A String of Lights

Go Global Mali shines God’s love


In 2005 we started seeking ways to form relationships with Bamako’s busy professional class. An international service organization seemed like a good start. However, translating those contacts into relationships that gave us an opportunity to share the gospel did not go as well as we had hoped.

We were praying for new ideas but remained closed to teaching English, because we didn’t want to get distracted from more “spiritual” activities. After all, we were church planters; anyone could teach English!

However, God has His own ways. Our 2009 summer interns wanted to use their training in teaching English as a second language. The workshop we helped them to lead was a huge success and resulted in an English conversation class two mornings a week at a local church.

A month later, during one of our conversation times, a knock at the gate led to a new opportunity. A man asked if we would consider teaching a beginners’ English class. We told him we’d consider it. A week later he showed up again with the names of 25 people he said wanted to learn the language. The next week he brought 25 more names.

Now that we were looking at 50 people who wanted us to teach them English, it seemed like God was answering our prayers for meaningful connection in an unexpected way. Our first class had 45 members. Happily, we were working in partnership with someone from another organization, but even so, the room was cramped. Nevertheless, the students enjoyed the class. Some came to the church’s Christmas Eve service, and we were able to do a small Bible study. Eventually, we named our adventure in teaching English “Go Global Mali.”

It takes up to 100 significant interactions with a Christian before someone of Mali’s majority religion might consider placing faith in Jesus. We liken our ministry to strings of miniature lights; sometimes you have to fiddle with it for hours before you find that loose or broken bulb that is preventing the entire string from turning on. We don’t know how many “bulbs” are missing from our friends’ “light strings of faith,” but whether we are among the first to demonstrate the goodness of God and the power of the gospel or whether we have the privilege of seeing the illumination, our job is to keep contributing to their “light string,” leading them toward becoming followers of Jesus.

Because the Great Commission Fund pays our salary, we can offer five levels of quality English classes at an affordable price and share our testimony with students throughout the semester. Halfway through each course, we offer a “Seven Signs to God” study, which is open to all who are enrolled, no matter the level. In this study we share Bible stories that are also found in the Koran, building a “bridge of trust that can withstand the weight of Truth.” As a result of our interaction with students, two made commitments to Christ.

After two years, the church was no longer able to host all of our classes, so we began looking for a facility to rent. It had to be affordable, in a good location and suitable for our activities. God led us to a place that met the criteria—except that it was extremely run down. By advancing six months of rent and allowing more than two months for the work to be completed, we held our first classes during the second week of March 2012—and then had to take 10 weeks off because of a coup d’état and subsequent political crises.

When we were moving into Go Global Mali’s new building, the landlady asked us if we would take on her nephew “Isaiah” as a guard. Since our center was close to the university he attends, it was helpful for him to have a place to live and receive some spending money every month—plus free English lessons. In return, the center benefited from having a consistent presence at the site without having to hire a full guard service.

One day Isaiah told us his father was very sick and needed an operation, but the family didn’t have the money. We decided that we could give half of the amount. There were surgical complications, so during his father’s extended recovery, we continued to assure Isaiah of our prayers. Finally, his father recovered.

Before church one Sunday a few weeks later, we received a text message from Isaiah: “I was in anguish and distress, and you helped me. I want to be baptized today.” The language was so over-the-top that my wife said, “You’d better find out what’s going on.”

After church, Isaiah explained that he had lived with believers in a large city during his high school years and had appreciated their lifestyle. Also, he had attended some open-air evangelism meetings in his little town. “Now I’ve been with you and see how you treat people and teach,” he said. “When my own family [who practice Mali’s majority religion] wouldn’t help my father with his surgery, you did.”

I was a little surprised to hear this. However, it was clear that Isaiah knew the gospel well enough to understand what Jesus had done for him and what following Him meant. I did have to tell him that we normally do not baptize people the day they convert, but he prayed in his own words, renouncing his old life and proclaiming trust in Jesus.

Despite the renovations, because of Bamako’s many power cuts, the students and teachers spent some miserable times during the hot season trying to continue with class in a stuffy, dark building. However, the Lord had a solution for that and for our desire to continue to grow.

Leaders of a school for the children of international workers offered to rent us their facilities for at least the next two years while they wait for their enrollment to recover from the coup d’état. When we moved there in September, we got more than twice the building for the same price, along with a backup generator and even air conditioning!

As we moved from the old building to the international school, we had to let Isaiah go as the guard, but we rejoice that he is eternally our brother in the Lord. Isaiah attends a solid local C&MA church and has chosen to identify himself as a Christian. A young pastor agreed to study Scripture with him while we were on home assignment.

Go Global Mali has seven classes meeting twice a week plus an English Café on Mondays. We have about 100 participants, but the enrollment increases each semester. We haven’t had to invest in publicity; God has miraculously expanded the program by word of mouth. As soon as we begin one semester, we already have a growing list of new students for the next.

At every end-of-semester celebration, the students comment on our teaching style by saying something like, “You don’t teach like in other places. You really love us.” Our prayer is that God will speak to them of His goodness through how we teach and that we will make the most of every opportunity to share the good news.

Going Where He Leads

When Dr. “M” joined our English class, we thought she could make an excellent contribution at the Koutiala Hospital for Women and Children. But because she wasn’t a believer, employment there was not a possibility. During the summer of 2011 we offered the “Seven Signs to God” study to our students without realizing that the majority religion’s fasting month would start just two weeks later. Everyone dropped out—except Dr. M. The last session was about how Jesus, through His death and Resurrection, fulfilled every sign of the Messiah that God had already given. Dr. M listened intently, but we were disappointed when she had no questions at the end. “So, what do you think of Jesus?” we asked. Her response took our breath away: “He’s the Messiah, and He died for me.” This was the first light to be lit during our English class ministry. God had prepared Dr. M since childhood by putting believers in her life. She had been fascinated by the Savior since seeing the JESUS film on television. A Christian family took her to a church service that touched her deeply, and a Muslim friend gave her a cross necklace as a gift. Along the way, she had received a small Bible. During our discipleship times, Dr. M’s prayers were the natural speech of her heart to God. She began to ask us how she could pray for us instead of just letting us pray for her. Once, after disobeying God, she came over, very upset. She had asked the Lord for forgiveness and was obviously repentant, so we showed her the promises from God’s Word that her sin was wiped out and she could begin again. Her smile as she left that day was a stark contrast from how she looked upon arrival. When our colleagues in Koutiala heard about this young woman doctor and her confession of faith, they wanted her to work there. But we felt that she needed more discipleship. Many people joined us in praying that God would lead us to the point when we could introduce her to the hospital. Meanwhile, the clinic where she worked kept cutting back the hours of its employees, and she began looking for any kind of job. Imagine, a qualified doctor applying to be a nanny or a house worker! Then we heard that Saskia, a Dutch doctor from the hospital, would be visiting Bamako—so the praying and planning began. Dr. M’s eyes lit up when we asked if she would like to return to Koutiala with Saskia to see the hospital. After that visit, she was offered a position. We felt confident that she was spiritually ready to face the challenges of ministry in Koutiala, where she knew no one. Dr. M loves working at the hospital and attends a local church. During her last activity at Go Global Mali she took advantage of an opportunity to clearly share her faith with her fellow students.

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