How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind, but now I see.
-John Newton, former slave ship captain, 1779
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
The 16th through the 19th centuries brought unprecedented global growth. Nations were founded, economies forged, technologies created. A comprehensive societal shift took place setting the stage for an industrial surge impacting subsequent centuries. The developments in trade, education, health, technology, etc. were meteoric, and speak to humanity’s calculating capability for ingenuity and resourcefulness.
But this period also wrote the most horrific chapters of sustained depravity and cruelty. Millions of African brothers and sisters were violently uprooted from their homes and forced into lifelong subjugation; dehumanized, bought and sold like chattel, reduced to tools. The innate, God-given dignity of personhood was systematically stripped from entire ethnic groups as a result of the greed and depravity of their fellow man.
Not only were these heinous crimes commonplace, many were committed under the guise of religion – warped to meet the desires of men capitalizing on evil. While the Gospel freed many repentant slavers - John Newton included - others twisted doctrine to fulfill selfish ends. The reverberations of these unconscionable perversions tremor through our lands to this day. Within those reverberations lies the sobering truth that entire regions in Africa remain captive to spiritual bondage. This truth echoed in my soul when I heard the voice of a soft-spoken African guide. I will never forget his chilling words.
Somberly he walked us through the Stone Town Slave Market in Zanzibar. Arriving at a particular point, head down, he abruptly stopped. Slowly his gaze raised as he peered beyond us. Through weary eyes his message cut our hearts like a warm knife on butter.
“It was here the Arabs slit the throats of our children like chickens, knelt in their blood, and prayed to Allah for a greater harvest of strong males.”
4.5 million slaves left a trail of sorrow as they passed the place my feet now stood. I wept.
Hindus, Un-christlike “Christians”, and Muslims alike contributed to this oppression, and as a result some of the most unreached places on the globe today lie within the Sahel belt and upper Sub-Saharan regions of Africa. The present-day inhabitants hail from ancestral lines of oppression, and still dwell with the tremors left from this way of life. They live without access to the eternal hope of the Gospel, in part because of an evil trade that brought chains and shackled the world on a scale beyond comprehension.
While living in an African slum, I learned its origins were traced to the slave era. Some believe the present-day iteration of these extremely impoverished communities, often unfit for livestock, began as a cost-saving strategy to effectively hold human “cargo.” It was in this slum outside of Nairobi, with a population of more than 300,000 souls shackled to the poorest socioeconomic strata, where God began to reveal chapters of a long overdue book.
Amazing men and women and boys and girls began to join a multi-ethnic tribe led by chief Jesus. A shared belief in equal dignity endowed by a culturally transcendent Father began to foster the creation of an inclusive ecosystem. The ministry grew to house Kisiis Kambas, Kalenjins, Kikuyus, Luos, and more. Diverse tribes were coming together as the family of God in a display of unity foreign in many circles.
After the ministry took life, some of these brothers and sisters joined our expansion efforts into the port regions in Togo. Ports were former holding grounds for slaves preparing to be shipped across the Atlantic. But now freedom was working. Unreached people were being served, chains were falling, purpose amongst their new family of faith was rising. Thousands began to join an eclectic movement of people from various nations rallied around a common mission.
Then it happened.
I stood in Jamestown, a West African port, atop a former slave fort located as far across the continent from Stone Town as possible. I listened intently alongside my Burundian brother. Our eyes shifted between the map and the slit in the castle wall revealing the ever-expanding Atlantic. On the other side of the sea the small country of Haiti had been calling us. The African guide grabbed our full attention when he slapped the map and said, “slaves were harvested from this surrounding region, shipped from this port, and carried to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The French called the eastern side Haiti.”
A bolt rushed from head to toe. It struck like thunder. Slums, where slaves were held. Ports where shackled people were shipped. Haiti, where many were bound to forced labor. While meeting needs, feeding souls, and elevating God we were doing more than advancing the gospel. We were chasing the slave trail.
What if I told you we are poised to make history on a textbook-worthy scale? What if I could show you how His pen in our hands is crafting a story that will echo in the halls of eternity? My friends, we stand peering into an unpenetrated stronghold. We are preparing to move into unreached and unengaged West African regions with the gospel. But who will sit on the tip of the spear? A multi-ethnic, multi-cultural assortment of willing brothers and sisters, eager to fan the flame of the Gospel across the African plains.
A Revelations 7:9 force is pursuing the fulfillment of the prophecy. A first-of-its-kind coalition of Ewe & Ga West Africans have been assembled to stand with members of the Kikyu, Luo & Bantu tribes of East African. They are locking shields with Haitian brothers, whose ancestors were originally shipped from West Africa, all preparing to return as free men.
This peace force is being sent by Haitian Churches, commissioned by multi-national pastors, and funded by multi-cultural American Churches. This historic coalition is being led by our African American Chief International Operating Officer who is giving his life to bring the freedom of Jesus to the African motherland. History is being written.
Reconciling the evil of slavery is no small task. Thankfully, we serve a God who is greater than any sin, and provides an avenue for renewal for all.
This reconciliation comes to us, mercifully, through Jesus. Christ took on an olive-colored robe of flesh and dwelt among His broken creation. He subjugated himself to injustice at the hands of those firmly underneath His authority. He was bound for our transgressions, held captive for our trespasses, tortured for our release. He withstood this, and more, and in doing so broke the power of sin and death when He rose from the dead and secured our freedom.
This deliverer - our Jesus - calls the freed to join Him in proclaiming, “That captives will be released… the oppressed set free.” All freedmen, black, white, red, and in-between are invited to join a global effort led by the Spirit of God. God invites all ethnicities to join a new tribe led by Chief Jesus. This tribe forms a mosaic made up of people from all nations, who band together to push back the powers of hell and reverse a global evil.
This is the hope of the Gospel.
As I peer into the distance I see history before us. A tribe of freedmen reversing the curse.