Filling in the Mission

“For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works in which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46–47 ESV)

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Ronda Tyson and I (Jenni) met a few years ago when she hosted an Ethiopian coffee ceremony for a dozen of my sixth grade geography students after school.  During her presentation, she shared about the cultural and mission focuses of her travels to African countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, and The Gambia. Ronda and her family have resided in the United States over the years even as she has embarked on multiple international missions to share the Gospel.  She is composed, intelligent, and passionate.  Her desire to reach the lost with the Good News of Christ our Savior also translates into a desire to equip believers to strategically obey the Great Commission to “go into all the world” (Mark 16:15).  

One way she does this is through her organization 10:40 Africa, which “exists to mobilize people of color to spread the Gospel in areas of Africa where there is the least exposure to the love of Jesus.” Now wait a minute, you might think to yourself.  Doesn’t the Bible say that, as Christians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek…” because we are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)?  Why should the color of my skin matter in world missions?

The Bible has an answer for us!  1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us, “God does not see the same way people see.  People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  With God’s help, skin color and physical appearance do not have to be our primary focus as Christians.  Our unity comes from being part of the body of Christ and the work of His Spirit in each of us (Ephesians 4:3)!  Yet, our physical bodies are a reality of our time here on this earth.  God has given Ronda a platform in equipping others to navigate some of these challenges. 

With decades of international “on-mission” experience, Ronda is well-versed in both the practical and strategic elements of mission work.  Her expertise range from visas and vaccinations to cultural awareness and trauma healing.  Her extensive experience in missions to specific countries and regions of Africa such as those in the 10:40 Window (geographic regions with ongoing hostility and persecution toward Christians) has also allowed her to observe firsthand how sharing the skin color of those in areas where she serves and proclaims the Gospel can contribute to more quickly building trust among them.   She shares on her website, “Through our African partners’ facilitation, we encourage those working with them as well as those they are working among through our unified love of Christ.  During these opportunities, we form relationships, exchange culture, and build bridges that lead to the reception of the message of the Gospel.” 

This is something to which the Lord has specifically called Ronda. Her story is a beautiful reminder that the places we live, who we are called to minister to, and yes, even our physical appearances, are never an accident.  Our Lord is all-powerful, abounding in love, and He knows what He is doing! Psalm 33:11 & 14-15 says, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.”

Our mission of Wholehearted Woman Ministries is “helping women be fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ and courageously on-mission for Him – one heart at a time.” We are thrilled to share Ronda’s story with you.  As you read and connect with her story, may you learn, grow, and be inspired in your own specific calling from the Lord as we all join in His Great Commission in this earth!

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I was eight years old when I gave my life to Christ. The Minister shared that Jesus died for my sins. I remember my pastor saying that if I believed in Jesus, I would have everlasting life.  I know there had to be something in the message about following him.  In those days at my small Baptist Church you didn’t just raise your hand while everyone else bowed their heads and closed their eyes.  This was a very public demonstration.  So, my brother and I walked down the aisle as the song was being played and the people sang.  Because I was the oldest, I was the one who would make my profession of faith first.  I said, “I believe in Jesus and I want to be a Christian.”  I was very nervous. The people shouted, “Amen!”

Next was my brother.  He said, “I believe in Jesus and I love Jesus and I want to be a Christian.”  I couldn’t hear anything after that.  I just remember thinking, “I wanted to have said that.” But at that point, there were no “do overs.”  We said the sinner’s prayer and shook the Pastor’s hand as he welcomed us into the fold.  Yes, soon afterwards, we were both baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. 

Who would ever think that almost 50 years later I would still be thinking about the day I first walked down the aisle?  The day I would profess my faith in Jesus.  While I did the thing that mattered (I gave my life to Christ!), the fact that I didn’t say out loud that I love Jesus that day really carried weight.  I just had to decide that I would live the rest of my life in a way that people would just know that I love Jesus.   

I was very devoted to church growing up.  I went because I believed that is what God wanted me to do.  I would read my mother’s “Living Bible” because that was the version I could understand.  I was not “royal” enough for the “King James version” it seemed. As I tried to figure out where I fit in God’s family, I sang in the choir, but the Pastor would preach about going and telling the Gospel to other people.  I wanted to do that.  I even thought that maybe I was supposed to be a preacher because I wanted to share the Gospel, but I hadn’t seen anyone else but preachers talk about Jesus outside of the church building.  I believe I was 10 years old when I decided I wanted to be a missionary after hearing that their purpose was to share the Gospel all over the world. I thought I would someday go to Africa even though I hadn’t ever met anyone who’d ever gone.

