Underground Indigenous Missionary Work in North Africa: Secret Ministry of the Persecuted Church
Scattered throughout the harsh Islamic territory of North Africa, believers in Christ secretly worship the Lord. Carefully and strategically, they share their Hope with others.
In North African countries, Sharia law makes it illegal for Christians to own Bibles, practice their faith, or share Christ with others under penalty of death. MAURITANIA
Yet many believers choose to risk their lives in order to meet together for prayer, discipleship, and encouragement.
Ostracized by their families, they choose poverty and isolation for the sake of knowing Him.
Rejected by her family, this mother (face hidden) lives with her young daughter in a small basement. A propane tank serves as their kitchen.
Christian Aid is in touch with several native North African believers who have led hundreds to Christ.
Christian Aid Africa Director, Rae Burnett, has personally met with them. She is your link to the underground church in North Africa.
To protect the native North African missionaries whom Christian Aid supports, their faces have been hidden in photos. Rae appears in many of the photos to illustrate the reality that Christian Aid has personally visited the ministries we support and can confirm their quality. Other photos were personally taken by Rae.
Meeting in secret, Rae carefully listens as native believers share their God-given visions to reach their nations with the Gospel. Christian Aid respects these visions, believing that native Christians know how to best reach their own people.
Rae spends weeks thoroughly evaluating the believers and their ministries before returning home to raise support.
Here, native believers take Rae to a secret desert hideaway where Christians literally meet underground to worship together.
A native North African missionary, Hassan became a believer when he twice heard a voice speaking to him during the night. His unbelieving grandmother later told him that the voice belonged to Jesus. He became a believer and attended a Christian Aid-supported school of missions. Despite the danger, Hassan wisely and carefully shares Christ and has planted many underground churches.
To disguise his ministry work, Hassan and his missionaries traverse the Sahara on camel caravans. They are indistinguishable from the Quranic schools of Islamic witchdoctors. His vision is to see groups of believers among the nomadic Muslim tribes dwelling in the Sahara Desert.
In the vast Sahara Desert, Marabouts (Muslim witchdoctors) on camelback approach camps of poverty-stricken nomads to offer free education to children who will accompany them on their journeys. Parents see this as an opportunity for their children to escape poverty…
However in reality, these children become the slaves of the Marabouts. Overworked and underfed, these children are forced to beg during the day and are indoctrinated in the Quran in the evening. Many become terrorists.
Deeply grieved by the plight of the children, Hassan met with Rae in his home country to share his redemptive vision for them. Mimicking the appearance of the Marabouts, he travels with a caravan to various nomadic camps offering parents a positive future for their children, who would otherwise be captured by the Marabouts.
Instead of training them in the Quran, he educates them and trains them in God’s Word as well as providing them with food, clothing, and shelter.
Encouraged by his vision, Rae returned to the U.S. to begin raising funds for camels. Hassan is now equipped with several camels, and continues to reach nomadic desert dwellers with the gospel.
The only Christian in his wealthy, Muslim family, Mourad met Rae after he’d been disowned because of his faith. He was seeking the Lord for the means to increase his ability to share the gospel with his home village. Mourad had a particular burden for the Haratines, descendents of black slaves owned by Muslim Arabs, including his own family. With no education or property, they are still virtually enslaved by the families that have owned them for generations.
Mourad’s work takes place in an ancient city, located in the desert of one North African nation. Though mostly undeveloped today, the city is known as the “gateway of Islam,” as it used to be a center of commerce for Muslims and a gathering place for pilgrims on their way to Mecca. With help from Christian Aid, Mourad began a feeding center for 40 impoverished and neglected children in this city.
The food given to the children is supplemented by produce grown in a desert agricultural project funded by Christian Aid.
Here, Mourad leads Rae to the desert agricultural project that also provides sustenance for 80 Christian Haratine families that he has led to the Lord.
Mourad shows Rae the well and irrigation pump provided by Christian Aid, which has turned desert sand into fertile ground for crops.
Rae munches on the best carrots she’s ever tasted, grown in this desert oasis.
