'Project Northern Lights' takes gospel into N. Africa
MARSEILLES, France (BP)--Paul Sharp never will forget the frightening looks on the faces of the North Africans when his amphibious unit landed there during World War II.
The images still haunt him.
This summer -- more than half a century later -- instead of using military might, Sharp invaded North Africa with the Word of God. "I helped to invade North Africa; now I'm taking it back for Jesus," he said.
Sharp and his wife, Barbara, members of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., were among 45 Southern Baptist International Mission Board volunteers who participated in "Project Northern Lights," a joint project between Southern Baptists and Campus Crusade for Christ.
Northern Lights volunteers shared the gospel with some of the most unreached people in the world by distributing packets of Christian materials in southern Europe to North Africans returning home.
The packets included Bibles, the "Jesus" video and audiocassettes, comics and information on radio and satellite Bible programs, all in the language of eight people groups with a total population of 58 million.
North Africans expect travelers to bring gifts to their families when they return home, whether or not they can afford them. Northern Lights allows many of those who would be returning empty-handed to instead return with the gift of life for their family and friends.
Many North African countries are among the most closed in the world. Many people live in countries where Christian material is not only highly discouraged but even illegal.
In one instance, a young girl who had been given materials asked, "Can you tell me -- who is this Jesus?" All she knew was that he was a prophet in Islam, she said.
A volunteer had the opportunity to share with her about the divinity of Jesus Christ and other basic Christian doctrines.
"My prayer is that there will be a North African Billy Graham raised up this summer, and that we'll really see fruits from this project," said Kristi Combs, administrative assistant for Project Northern Lights. "I hope that more Christians will be raised up and that they won't be persecuted. I'd love to be able to distribute Bibles over on the other side of the Mediterranean -- that we'd be able to give everyone the chance."
IMB staff members participated in Northern Lights through a new staff volunteer program, through which the IMB will apply to a volunteer trip one day of administrative leave and $200 for each year of service there. The project was designed in order to allow non-traveling staff members to experience missions firsthand.