CHICAGO, IL (December 20, 2010) – Few African Americans serve in foreign mission fields because they have been dealing with such difficult local issues, but the call to “go into all the world” still must receive more emphasis, said the pastor of Oakdale Covenant Church and one congregation member who is leaving soon to serve for two years in Cameroon.
Pastor Darrell Griffin and Sharon Davis made their comments during a recent interview on “The Morning Ride with Mark Elfstrand” that is broadcast on Moody Radio. The full radio broadcast can be heard by clicking here.
Less that one percent of missionaries from the United States are African American, according to the 2007 African American Missions Mobilization Manifesto. The manifesto calls for more participation.
The manifesto, which was signed at Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina, declares: “God has placed the African American Church in a position to make a critical impact on world evangelization. As the wealthiest Black people group on earth, he has given us the human and financial resources to help take the gospel to the world. He has opened the window of opportunity for the church to evangelize and empower the poor, imprisoned, blind and oppressed of the world.”
Griffin said church leaders need to give greater emphasis to world mission. He added that he did not always give much thought to foreign mission. “If the pastor doesn’t start teaching about world mission and its importance, then most of the parishioners are not going to connect with it. A lot of times, the churches kind of take on the passions of the leadership.”
Griffin added he did not always have that passion. “It was on the back burner” when he became the pastor of Oakdale, a large African American congregation on Chicago’s south side.
Melvin Dillard and his wife, Vergie, who were former Covenant missionaries in several countries including Congo, kept telling Griffin the church needed to do more. Dillard kept asking why the church didn’t have more missionaries.
“It was also being part of the denomination that kept it in the front burner,” Griffin said. “I mean (for) the Evangelical Covenant churches, this is like the cornerstone of our denomination. So they really help to make sure Oakdale is involved in world mission.”
Griffin added, “I mean I’m bombarded on this on an ongoing basis. It brought world mission for me from the back burner to the front burner.”
So did a mission trip to South Africa. Since then, the church has returned multiple times to the country as well as others. We call our world mission ministry a reconnecting ministry – so it’s to reconnect us to our brothers and sisters abroad.”
Griffin said the trip highlighted the need for African Americans to engage in missions. The Africans had seen other groups, but not African Americans. They were excited when the Oakdale group arrived.
“We would be like rock stars,” Griffin said. The Africans had thought that African Americans did not want to connect with them.
Such short-term mission trips open the eyes of people to the needs as well as to consider whether God might be calling them to serve in another country, Griffin observes.
Sharon Davis is an example. And she’s 66 years old.
Again, Dillard was a catalyst. Davis had taken a Sunday school class about missions from him. “He better explained the definition of the Great Commission,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be part of that.”
She went to Ghana on her first trip. She had no idea then that the trip would lead her to consider serving overseas. Over the years, she went on other trips and began working with the Department of World Mission as she considered her future.
Davis ultimately realized that God wanted her to use her gifts and 25 years of experience in community development and property management to help the people of Cameroon. She could use those gifts to evangelize.
Davis still is raising funds to support her two years of service. She will help the Cameroon people consider their community needs and means of addressing them, she said.
Davis once had an entirely different idea of what missionaries are. Now she is realizing that God is calling people to use their experience to help people in another country.