Eventually, Mourad hopes to open multiple nutrition centers, which will greatly impact poor communities. The modest feeding program already in place has opened the hearts of parents whose children are being fed, and several have trusted in Christ as Savior. He envisions house churches being planted in every region where a nutrition center is opened.
Christian Aid has also helped Mourad improve the lives of the black Haratines who are dependent on Arab Muslims. According to some sources, approximately 20 percent of the population is enslaved. Haratines are without land or education, and must depend upon their Arab masters to survive. Mourad’s ministry provides them with spiritual life and physical independence.
Mourad was joyfully able to provide employment for 40 former Haratines. The desert contains many sections of rocky sand, from which these workers obtained rocks, broke them into manageable pieces and loaded them onto the backs of donkeys to sell in town.
Here, Rae follows Mourad to the rock quarry. The business had proven successful, providing workers with a modest income, until the wealthy prince of Qatar, a small nation near Saudi Arabia, intentionally began a competing business, selling his rocks at a lower price. The prince then seized Mourad’s land without compensating him. He plans to invest millions to transform the desert city into a center of Islamic learning and commerce. He has begun providing the locals with agricultural projects and feeding centers. Mourad is now struggling to find work for the Haratine believers he is discipling.
Amet reaches Islamic North African nomads through a library provided by Christian Aid. While a soldier in the Western Saharan army, Amet was wounded and taken for treatment to a clinic in an adjacent country. There, he met Hassan, mentioned before, who regularly visited the patients. Hassan took Amet home, fed him, and nursed him to health. Amet had never experienced anything like this before and became a Christian after the gospel was explained to him.
“ Right from conversion, it has always been my burden to help my own people by leading them out of darkness into the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially the learned ones among the youth. My earnest concern is that I may use the strength of my youth to change the destiny of my own people so that the light of the cross of Jesus burning in this land of my fathers may be made known to all.”
Wandering the vast Sahara Desert, the majority of North African nomads are Sunni Muslims. Closed to outsiders, mission work among this resistant group is highly dangerous. Many native missionaries join the nomadic life of the targeted group or place themselves in strategic stopping places where the wanderers trade and pick up supplies, taking every opportunity to present Christ. An educated class exists among these nomads, and Amet’s library provides them with an attractive gathering place in a desert market.
Many Muslims are curious about the Bible. Amet’s library puts Arabic Bibles into their hands. It has created a place of meeting for native missionaries and North African nomads. Once contact is made, friendships are formed which makes sharing the gospel possible in a non-threatening way. Using his library as a cover, Amet teaches his converts the Bible until they are mature in their faith.
One native North African missionary led three Tuaregs to Christ in a desert marketplace in Mal i. Retur ning to their camp they shared the gospel with others from their tribe and seven more gave their lives to Christ. Ra e is shown here with two Tuaregs.
The Tuaregs are virtually 100% Sunni Muslim. Shown here is a Tuareg mosque.
To bless these new Tuareg believers, Christian Aid provided them with an income-generating project to support their families and their work. Instead of walking great distances for water, donkey carts are used to transport water to their village.
Rae stands in front of the doors of the world’s fifth largest mosque in Morocco. In 2009, several underground believers, including the men previously noted, were arrested and tortured by police after being exposed as believers.
In 2009, 30 native believers were put into prison and mercilessly tortured through beatings and electric shock. It was some days before word of what happened reached Rae. They were told they could be released with the payment of a fine of $1,000 each. Christian Aid donors lovingly responded, and the men were finally released.
“ And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Acts 5:41 Rae met with the believers after their release, and they were tremendously encouraged by the Lord and determined to press on by His grace.
Ways you can help the work in North Africa: Sponsor an underground missionary Provide for ministry tools, such as camels, 4 -wheel drive vehicles, Arabic bibles, etc Talk to your pastor or missions leader about involving your church in supporting a ministry project Contact Christian Aid Africa Director, Rae B urnett, for more information at [email_address]
Christian Aid Mission www.christianaid.org (434) 977-5650