  Why shouldn’t we rejoice in the Lord and be glad in Him? [Psalm 9:2].

I can understand the enthusiasm of a group out at a Cotton Bowl game or at some other athletic contest.  I can understand that.  But what I can’t understand is, why those contests should evoke out of us such wonderful response and enthusiasm and expression, but before God we’re to be clams, we’re to be dead, we’re to be unmoved.  I don’t see it, and I don’t understand it.

When we come to church I think we ought to praise God.  I think everybody ought to sing.  “Oh, but I can’t sing.”  That’s not so.  That’s not so.  All of us can make noises, and that’s all God asks.  And that’s what you heard up there.  Some of those people were off key I guess fifteen degrees.  But that doesn’t matter—you felt the spirit of the thing, and they all shared in it; and without instruments, just singing out of the fullness of their heart, and everybody sharing in the meeting.  O Lord, that we could keep that childlike wonder of the glory of God!

“Except a man be converted,” lose all of those superior, supercilious sophistication, “Except a man be converted, and become as a little child, he shall nowise enter into the kingdom” [Matthew 18:3].  Lord, help me to keep the childlike wonder of the Lord, and what God is, and what God has done.  And help me to enjoy it, Lord, help me to be glad in it, help me to feel it, help me that it always means my whole life, what God is, and what God is doing.

Now I must close.  I want to depict for you, what to me is one of the most amazing missionary developments in the annals of the story of our Baptist people. It is in Ethiopia.  Ethiopia is a strange contrast.  If we had hours we could speak of it.  Ethiopia, to some degree, has been a nominal Christian nation.  The ancient Coptic church is the church of Ethiopia.  But as the years have passed, it also has become highly, highly formal; and the services are held in an unknown language, Ge’ez.  The Coptic Bible is in Ge’ez, and the Coptic services are in Ge’ez.  And the churches are made octagonal; every church you’ll see out in that country will be octagonal.  And it’ll be divided.  First, a high wall, and anybody can go into that section.  Then beyond that high wall, between that and another high wall, just for the men; then beyond that high wall and the next high wall, just the priests.  Then on the inside, in the center, surrounded by high wall, the ark, in which is the Bible.  For over three thousand years, in the great interior district of Menz, a country like those great gorgeous fingers, those things that I said looked like the Grand Canyons to me—you’ll see all of this the eighteenth of March, on Wednesday night, here in this auditorium, when we look at these pictures—on those great plateaus high between eight and twelve thousand feet high, the district of Mnz, out of that district comes the modern language of Ethiopia, Amharic.  And out of that district comes the emperors of Ethiopia, as Haile Selassie today.  For three thousand years there has never been a missionary penetration in that country.  The Roman Catholics attempted it in the fifteenth century, and they were slain, all of them.  In the 1930’s Mussolini attempted it, and his soldiers were slain.  You can see there today, the ruined villages everywhere—mute testimony of the terrific fighting and resurgence and opposition of those Ethiopians.

But upon a day, upon a recent day, a minister of government, one of the richest men in Ethiopia, a brilliant lawyer, went before the princess and said, “Something must be done for our people in Menz, something must be done; uneducated, illiterate, without medical help, without agricultural advice, without anything.  Something must be done for our people.  And the Coptic church has been there for two thousand years, and the people are still in gross ignorance and degradation.  Something must be done.”  At that time, an appeal was made—and I haven’t opportunity to tell the story of the miraculous story of the two Southern Baptist missionaries that appeared before the government at that time, and asked for the privilege to go into Menz—and for the first time in two thousand years of Christian history, and for the first time in three thousand years, there are missionaries who are this minute entering that great, vast Ethiopian territory, country, plateau of Menz.

