LUSAKA, Zambia (BP) -- When Troy Lewis came to Zambia, more than 10 years ago as an IMB missionary, he already had an intuitive understanding of many Zambians' struggles.
For Lewis, his own context of civil rights in the United States helped him connect with Zambians who have dealt with similar race issues.
"Being an American and raised up in the West, but understanding some of those structures there, has allowed me to be a bridge," Lewis said.
And his connection didn't end there.
Holistic ministry has long been prevalent in U.S. black churches, combining evangelism and discipleship with meeting human needs. Lewis drew on this experience to counsel Zambian church leaders how to respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other human needs issues.
In recent years, the number of African American missionaries serving with the International Mission Board has decreased by approximately 40 percent. Of IMB's nearly 5,000 missionaries, about 30 are African American.
One reason for this, Lewis believes, is that many African American churches are focused on ministering to their own cities, or their "Jerusalems," in reference to Acts 1:8: "... you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Lewis encourages black churches to get involved in the Great Commission because working in the uttermost parts of the world teaches churches to minister more effectively to their "Jerusalem."
"Jesus didn't say do Jerusalem first and then . He told us to do all of it," Lewis said. "God was looking at globalization before globalization became a topic to the world. ... We have to think about going where God is going and that is looking globally and seeing what He is doing amongst all people across all the world."
Laura Fielding is a writer for the International Mission Board. To learn more about the unique impact that African Americans can make on the international mission field, contact Keith Jefferson, IMB ethnic missional church strategist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-999-3113, ext. 1422. Southern Baptists' gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and through the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist missionaries around the world share the Gospel. Gifts for the offering are received at Southern Baptist churches across the country or can be made online at www.imb.org/offering where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at www.imb.org/lmcovideo.
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