CBM mosaic Winter 2014

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mosaic—winter 2014

By Terry Smith, CBM’s Director of International Partnerships FOR NE ARLY 10 YE AR S (1991 -1999),

Street mural in Morocco, a country in North Africa.

the country of Algeria was plunged into a horrific civil war. The brutality was unimaginable. Entire families, sometimes whole villages, were massacred. Pregnant women had their wombs slashed open. Men had their limbs chopped off. Children were beaten then dragged behind vehicles. A dark cloud of death hung over the entire country. An estimated 60,000 to 200,000 people were killed. Ironically, very few people in the Western world were aware of what was happening. Word finally surfaced in 1996, after a group of Cistercian monks living in northern Algeria were massacred. These monks had been offered protection by local political leaders, but they refused, claiming that they should not have security while the villagers around them lived in terror and fear. When given the chance to secretly leave the country, the monks chose to remain and live among the people they were called to serve. On Christmas Eve, they were kidnapped and later found, beheaded, in a common grave. During those years of horror, my wife and I were living across the Mediterranean Sea,

planting a church in downtown Paris (France). Some of our closest friends were Algerian and so we saw and felt their anguish and concern for friends and family back home. Many of the young people we encountered in our witness were from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. A number of them became followers of Jesus and formed the backbone of our church planting work. I vividly recall querying them as to the state of the Christian church in North Africa. Their answers burned a deep hole in my heart and conscience. “There isn’t really a church, just a tiny handful of believers, maybe a couple hundred at most.” But as the civil war in Algeria came to an end, we began to hear about a powerful mystery taking place. Reports emerged of conversions, profound spiritual experiences, especially among the Berber people. Usually, we heard these astounding stories from our Algerian friends whose family members were becoming Christ-followers. Occasionally, news would leak out to Christian media of incidences of miraculous conversions, often because people had experienced a dream whereby Jesus appeared to them. We heard of entire towns in the Atlas Mountains where one family after another became believers, sometimes after watching the Jesus film in their native language. This was all taking place during a fierce period of religious opposition to Christianity where the threat of persecution — and even death — lingered everywhere.

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