FREETOWN – Pastor Alvin Smith arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1989 with a vision to evangelize and to build a local church ministry under the auspices of The Door World Outreach based in Tucson, Arizona. The West African nation was so poor at that time, it was ranked the second-poorest in the world.
He was, indeed, able to launch a ministry and start a church in the capital city of the country whose population is predominantly Muslim. During his tenure there the country suffered the consequences of a relentless civil war from 1991 until 2002. Tens of thousands of citizens died during the conflict and about a third of the entire population fled the country.
Sierra Leone is a breeding ground for infectious diseases including typhoid, malaria, dengue, yellow fever, Lassa fever, schistosomiasis, rabies, AIDS, and Ebola. Its economy, largely dependent on the mining of iron ore and diamonds, is at the mercy of the global marketplace.
Not exactly a prime place to plant a ministry.
However, the ground was so fertile and ready for the Gospel, that Pastor Smith and his congregation have been able to establish a total of 80 churches in a country with a population of slightly more than six million.
What is more, those churches have taken the message of the Great Commission to heart. After all the message is to all believers, not just those in select countries. The ministry has planted churches in Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo, Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Senegal, and Togo.
“Not even the African pastors could believe how God would use them when, as young men, they converted to Christ in a ramshackle school building with no lights where they listened intently to Pastor Smith preach his heart.” In fact, no one would have believed in the early days that the churches would send three missionaries to Europe.
Pastor Harold Warner, who originally urged Smith to go to Sierra Leone, said “To take people, to take young men and women from one of the poorest countries in the world and (for God to) say, ‘I’m going to shape and I’m going to fashion them because they are going to accomplish my purpose not only in their own nation but also beyond the boundaries,’ is one of the greatest privileges of life.”
Edward Saffa, who leads the headquarter church in Freetown since Smith has returned to the U.S. declared, “This is an impossible dream. All of us were from nothing – nothing.” The conventional wisdom is that European countries send missionaries to Africa, not that African countries send missionaries to Europe.
But, then, the God of the impossible does not deal in conventional wisdom. All authority has been given to Him in Heaven and on Earth. In that authority, He has commissioned us all, regardless of where we live, to go and make disciples of all nations. That is the wisdom of God.
Pastor Smith is now the CEO of Into-Africa, “a foundation dedicated to increasing the quality of life in poverty-stricken areas by planting churches and introducing schools, medical assistance, and clean water.”
- God Reports, Explosive church movement in Sierra Leone now sending missionaries to Europe
- Into-Africa website
- CIA World Factbook, Sierra Leone
- By Laura Lartigue (USAID Photo Gallery) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons