By Kay Harms
David Johnson, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention executive director, recently returned from what he coined “a meeting for the future” in Maputo, Mozambique. He and Pastor Bret Burnett from Mountain View Baptist Church in Tucson met with Baptist convention leaders from Zambia, Malawi, Angola and Mozambique to discuss future strategies for reaching the lost in those rapidly changing and growing countries.
“The IMB [International Mission Board] tells us we are witnessing the largest movement of urbanization — that’s people moving to cities — in the history of the world in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Johnson said. “Cities are growing like crazy. So part of our meeting was discussing how we and they are going to handle that.”
Johnson further explained that the populations in these four African nations are skewed toward the younger generations. The vast majority of people in these countries are under 40, and in one of the nations, the largest population group is made up of those 26 and under. These demographics present unique challenges to churches and missionaries in the region.
John Dina, an IMB missionary from Arizona who has assisted in partnerships before between Arizona Southern Baptist mission teams and missionary efforts in Mozambique, and fellow missionary Thiago Montanher facilitated the meeting between the two delegates from Arizona and the representatives from the other countries.
In fact, before this vision meeting, most of the general secretaries and presidents representing the four African countries had never met. But Johnson and Dina are hopeful that the new relationships formed between these leaders will result in partnerships and support that will further the gospel in the rapidly changing region.
“We made no specific plans while in Mozambique,” Johnson said. “Our mission was just helping them get to know each other and discover opportunities for partnerships between themselves. We also talked about how groups like Arizona Southern Baptists could help them in the future.”
As a result of the introductions and discussion, Johnson said he believes “the door is now open” for Arizona Southern Baptists to make a real impact in not just Mozambique but three other Sub-Saharan Africa countries, too.
Johnson further explained that, while he and Burnett did preach in Mozambique churches on Sunday of the trip, this really wasn’t an evangelistic mission trip. Instead, the focus was on creating partnerships for future evangelization.
Burnett served as the meeting pastor, preaching from the book of Nehemiah during the devotional sessions. Johnson said he intentionally invited Burnett to accompany him on this trip because he knows missions, having grown up on the mission field in Brazil, and he speaks Portuguese.
The two men left for Africa on Aug. 1, and returned on Aug. 8. They do not have specific plans for return trips, but anticipate opportunities for Arizona Southern Baptist impact in the region in the future.