Calling Black Missionaries: Reclaim Your Heritage
As many pause to celebrate a Black History Month, there's a call for Black Christians to reclaim their heritage on the mission field.
CBN News spoke with one African-American missionary who is leading the push.
A Rich History
The richness of the African-American experience is heard in the very songs the choir sings on Sunday mornings.
It's a richness that includes work far beyond the church walls.
"We need to go back to our roots. I have been in missions many years and when I first started the cry from other countries, other nations of people, they asked me are there any African American missionaries?" Dr. Brenda Stratton, founder of Message to the Nations, told CBN News.
In fact, America's first missionary was George Liele.
Liele was an emancipated slave who started the First African Baptist in Savannah, Ga., before heading to Jamaica in 1782 to start others.
It's a history lesson Stratton shares often. Her ministry works to encourage more people to pursue missions work.
"From a little girl, God called me into the field of missions. I didn't understand it because I thought a missionary was a little lady who goes to Africa with a bun on her head, never to be seen again. So I didn't want that portion of it," Stratton said.
"When God called me, He told me, 'I am calling you to answer a slave woman's prayer.' He said that 'she is crying for her children to be free, but really free. And I am sending you as a result of her prayers to go a free people,'" she continued.
One of her latest projects is bringing electricity and a computer lab to a mud hut village in Ghana.
Still, numbers show there's more to be done.
For example, a Christianity Today report revealed that the number of Black churches in the Southern Baptist Convention has grown more than 80 percent in the last decade to 3,400 U.S. congregations.
But out of the convention's 4,900 international missionaries, only 27 were black.
"The world knows that African Americans have suffered from slavery and other atrocities in life. So they are interested to know, especially now that there is African American president, how did God take you through the issues you have because we face some of the issues," she explained.
No Accidental Culture
Stratton said sometimes the issues of poverty and struggle right outside the church's doors keep them from missions abroad.
"Mission includes everything. God said to go to Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost. He didn't say choose. He said to do it all," she argued. "There is enough work for us all to do. We don't do one at the neglect of another."
And one can replace another on the mission field.
"The African American Church became a place of refuge. It became in some ways, an invented culture. And I don't say that disrespectfully. I believe it was a collaboration of the Holy Spirit, with God, with a wounded, rejected, orphaned people, who found refuge in him," John Dawson, with Youth With A Mission, said.
Into All the World
That unique story is why Dawson works with Brenda Stratton.
He encourages African-American's to take to the mission field and not to assume there is only work for them in Africa.
So, we always say for instance that Koreans are the key to reaching Japan because they are similar North Asians, but the Japanese are fascinated with gospel music," he said.
And even music can open the door to a mission field where the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few.