Through the Archives: The ministry expands

One of our great privileges is seeing how God is at work across the Arab world drawing people to Himself. But as people come to faith, a new question arises: how can we play a part in nurturing new believers and supporting the growth of local churches?

This was also a challenge facing workers of the past.

Breaking new ground

For pioneers like one of our founding members, Lilias Trotter, this question was especially significant. In her day, there were even fewer places in North Africa with an established church than there are now. The situation required an insightful and innovative approach to both discipleship and evangelism.

Lilias travelled to Algeria with a couple of other women in 1888, beginning a new mission agency that’s now part of AWM-Pioneers today! She was a gifted artist, but pursued her call to mission, rather than the very real possibility of becoming a famous artist across Europe.

Lilias shaped her ministry to fit with the local people and their cultural context. Tracts and books were designed to look and feel like local works. Meetings were organised in cafés and could involve the reading of the Bible to the beat of a drum. New believers were encouraged to get stuck in with the ministry: giving out tracts, running meetings, and sharing their faith with their friends.

Above all, Lilias longed to model a godliness that drew people to a deep devotion to Christ, in ways that were culturally relevant and authentic.

Discipling over the airwaves

Today the internet is a powerful tool for discipling isolated believers, but media had a role to play long before the world wide web. In 1964, we began an experimental new initiative: the Radio School of the Bible!

Hundreds of lessons were broadcast across North Africa in French and English, providing solid teaching on the Bible and the gospel message.

Between 1961 and 1966, 50,000 students were enrolled, with over 3500 professions of faith!

Many new believers gave feedback on how the course had impacted them and changed their lives. One new believer in Algeria wrote:

“It was while studying … that I became definite, and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the only true God and the supreme Saviour of my life.”

Radio knows no barriers and has a potential audience of millions. One fifteen minute programme on one good station could reach as many listeners as the activity of a missionary in an entire year… Missionaries to Muslims are few. Modern political movements increasingly restrict their activities. A person can listen to the radio in private – without stigma or public intimidation.
North Africa magazine, 1964

As people come to faith today, efforts from the local church, media responders and on-the-ground mission workers continue to be vital in the task of nurturing new believers. Whether tried-and-tested methods are used, or innovative new approaches are launched, we pray that God’s work will come to completion in them.

Want to know more about Lilias Trotter’s inspirational life and ministry? Check out this book review!

Come and celebrate with us, at our 140th anniversary celebration on Zoom on November 19th! For more information, email Chris. If you would like to hear more about the history of AWM Pioneers, check out our story or read more from the archive

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