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Africa Field Story Mali Media

Hope Because of Radio

Christians could not be trusted or welcomed – the risk was too high. The radio’s message had indeed been the catalyst for change.

     A mix of stunned imagination and indignation crossed his face for a moment. I could see he felt shock at the question itself and also at the imagined impact of the “what if” he’d just been asked. My friend, a village pastor and a man who lives and works among a proud and spiritually resistant people group, had just been asked, “what do you think it would be like if the Christian radio had never been introduced to your area?” Here was a spiritual leader who had invested years into growing the relational trust and honor needed to have spiritual impact.
     The people of the area have a deep history of animism and dark cultic practices and blood sacrifices. Much of these practices now flow beneath the added identify of Islam, increasing the culture of fear and distrust. Prior to my question, the pastor had been telling us of God’s faithfulness in establishing a relationship of trust between himself and the people. So deep had this trust grown that when the local political leadership wanted to promote a project which would require freewill donations from the people, no one would join the cause until the pastor’s name was given as the one who would hold the money box.
     Christians in the area number far less than even half a percent of the local population and yet they and their leader were known to be different – a difference they trusted. So, “what if radio had never come?”  My friend looked passed us and responded, “It would be as if Bamako (the capital city of Mali; a city of over 2 million people) had never been given electricity!” He paused for a moment shaking his head at the unimaginable, and then added, “you can walk in the dark, but it is very, very slow and hard”.  Was this pastor saying that the radio was the primary catalyst for spiritual development just like electricity is for any modern city? We were the ones now plunged into the realm of imagination at the thought of two million people without electricity – no street lights, cell phones, running water, refrigerators, TV, modern production processes and work – it would be the dark ages!
      As the pastor continued to address our “what if”, he explained that before the radio station had been started 19 years earlier, Christians were labeled as different. The local religious teachers had spread the word that Christians were like demons, that their families taught and did strange things, and that their very presence in the area posed a threat to the balance of spiritual and physical life maintained by the dark religious practices of the community. Christians could not be trusted or welcomed – the risk was too high. The radio’s message had indeed been the catalyst for change.
     The community began to hear for the first time Christians speaking as normal people, dealing with daily life issues and offering wise counsel to everyday problems. The radio shared helpful information about farming, livestock production, and health. Thieves were easily caught because of radio announcements. Lost children or livestock were quickly found. Even the community and political leaders could call meetings with ease. Yes, the Christians were VERY different! 
     They had not destroyed community life, or brought demonic powers, or stolen from anyone. Rather, it was soon learned that they wanted to serve and build community, and work toward a better way of life. While most in the village still do not understand how a person’s voice can carry invisibly through the air,  they do recognize that same voice when they see my friend in the market place. It is a voice they recognize as trustworthy.  A voice of love into their community. For over 100 of them, it's the voice of their spiritual father and pastor. 
     The Lord has used the radio ministry in Mali to reach the unreached in a nation that desperately need the hope and healing of the gospel. We are thankful that we have established this ministry and look forward to how the Lord will continue to equip local believers because of it. 

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