Missionaries Flocking to Britain

Evangelizers Arrive from Asia, Africa and the Americas

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LONDON, JAN. 18, 2001 (Zenit.org)
Hundreds of missionaries from Africa, Asia and the Americas are flocking to Britain to convert a nation that they believe has fallen into godless secularism, The Telegraph reported today.

About 1,500 missionaries and their full-time staff from 50 countries are believed to be operating in churches in Britain; 60% are from America, the newspaper said.

Most of the missionaries come from countries where Christianity was introduced by Britons in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The role reversal follows vast growth of the church in Africa, Asia and South America and a steady drop in churchgoing in Western Europe.

Andy Peck, assistant editor of Christianity and Renewal magazine, has written a guide for churches on how to make foreign missionaries feel welcome. He suggests ways to help them become acclimated to the «island mentality.» Peck said: «The days when Britain led the world in exporting Christianity along with coal and cricket have long gone. Having led the way we are now on the receiving end of help.»

The Anglican-based Church Mission Society, which has sent missionaries abroad for the last 200 years, has now brought 20 people from India, Uganda, Chile and Sierra Leone to reinvigorate dying parishes.

Stephen Tirwomwe, from Uganda, was invited by the Mission Society in 1997 to work in a struggling Church of England parish, St Philip´s in Osmondthorpe, east Leeds. British missionaries opened the first church in Uganda in 1877.

Tirwomwe, who has come with his wife and two children on a five-year missionary visa, said: «It was so depressing when I first arrived to find churches empty, and being sold, when in Uganda there is not enough room in our churches for the people. There is a great need for revival in Britain — it has become so secular and people are so inward-looking and individualistic. The country needs reconverting.»

In October, the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey, declared that Britain had become an atheist society in which people looked to medicine to provide them with eternal life rather than religion. «A tacit atheism prevails,» Carey was quoted as saying. «Death is assumed to be the end of life, bleak though that thought is.»

To counter that trend, missionaries like Marcos Barros have come. Barros, a pastor from Brazil, arrived in London eight years ago. He has spent three years in Edinburgh and now runs the East Lancashire Community Church in Bolton.

Barros said: «There is a lot of growth in Brazilian churches as a result of the work done by European missionaries, mainly from Britain. Some lost their lives in their endeavor to spread the Gospel. What is happening now in South America is a result of their sacrifice and we see ourselves as their spiritual children.»

Barros, 41, who joined a Presbyterian church at age 17, works with 50 missionaries in the movement Go To The Nation. The organization sends missionaries to work alongside clergy in Methodist, Baptist, Anglican and Church of Scotland parishes. Most arrive on a one-year student visa and learn English before getting a two-year missionary visa.

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