Africa is Not One Country: An Interview with Dany Gomis

Rev. Dany Gomis (DG) was elected as regional director for the Africa Region of the Church of the Nazarene in 2017. The Africa Region is currently the fastest growing region in the Church of the Nazarene.

HT: What are some unique challenges facing the Africa Region?

DG: There is a poem that sums up the unique challenges associated with the Africa region. The poem contains a line that says that Africa is not a country; it is a concept. It basically reminds us that Africa is a diverse continent with many tribes, languages, and customs. Even someone like me, a native African, will not be familiar with all of the languages and customs of all of the countries and the tribes within those countries. This poses both great challenges and great opportunities for growing the diversity of the Church.

HT: What are the marks of the incredible growth we are seeing in the Africa Region?

DG: The four main avenues of revival in Africa right now are a renewed passion for prayer, a commitment to reading and studying Scripture, a sense of hunger and expectation, and a passion for sharing the gospel.

I have walked through hotels and airports, and when people learn that I am a pastor, instead of becoming silent, they are passionate about conversing about God and the things of God. God is preparing the way throughout Africa and the result is a deep hunger and thirst for knowing and experiencing God.

We have even seen tribes and groups within countries who were once at odds coming together in prayer and in renewal.

HT: What are you and your team doing in response to this hunger?

DG: Currently, we are doing a prayer journey through the entire region. During some of these prayer visits, we are seeing people gather together to pray for churches, for families, and for their nation. These prayers are being sent out to groups of people in writing, and audio prayers are being recorded by groups to be sent to those who are unable to read and write.

God is moving people to action through these prayers. We have even seen areas of political instability—places that have seen decades of instability—change from corrupt leadership to leadership that is making a positive difference.

HT: We hear stories of churches being planted faster than pastors can be trained. Is this the case?

DG: Yes, it is. We are continually finding creative ways to train pastors in a variety of situations and from a variety of educational levels. In one region, of the 1,350 active pastors, only about 350 have received their full training. In Western Africa, there are thousands of Christians, both pastors and non-pastors, who need adequate training and discipleship.

We do not want Africa to be “a mile long but only an inch deep,” as the saying goes. So, we are working with other Nazarenes in and out of Africa to find creative partnerships that will better equip pastors and their congregations.

To overcome challenges of literacy, we have worked with organizations like JESUS Film to implement oral training. Many cultures in Africa have a strong oral tradition, and so we are utilizing music and culture in their preparation and discipleship.

HT: What can Nazarene educational institutions do to help in this challenge?

DG: We pray that our universities, like African Nazarene University and South Africa Nazarene University, can become beacons of higher education for the areas they serve. All of our institutions face financial and sometimes political challenges, but we are hopeful.

Education and healthcare are key areas of development for all of our schools and training centers, along with religious education. These three emphases represent major needs in the region and are ways we believe we can better train and equip men and women to serve throughout Africa.

HT: How is the message of holiness being used to address Africa’s key challenges?

DG: The biggest challenge in many parts of Africa is political unrest and instability. We do not separate what happens on Sundays from the daily needs of African people. Our approach to theology as Wesleyans is holistic: we believe that our message of holiness is both about heart transformation and about the transformation of the world around us. So, we are giving people hope in the midst of difficult political circumstances and encouraging them to participate in the healing process in whatever ways God leads.

Health and education are serious challenges as well. Some health issues can be prevented as we educate and equip people to make healthier choices. Other health concerns can be addressed through avenues of prayer and compassionate action. Years of struggle in some parts of Africa have helped create a kind of “poverty mentality” in which people have a dim view of whether they are able or even worthy to make a positive impact in the world.

The doctrine of holiness speaks to such a context and reminds us that Jesus came to love everyone, regardless of their background or situation.

It also motivates us to act in loving ways to help meet the needs of those who are hurting or who are discouraged about their own potential.

HT: You expressed the importance of a line from the poem that reminds us that Africa is not just one country. Expand upon that a bit.

DG: As we serve on this continent and as we invite people to pray for and to serve Africa, we should remember that there is not just one Africa. We don’t get to define Africa. Africa is a diverse continent with a variety of resources and a variety of needs.

We believe the message of the Gospel can be applied to the everyday lives of people in these diverse countries in ways that make an impact on political unrest, poverty, education, and scarcity.

Compassionate ministry, evangelism, and discipleship are not separate categories. These are all interrelated in ways that expand the Kingdom of God and bring about Spirit-led change in our region and throughout the world.

Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2019

Please note: This article was originally published in 2019. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.