The Coming African American Missions Movement

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A surge of interest among young black churchgoers could signal a change for sending agencies, but hurdles remain. 

Patrice Hunt knows people wonder why she is working at Wycliffe Bible Translators, a black woman surrounded by white people. She’s asked God that question herself.

“Why did you make me black,” she said, praying in the mirror one morning, “if you’re just going to have me around white people?”

It doesn’t always happen this way, but she got an immediate answer. She felt God say, “There are things I need you to learn from them that your community can’t teach you.”

As the senior director of human resources in Wycliffe’s Florida office, Hunt has learned a lot of things. One, she told CT, is that God has equipped her and other African Americans for mission work.

Some experts say that less than 1 percent of American missionaries are black. In many missions organizations, that actually seems like an overestimate. According to a 2020 report, the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Missions Board—the largest sending agency in the world—has 3,700 career missionaries and only 0.35 percent are African Americans.

The reasons are varied. Many African Americans who are called to ministry have prioritized the needs in their own communities, focusing on preaching the gospel or pursing justice locally. Global travel and exposure are a privilege and less accessible to racial minorities. The historic relationship between missions and colonialism is complicated, and missionareis, for many, are associated with the idea of a “white savior,” not a black Christian. Black churches have different traditions of giving, making the most common models of fundraising more difficult for African American Christians. And most missionary institutions and sending …

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