Relief on the River Bank

By Covid-19, Mali

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, APF have been providing small grants to partners to help them, their families, their churches and their communities navigate the huge challenges posed by Covid-19. The most recent grant was made to our new partner in Mali, Mission Évangélique Chrétienne Agape, based in Manatali on the Bafing River. Pastor Pascal Thera reports on how the funds were used.

I received the Covid-19 relief grant from African Pastors Fellowship and immediately I began meeting the beneficiaries. The message I brought was the same for everyone. I said in the difficult times we were living in, some of my friends, partners of the Mission, are helping us give assistance to those in greatest need.

Knowing the communities and what they were going through, I told them that God loves them and has many ways to prove it. I said that this was part of Christ’s compassion for them and that I am just a channel.

The first reaction was the surprise and joy of receiving a gift like this from the Mission. One of the beneficiaries was Bamoussa from Manatali. He couldn’t believe it with his own eyes when I arrived to see him. Shedding tears and with his voice knotted, he said that the problem of the return to school was a very real challenge but he was also living with something else. Since the beginning of the month, he was living under the weight of several illnesses and his prescriptions remained unpaid. The pandemic’s impact on his very small income also meant he had a delay in the payment of his rent. In this, God really came to visit him.

Mamady, another beneficiary, said that he was feeling the weight of this pandemic. He is blind and before the pandemic he made a living from begging. But it was now more than a month since he had gone out into the streets to ask for money.

The difficult walk to the corner was no longer giving any reward. Before, people could give him a thousand franc note (a little over £1) or even two thousand francs. Now, he so rarely received anything he just hid away at home in despair. So let us come to him and give him a lifesaving gift from the Mission and from a person to whom he has never paid attention to before. What a joy!

Kama told me that he had learnt that Christians are good and help their neighbours. He is from Niantaso, some 45 km east of Manatali where we have one of our mission cells. He is also blind. I remember his words very well. “It was like a tale for me and even for many of this village,” he said. “That good comes from the Mission is not surprising because since you started coming to this village everyone appreciates you and says that you are good. We will keep your blessing in a corner of our hearts and through me, you have offered this gift to the whole village.”

This small but important operation has seriously marked me in my Christian life. I rejoice that I have been able to join in with this good work for the Lord. With it comes a certain inner peace. I am experienced in doing development work, especially in agriculture, but this is the first time in my whole life that I have been able to bring cash grants to very vulnerable people in desperate and immediate need.

It reminds me to leave aside my own benefit and understand the true meaning of compassion. I experienced this through the sharing of a gift.

Mission and Ministry in Mali

By eVitabu, Farming, Mali

Pastor Pascal Adams Thera found APF online. After introducing himself and his work amongst the Malinké people of south-western Mali, we soon got him up and running on eVitabu, our church leader resource-hub app. Since then, we’ve enjoyed finding out more about Pascal and his community development work in this challenging part of Africa.

I was born into a practicing Christian family. I am married to Marceline Sanou who is a nurse and we have four children and five grandsons. I accepted Jesus Christ in 1975 and the call to ministry came shortly after. I did not enter a full-time pastoral ministry immediately, however. I first trained as a business manager and administrator and worked as a management consultant and development officer. My call was to be a lay preacher, or tentmaker as we say.

In those days, I belonged to the Evangelical Christian Church of Mali. As Development Officer, I worked on many agricultural projects. This is so important as Mali is very food insecure and every year the desert grows larger.

In 2017, I came to Manantali. Manantali is a small but busy market town near the dam of the Bafing River. You find the town in the Bafoulabé Cercle in the Kayes Region of south-western Mali.

I first came to Manantali wanting to establish an entrepreneurship project for young people through agriculture. The vision that the Lord gave me was for an agricultural project supported by a strong local church. The Manantali area is inhabited by four unreached ethnic groups: the Malinké, Soninké, Peulhs and Moors. Church leaders in the area have no training and they struggle especially with evangelism.

When I first arrived, I taught the church leaders using Paul’s ‘Call of the Macedonian’ in Acts 16. After I gave this message, the church leaders that were preaching in the desert asked me to answer this call myself and stay in Manantali. I agreed.

I began to formalise the framework of this work and soon Mission Evangélique Chrétienne Agape (MECA) was born. MECA is an indigenous Malian mission and  stands for evangelism, church planting and discipleship. Our headquarters are in Manantali where we also have a local church which I am pastoring. We have planted another church in Niantasso, 45 kilometres away with a trainee pastor.

Our goal is that we should not depend on the outside world for the financial life of our organisation. My background in community development has convinced me of the importance of sustainable agriculture so we have adopted this as a strategy for supporting the ministry.

Our headquarters has an area that we want to fence and irrigate for agriculture. At the same time, we are starting a sustainable agriculture training project for the local youth. In all the villages we are going to, we plan to acquire some land (either by grant or by buying it) and replicate this same approach.

What are my hopes for the future? To answer that, let me tell you about our vision. It is to establish at least one active local church, strong both spiritually and numerically, in every administrative village in the Bafoulabé Cercle and beyond. The Bafoulabé Cercle has 13 communities and has about 212 villages including Manantali.

We want to see the Malinké people reached for Jesus with a strong and living church among them. The Malinké are included in Revelation 7:9 so we have to work to make it happen.

We long to see communities able to support themselves and free from poverty. We long to see our own training institute where we will train our pastors and leaders in Christian theology, pastoral leadership and sustainable agriculture.

It is a big vision but we have a big God.