Planting churches in the unreached towns and villages of Mali
When Pastor Ibrahim was a young child, he and hundreds of other young boys were captured and taken away to government school. Required to commit the Koran to memory, Ibrahim was compelled to believe its tenets without question, though he did not fully understand their meaning. As a young adult, Ibrahim burned Bibles, believing the writings were the corrupted Word of God. But one day he opened one of those Bibles and began to read. Through the Scripture and the witness of a Christian cousin, Ibrahim came to faith in Christ. After attending Bible school and seminary, he worked in Bible translation for many years. In 1993, Ibrahim accepted a call to pastor the church in Gao and currently leads the ministry of Gao Evangelical Church. He and his wife Gosia have two children.
Ministry Vision & Strategy
Gao Evangelical Church (GEC) is working to bring the light of Christ to the region of North Mali by planting churches in unreached towns and villages. Because most people are not immediately open to the Gospel, the ministry utilizes a holistic approach that meets community needs while also building the credibility of the Church.
A landlocked country in West Africa, Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. Once a trading hub for trans-Saharan caravans, the northern city of Gao is often referred to as “the door to the Sahara.” Founded around the seventh century, today it has a population of about 60,000 people.
Less then two percent of the population of Mali is Christian while 87 percent is Muslim. The north of the country is known as a stronghold of Islam, and the city of Gao has just three churches and less than 200 believers.
The majority of believers are young adults, in most cases unemployed, without any real hope of finding a job due to the poor economic situation in the country. Often, they depend on their families for their daily needs, which can create a lot of problems if the relatives do not share the Christian faith.
A mission-oriented church, our partner Gao Evangelical Church (GEC) has planted and is in the process of planting churches in a number of towns in northern Mali. “The believers in Gao realize that a church without a long-term vision will just give up,” said GEC ministry leader Ibrahim Ag Mohamed, speaking of the tough ministry context. “There is a great need to show examples that Christians are good and trustworthy workers and also to do church-planting ministry wherever the Lord opens doors. Our strength is that Christians have a good reputation, and we have experience working in this context.”
Please Pray for Me
In their church in Gao, GEC operates a Christian bookstore which plays a key role in their outreach program. They sell Christian books, office supplies, and even reading glasses. Church members are encouraged to buy books for their own spiritual growth, and every customer is given a Bible tract and an invitation to a church service. Ahmed, a customer, said, "I enjoyed your evangelistic service. You Christians are different. We earn our livelihood by doing business. When we sell an item, we raise the price on the bill. We are always trying to get more. But you don’t do that. Instead the bookstore manager gave me a Bible and invited me to church. I realize that I am not a good person. Please pray for me."
>CARE FOR CHILDREN WITH HIV/AIDS: $125 per child
HIV Children, GEC
HIV is a major public health issue in Mali. A survey done in 2008 showed that more than 65% of youth had sex before they were 18 years old and more than 20% had two or more sexual partners. Out of every three young people asked, two didn’t believe that HIV even existed. Most infected children come from very poor families and have no way to pay for medication or improved nutrition which is a key part of regulating the side effects of their illness.
In October 2008, GEC began a project to help children infected with HIV. This project has had a great impact in the community because there is a noticeable improvement in the children’s health. The church has had many opportunities to witness to and counsel the children, restoring hope and opening avenues of witness and relationship to their siblings and parents. Three Christians are running the project, providing training and counseling. Those who have been helped are eager to listen to the Gospel after experiencing Christian compassion and love in their lives. Gifts to this project will provide food, medicine, and school supplies for 50 children infected with HIV.
>DISABLED CHILDREN'S CENTER: $5,000
Disabled Children Care, GEC
Many parents struggle to provide food for their children, let alone school fees, proper clothing, or medical care. For children with disabilities, life is even more difficult because they are completely dependent on the compassion of their families. Many children are seen as a labor force by poor parents. If the children cannot work and contribute toward the family’s needs, they are often abused and neglected.
GEC would like to address this problem by launching a new outreach to disabled children. By providing school supplies, clothing, and shoes, the children will be able to attend school and learn to contribute within the home.
This project would be the first of its kind in the Gao area, and GEC believes it will make a tremendous impact on the children. It will also help GEC’s leaders to establish relationships with new families. GEC hopes to begin with 10 children and expand over time.
>VOCATIONAL CENTER FOR AT-RISK GIRLS: $625 per trainee
Women's Vocational Training Center, GEC
Despite the efforts of the government, malnutrition is increasing, and the people’s lives seem to grow more difficult each year. Muslim girls and young women are extremely vulnerable in this environment. They depend on their parents or boyfriends for all of their needs, which puts them at risk for mistreatment and exploitation. Girls in Mali are often the first victims of armed conflict, child abandonment, and disasters.
The situation is worsened by the fact that Gao is a trade center that hosts many out-of-town visitors, creating an environment where prostitution and HIV thrive. Desperate for money, many girls fall into prostitution, jeopardizing their personal safety and health.
GEC hopes to launch a new vocational training center where at-risk girls will be able to learn skills in cooking, sewing, knitting, and literacy. This center will provide the girls a much-needed job skill which will help them gain employment or launch their own businesses. It will also provide a safe environment where the girls can learn about the love of Christ.
Through this project, the church will be able to reach a marginalized segment of society and help improve their status in the community. Gifts to this project will provide teachers’ salaries, sewing machines, stoves, and other tools for teaching sewing, knitting, tie-dye, and cooking to 20 girls.
>CEREAL BANK: $3,750
Cereal Bank, GEC
In Gao, the most common livelihoods are trade, cattle rising, and fishing. Local agricultural activities do not meet the needs of Gao’s 60,000 people, thus most of the cereal or grain people eat comes from the South of the country.
The purpose of the cereal bank is to improve the food supply during times of shortage, especially during extended periods of drought. During these times, the local community may come to the church and buy grain at an affordable price. The grain is bought when prices are low just after harvest and is stored until it is needed.
GEC already has a grain storage facility and has been operating this project for some time, however demand is outpacing supply and their grain bank has become depleted. GEC is requesting funding to purchase rice and millet to restock the cereal bank.
This project will benefit more than 100 families in the community and will also display a good example of Christian trustworthiness and compassion.
>ANIMAL PROJECTS: $93 per goat; $125 per sheet
Bali Bali Sheep Project, GEC
Because of the high unemployment rate in Mali it is important for the church to play a key role in the economic development of the community. Muslim converts who are persecuted by their families must have jobs to support themselves locally, otherwise they will never be able to help build a community of believers in their home area. Many young Muslims reject the Christian faith because they know, once ostracized from their community, they will not be able to earn a living. GEC would like to expand their animal projects this year to help address these problems.
Your gifts will support animal projects in two areas. The first will allow a GEC missionary to purchase a special kind of sheep called Bali Bali, and raise them until they can be sold at market. After one to three months of good care and food, the sheep can be sold for three to four times their initial price. Because there is a high demand for meat during holidays and feasts, more than 90 percent of Bali Bali sheep are sold within three months. The project will help GEC’s missionaries to support themselves and their ministry needs, and also help create jobs and promote local business. Gifts to this project will go toward the purchase and transport of 30 sheep, as well as food and medicine.
A second animal project will be launched in Gossi, a nomadic village, where animals are sold at a weekly market. In this town, a family without a goat is considered very poor. Droughts have led to the death of many family’s animals, leaving them with no livelihood or income. GEC’s goat project will provide four goats to each family. After one year, the family will tithe back to the church two goats which will be given to another family, forming a local