Republic of Mali
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The west African country of Mali is a large, oddly shaped country (covering an area of 1.2 million sq km or nearly 500,000 sq miles) completely landlocked and surrounded by Algeria,Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal and Mauritania. The population, estimated at about 12.5 million, is made up of as many as twenty different ethnic groups, the largest being the Mande. Arab Tuareg nomads are a minority but occupy a significant portion of the northern half, lying with the bounds of the Sahara Desert. The name, Mali, is derived from the Malinke or Mandingo people who had a flourishing empire in the area between the eighth and fourteenth centuries. The Turegs (Taureg) or Berbers ended Mandingo rule only to be expelled by the Songhaim. The French gained colonial control in 1898 and made it into the Colony of Western Soudan in 1904 (Western Sudan in 1920). Independence was gained in 1960 followed by thirty years of civilian and military dictators. Free elections were held for the first time in 1992. The Republic of Mali is governed by a single legislative body known as the National Assembly. Trade and Islamic scholarship were once centered in the fabled city of Timbuktu, where remnants of the ancient libraries are currently being re-discovered.
There are few economic advantages in Mali due to lack of transportation systems and the preponderance of desert (65%). In the south the Senegal and Niger Rivers provide some opportunities for agriculture, including rice, millet, cotton and peanuts. Mahogany and other trees are located in the savanna. Animals include lions and antelope. Dried fish from the rivers is a small export to neighboring countries. There is a single gold mine, some salt production, a few textiles and some other mineral deposits, but again, trade is hampered by poor transportation. Mali is the recipient of significant foreign aid.
Once an Islamic cultural center, Islam is still the dominant religious presence in Mali, claiming between 80% and 90% of the population. Animistic indigenous beliefs predate the influence of Islam. Christianity was introduced by colonizers and is therefore still associated with colonial powers and numbers only a small percentage of the population.
The initial entrée of the Stone-Campbell Movement into Mali was as the result of the missionary activities of John and Jane Doe and their children, Junior and Sissy.1 The family first set up their mission work in Mali in the late 1980s, eventually transferring the work to a different village, where their work was primarily among the Senoufo peoples, found in Mali, Burkina Faso and Cote D’Ivoire. The Senoufo are largely Muslim, though most people still practice traditional religions. The people are open to listening to the Gospel but are very slow to accept it. There is great fear among converts of repercussions from other Muslims and few are actually willing to give up witchcraft.
Upon entering Mali the Doe family made a commitment to stay in country for a period of fifteen years working to establish a local church that would be indigenous and self-sufficient apart from missionaries and the mission. Over the years they had several interns, teachers and short-term workers aided in their work (there names have been removed for security purposes).
In an April 2004 magazine article John wrote, “Instead of focusing on a quick growth in numbers in the church, we …concentrated on laying a firm foundation for the church in Mali.” A great deal of time was spent teaching new believers. Literacy training, in both Bambara and French, was an important part of the evangelistic outreach efforts of the mission. Bible studies were begun in several villages that, with the Lord’s help, developed into churches. Where possible, cement block buildings were built to house the churches and to be used for community activities, such as the literacy classes. By 2000 there were a reported fifty baptized believers in Mali. In addition, prison ministry, hand dug wells and small agriculture projects, such as planting 2500 trees, were part of the early work in Mali. One way that they worked to make the church and mission Malian was the training of a Malian man by the name of Bob Mali. Bob became the preacher of a local church, taught literacy classes, prepared radio programs and helped lead in worship by playing the balafon, an instrument similar to a xylophone.
Jane Doe is a medical professional and used her medical training as an important inroad into the lives of Malian people. Among the early converts at the mission was a man by the name of Hippocrates. Another way that they worked to make the mission and the church national rather than missionary-led was, rather than building a mission clinic, they arranged to grant Hippocrates a loan to start a clinic in a rented mud brick building. Jane worked with Hippocrates to see patients and to teach him the administration of the clinic. Within two years Hippocrates repaid the loan and purchased a piece of land. With the help of Fellowship of Associates in Medical Evangelism (FAME), Hippocrates was given a larger loan and an eleven-room cement block clinic was built. At one point the clinic was treating nearly 500 patients per month. As the loaned funds are paid back they are used to fund future projects, including sending some to Bible school for further training. Unfortunately, in 2004 John wrote that due to a debilitating disease Hippocrates was unable to manage the clinic to its full potential. The lack of trained staff in Mali has made it difficult to recruit staff, but nevertheless, the clinic is still operational to this day and the loan to Hippocrates is almost completely repaid.
Another significant aspect of the Does’ ministry in Mali was the establishment of an radio station which opened December 1, 1997. On the air for about nine hours per day, The radio station broadcast programs in six languages; included in these programs are a number of original dramas. Not only are these broadcasts heard in Mali, but are also heard in Burkina Faso and Cote D’Ivoire. Early on the radio station, under the direction of a skilled person the station was able to be become nearly self-sufficient due to income from advertisement, sponsorships, etc. It has proven to be a wonderful way to reach many who would not otherwise come to a Christian church. With the financial assistance of International Disaster Emergency Services (IDES), a 500 watt Crown transmitter was purchased in 2003 to double the output power, making it possible to reach even further with a much better quality. Disastrously, sometime later a significant windstorm knocked down the radio tower causing a disruption to the broadcasts, but a new tower was soon erected. Despite some hardships and setbacks the Doe family believes the Lord blessed their time in Mali and, as they had planned, were able to depart Mali after fifteen years of service as missionaries there, leaving the work in the hands of the Mali Christians.
John Doe has been back in the area several times since their departure and says that the work is going on pretty well, the church is growing and the radio station is doing a great job. They have been able to purchase new and more modern equipment and are pretty much self-sufficient, covering their salaries and other operational costs. Unfortunately, as time goes by, the work has become more of a “church,” and except for programs on the radio station, their outreach is greatly diminished. When it was still at its beginning and the assorted buildings in the villages were seen as multi-purpose buildings, most Muslims did not object to participating, but when the local Christians insisted on setting up a large sign with a church name and hours for the service, the Muslims quit coming. Muslims do not want to be seen going to “church”. Church traditions are prevailing over the need to reach out to the un-reached.
Ghanaian missionaries such as Peter Ofori and others work with seven Churches of Christ.
The International Churches of Christ have a church in Bamako.
1Names of the missionary family have been changed to protect their work in a Muslim field. Names and contact of others have been removed.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
Revised by Gary Holloway, December 9, 2013.
The following web-based information is provided regarding an a cappella Church of Christ in Mali:
Eglise du Christ au Mali
B.P. E 5488
Bamako, Mali 223 Mali
Telephone Number: 00 (223) 2287165/6724579/2792152
Evangelist: Peter Ofori Amponsah
Web Site: http://www.egliseduchristaumali.org
Total Membership: 40
Times of Worship and Bible Study: Sunday Morning Bible Study: 9:00 Sunday Morning Worship: 10:00
Wednesday Night Bible Study: 6:00
A full time Preacher
An active Evangelism Program
Our congregation is active in the following ministries:
World Bible School, Radio Ministry, Internet On-Line Ministry