Well anyway, on Sunday we had our rally in the afternoon for the city of Addis Ababa.  And to my great surprise that powerful lawyer and gifted and wealthy Ethiopian minister was there, seated before me, with his interpreter.  And as I preached—and I preached on Acts 8:35, “And beginning at the same Scripture, he preached unto him Jesus”—and that evening the word came that the minister wanted to have tea the next afternoon at the big hotel in Addis Ababa, and he wanted us to be his guests.  So we attended the formal tea.  The ambassador to Japan from Ethiopia was there, the illustrious of the city were there, and he was there with his wife, which was a very unusual thing.  And he formed all the group in a big “u,” in a large room in the hotel, a big “u.”  And at the base of the “u” was a couch, and on that couch he seated me, then himself, then the interpreter in a chair just in front of us.  And as the tea was shared by all of the guests, he spoke to his interpreter, and the interpreter said to me, “Sir, he says that this he realizes is no place to talk to me, but that this is his only opportunity and he must speak.”  The he said something else, and the interpreter says to me, “He says that he was greatly moved by your sermon yesterday afternoon, and he was greatly touched.”  Then he said something else, and the interpreter said to me, “He wants to talk to you about that sermon.  And he wants to ask you what you meant when you said that the gospel is Jesus, and Jesus is the gospel, and when we preach the Word we preach Jesus, for Jesus is the Word.  What did you mean?”  And I thought of this same passage in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, when the Ethiopian treasurer said to Philip, “How can I understand, except some man should guide me? [Acts 8:31]  And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him”; an identical thing.  Then I explained to him the best that I could how that Christ is identified with His Word, and when we preach the Bible, we preach Christ the Lord.

 

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was Faithful and True. 

His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. 

He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood:

and His name is called The Word of God

[Revelation 19:11-13]

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.  In Him was the life; and the life is the light of men

[John 1:1-4]

 

Christ is identified with His Word:  the spoken Word, the written Word, the incarnate Word; and all three are one.  When I preach the Word, I preach Jesus; and when I preach Jesus, I preach the Word.

When I finally got through that outburst, interpreted piece at a time, I turned to him, and asked the through interpreter, “Ask him, does he believe this?  Does he believe this?  Does he believe in Jesus?  And does he believe in the Bible?” 

And the interpreter answered back, “He says, ‘Yes, I do believe.  Yes!’”  Then through the interpreter, he said two things to me that overwhelmed my soul.  First he said, speaking long to the interpreter, then the interpreter to me:  He says that he has built himself a large Coptic church in Menz, but he says he has built it wrong.  For he’s built it like the Coptic church is built, with a circular wall, and only the people there, then another circular wall, and just the men there, and another circular wall and just the priests there, then another circular wall and the ark holding the Bible there.  He says he’s built it wrong.  And he says to tell you that he’s going to rearrange that church, and he’s going to take out those walls, and he’s going to put in the center of it a pulpit, and he’s going to ask the priests and the ministers to preach the Word of God! 

That’s the first thing he said.  Then he said, “Tell him this, that the services are held in Ge’ez, in a language the people do not know; but the people speak Amharic.  Tell him that we’re going to have the Bible read in Amharic, and we’re going to have the preacher preach to the people in Amharic.”  Then he said, “Tell him that he and his missionaries and his people are invited to come, and open the Bible, and preach the Word of God to our people.” 

Why, you couldn’t believe it.  You couldn’t believe it.  And that’s how I left it; and that’s how the missionaries are now entering in.  Oh, what God is doing!  You almost feel as you look at it as though you were standing before the unfolding and the development of a twenty-ninth chapter to the Book of Acts.  What God is doing!

And the Lord is moving here.  Oh, I feel like the time is come for the birth of the child; the woman is in travail, the day of life has come.  In our struggling, and in our reaching out, and in our labor, and in our sacrifice, God is bringing to pass new life, a new day, a new door, a great and moving demonstration of His blessing upon the preached Word, Christ, God, without which Book we’d never know His name.

 

Thou dearest friend man ever knew,

Thy constancy I’ve tried;

When all were false, I found thee true,

My counselor and guide

The mines of earth no treasures give

That could the volume buy:

In teaching me the way to live,

It has taught me how to die.

[“My Mother’s Bible”; George Pope Morris]

 

God’s blessing upon the preaching of His Word, which glorifies and presents and magnifies our blessed Savior the Lord Jesus—to have a part in it in prayer, and devotion, and Word, and song, and life is the holiest privilege God could deny to an angel and bestow yet and still upon us.

We must sing our hymn of appeal.  And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, just a one somebody you, in this throng in the balcony round, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I come.  Pastor, this is my wife and our children; we’re all coming today.”  Or a couple you, you’re just married; or one somebody you, you’re by yourself, but God speaks, come this morning.  When we stand up to sing, stand up coming.  On the first note of the first stanza, come.  Do it now, make it now; make the decision now.  Then when we sing, come.  There’s time and to spare.  I’ll give you opportunity to go to your Sunday school classes; don’t leave now.  In the balcony, coming down one of these stairways and to the front, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, while we make this appeal and while we sing, you come.  Do it now, make it now, while reverently, prayerfully, expectantly we all stand and sing.