Latin American leaders are thriving in the slums of North Africa
Julia’s heart yearned for North Africa. While at home in Honduras, she spent ten years dreaming of going to a specific, small, unreached city in North Africa to share the gospel. When she received a call from Servant Partners, God brought her dreams into fruition. With sufficient funding and training, she arrived in North Africa—and loved it.
Throughout the 2000s, Servant Partners heard God promise that a healthy, abounding ministry would arrive in North Africa. But no one anticipated where it would come from. Julia was among the first fruits of this promise. `
Though it is unfortunately common to return from the field weary, without funds, or feeling used, Julia returned to Honduras with infectious excitement, restedness, and joy. Her witness inspired five other Hondurans, who similarly carried a God-given passion for the Muslim world, to go and minister in North Africa.
Throughout the last decade, this North African team has spent a great deal of time developing and practicing theory on reaching the neighborhood. They developed a community center model, where they teach ethics-based classes and weave gospel values into their usual work. SP staff William Arenas has built several loving relationships with his neighbors. SP staff Sara Robinson has functioned as a theologian for the team. And though the team has endured many trials over the years, they’ve exhibited a unique effectiveness in their work.
“I've been on an all-European-and-North-American team in North Africa, and the neighborhood saw us only as foreigners,” said Zach Powell, currently SP staff in Marseilles. “We were able to do some good, but when [the Hondurans] moved into the neighborhood, our team became mostly Latin American, and our neighbors viewed us completely differently.”
The multiethnic, socioeconomically diverse witness of this North African team has been a profound beacon of reconciliation and hope for the community. As teammates cared for one another, the effect was drastic. Unlike many monoethnic teams, multiethnic teams in North Africa and the Middle East have experienced significantly less internal conflict as well.
“People were deeply, deeply touched by the racial reconciliation on our team,” Zach said. “They noticed that the Hondurans weren’t there to serve us, but they were in charge of most things. Many people commented on how powerful that was for them in a very racially charged place. And that made me a believer in sending not just Latin Americans, but multiethnic teams, as a prophetic word for places like North Africa, where there is so much racial tension. It challenged us to do a better job of exploring more about multiethnicity, and doing the hard work.”
There is no shortage of highly-qualified, suitable leaders to be sent from Latin America. In fact, this cross-continental movement has deep, indigenous roots. A church among the urban poor of Tegucigalpa, Honduras has prayed for the Muslim world for years. Servant Partners did not prompt an initiative to send leaders from there, but came alongside it.
“This was a local vision for reaching the unreached in a slum where the chances were not possible that it would ever happen—and it did,” Zach said. “It was very exciting to walk alongside what God was doing in Honduras, but it was also difficult financially.”
Two Hondurans sent by this church, Sydney Gracia and Ivana Paz, had gone through high school and university while the North Africa project was taking shape, and are now doing tremendous work for the poor in neighborhoods that no “Westerners” want to live in.
“God is using the weakest, in our eyes,” Sydney said. “Many times we think that we cannot be useful to serve the Lord. I have been surprised at how God used people like a widowed woman and later even ravens, in the life of Elijah, to do his work. We sometimes feel like the weakest, but we can see that God longs to continue using our life for his work.”
This incredible witness of urban poor leaders empowered to bring a multiethnic witness to an unreached, urban poor community across the world is miraculous—and yet simply an authentic example of the Kingdom of God. With much of the training, theory, and systems developed to train and send leaders like this, all that is left is financial support.
With an increase in support, the capacity to send adept, trained leaders from Latin America will only grow. You can support people like William, Sara, Sydney, Ivana, and others in this movement of God here.