It was in 1986 when that invitation would come.  I was then in college when Sally, a widow who was my high school mentor, approached me about the opportunity to go on a mission to Ghana.  I don’t think I even blinked before saying yes!  When she told me how much it would cost, I thought it might not be possible.  Neither my family nor my little church had much money.  But God reached into his change pocket and sent me on my first mission to Africa. 

During this time, I processed things that I didn’t know existed inside me.  It wasn’t until I traveled to Africa that I realized that I must have thought somewhere deep-down that America was not my true home.  I had feelings that America wasn’t made for people like me.  I came from a heritage where we were just allowed to live in America.  I was longing for somewhere where I would not feel like an outcast or misfit.  In my mind, “Mother Africa” would open her arms and welcome me home.  In this place, the people that governed everything were like me.  When I get there, I will fit in, I thought.  Well, no such thing happened. Instead, I found myself on the back of a truck with my white sister in Christ trying to explain to local people in the village that I was Black like them.  This is when they said something to me that was profound: “You are American.”  (Before you get too excited, I need you to know that this is not a social justice piece.  This is my story of how I came to where I am today.  Hang in there.  My point is that it took me going to Africa to realize that I was American.) 

In 1999, I had another opportunity to travel to the country of The Gambia.  This place captured my heart fiercely.  It wasn’t the physical poverty that connected me to the region.  It was the spiritual poverty.  Unlike Ghana, there wasn’t a Church on every corner.  There were people who had never heard of Jesus Christ and the message of the Gospel.  There weren’t Bibles in the languages of the people and very few people to reach out to them with this message of salvation.  I was struck with the friendliness of the people.  In this region, they called me sister and wanted to connect.   

It was there I heard for the first time that there were people that thought Christianity was “the White Man’s Religion.”  How could this be? Historically, Christianity reached Ethiopia long before it made it to Europe. Nearly everyone in my family line were Christians. As a matter of fact, Black people have an entire genre of music in which people of all cultures seem to know — “Black Gospel Music.”  It was out of the Black church that the Civil Rights Movement had its strongest voice, and the waves reverberated all over the world. It was in the Black church that people would relate strongly to the “Children of Israel” in the Old Testament of the Bible.  The first missionary sent from the US was George Liele in 1793, a freed slave who longed to share the gospel to Jamaica.  The first American Missionary to Africa was a Black man named Lot Cary in the 1820s. The Pew Research Center has even found that almost 80% of Black Americans identify as Christian over the 70% of White Americans.  Worldwide, we also can see that Christianity doesn’t have a race or ethnicity. It should be obvious that Christ came for all of humanity. Yet, there are people that feel that they have been excluded by their skin color. 

Good friends of mine have dedicated their lives to this region of Africa.  They are White Americans.  Their children were born and raised in Africa.  On a 2007 visit to work with them, Amadou, a Moorish villager, asked my friend Jacob (not his real name) to call me to the side to talk to him. Why me, I thought?  There were Brazilians and other White American missionaries there.  My friend Jacob had been there over 20 years and learned several of the languages and culture.  As a matter of fact, he was the one who had to interpret to me the message Amadou shared with me.  Amadou said, “We need you to bring more Black people.  We like Jacob, but we are afraid of him.  You are more like family.”   

Amadou felt a kinship with me, and others like me, because of my skin color.  Since then, Jacob and his wife Lisa have become very close friends to my husband and me. We encourage one another and pray for each other’s children as we partner on mission to overcome barriers and display Christ’s unity in our diversity. We can fill in the gaps because we fit together as a part of the picture of the ministry of reconciliation.  It turns out that as believers, we can’t always feel comfortable in this world system; however, we all belong together as believers in God’s kingdom. That doesn’t mean we all eat the same foods, enjoy the same style of music, or even speak the same language.  We are still deeply connected. What a joy!       

My passion now is to make more Black Americans aware of the need for us to travel back and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our brothers and sisters in Africa.  Out of this desire, the Lord has birthed the 10:40 Africa Mission. Our mission is to spread the gospel in areas of Africa where there is the least exposure to the love of Jesus by inspiring people of color to join in sharing the good news.  I cannot think of a better way to show Christ I love Him than walking in this work that he prepared for me. What about you? How are you fulfilling Christ’s Mission?    

Visit the link below to dive deeper into this topic and hear more from Ronda!