African Enterprise's greatest hits
African team leaders prepare mission outreach events in 12 African nations to celebrate 60 years
With the work of African Enterprise (AE) celebrating 60 years of service to Christ this year, African team leaders are preparing an intensive series of mission outreach events in the 12 African nations in which it is based.
During this time, we recognise several leaders whose ministry has truly shaped the lives of so many in Australia and across the world. As we celebrate some of the highlights of ministry, we continue to map out the next 60 years of evangelism with all the strength and endurance God has called us to.
AE is a unique partnership ministry, run by team leaders reporting to independent boards, supported by people in Australia, New Zealand and across the world, to evangelise the cities of Africa in word and deed in partnership with the church.
On average, it reaches over a million people every year in numerous languages spoken in Africa and mobilises thousands of volunteers and churches to proclaim the gospel in city-wide events each year. Its system of ‘stratified evangelism’ sees it reach people at all walks of life, with campaigns and outreach events to draw people together to hear the word of God. Each year the ministry expects to see about 10 percent of those reached make a decision to follow Jesus and complete a decision card to be followed up by participating churches.
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Michael Cassidy founded the African Enterprise ministry back in 1962 when as a young student of Fuller Theological Seminary in California he was convicted that mission in Africa was his calling. Through enormous steps of faith, he raised funds to meet multiple African leaders in 1961 to solidify his goals, and to set the pathway to begin his first mission trip to Pietermaritzburg in South Africa in August 1962 with a core group of evangelical friends. This outreach was so successful in bridging racial divides and attracting packed audiences for two weeks that it led to the establishment of African Enterprise.
The model of ‘stratified evangelism’ was established, and its impact on all levels of society during mission outreach has meant the model continues today. AE’s mission to evangelise the cities of Africa in word and deed in partnership with the church was established in these early days.
For Michael, some of the highlights of the ministry include the brokering of peace deals to end apartheid in South Africa and allow the smooth transition of power to Nelson Mandela in 1994.
“If ever AE South Africa had a finest moment, the South African 1994 election was probably it,” he said.
Very few Caucasian Americans grasped the depth of pain inflicted on fellow African Americans by racial discrimination and injustice.
Other ministry highlights include the establishment of the Pan African and South African Leadership Assemblies (PACLA and SACLA) in the 1970s, which drew leaders from across Africa together. In the case of the South African churches meeting across racial divides, it triggered the first major chink in the armour of the former South African apartheid system.
The Promise Keepers Rally in Chicago 1996 was Michael’s personal preaching highlight. More than 70,000 people attended the rally, and Michael discovered that very few Caucasian Americans grasped the depth of pain inflicted on fellow African Americans by racial discrimination and injustice.
“I shared the South African experience, and there was tremendous emotion when I gave the appeal,” says Michael. “Some 14,000 men responded, rushing to the front and falling on their faces. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. To God be the glory.”
Those succeeding Michael as AE leaders have ensured the longevity of the ministry. “My heart is blessed with a deep peace as I witness this development and know that God has His hand on it all. Praise His name!”
In his retirement, Michael continues work as an author and remains on the board of AE South Africa. His books The Church Jesus Prayed For and his memoirs Footprints In The African Sand, “stand as highlights for me because of the message each book brings,” he says.
When Festo Kivengere joined AE as co-leader with Michael in 1970, it was a moment of transformation as the work became truly Pan-African. Festo and Michael began preaching as a duo, and this led to a powerful testimony on the importance of reconciliation.
The impact of Festo Kivengere’s ministry throughout the world is still being felt today. He was one of the best-known and most effective evangelists that Africa has ever had. He was also a bishop, a pastor, an aid worker and a refugee who touched the lives of millions.
At the age of 19, Festo was a qualified teacher but had become agnostic. At the time, Africa was being swept by the East African Revival, but Festo believed it was nothing more than fanaticism. He took up a teaching post at a mission school, but it was his niece’s declaration that he would come to the Lord that changed everything.
Festo would later describe that moment as “heaven opening, and in front of me was Jesus.” Following his conversion, Festo’s shared his testimony everywhere he went. He met his wife Mera, a fellow teacher, and they continued in ministry together.
In 1972, Festo was asked to co-lead African Enterprise with founder Michael Cassidy. His many accomplishments through AE include the introduction of a school feeding program, water well projects, ministries for widows and orphans and free immunisations.
His book, I Love Idi Amin, was a result of the dramatic transformation that God brought about through Festo’s pain and suffering.
In 1973, Festo was instrumental in bringing the Durban Congress together with Church leaders from all over South Africa for the first time, leading to the establishment of the SACLA mentioned earlier.
When a dear friend of Festo’s was assassinated by Idi Amin in 1977, Festo was forced into exile. During that time, he confronted his bitterness towards his persecutors. His book, I Love Idi Amin, was a result of the dramatic transformation that God brought about through Festo’s pain and suffering. He learned to find peace and forgiveness in the reconciling work of Jesus Christ.
“Peace is not automatic. It’s a gift by the grace of God. It comes when hearts are exposed to the love of Christ. But this always costs something. For the love of Christ was demonstrated through suffering and those who experience that love can never put it into practice without some cost,” Bishop Festo Kivengere said.
Stephen Lungu, who took over Michael Cassidy’s role as team leader in 2006, captured the hearts of many people who heard of his story of conversion covered in his Out of the Black Shadows autobiography. The Spirit of God worked powerfully in his life to preach day and night to the poor, criminals and the public on the streets, squats and eventually around the world as African Enterprise International CEO.
The position Stephen gained as an international evangelist was a far cry from living under a bridge and running with a criminal element called the Black Shadows. He attempted to disrupt a church service with rocks and petrol bombs but was cut short by hearing the message from the pulpit on the passage “the wages of sin are death” (Rom 6:23) and on the grace of the Lord Jesus, who for our sakes became poor that through his poverty would attain the richness of eternal life (2 Cor 8:9)
The radical change in him led him to confess his sins to the police, be mentored by a pastor, learn to read and write and eventually be reconciled with the parents who abandoned him. He continued to learn through godly men how to be an effective evangelist, building on his zeal for the Lord, which eventually led him to be ‘sent to all nations’ to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Following retirement from ministry, Stephen’s life was cut short in early 2021 by COVID-19 in Malawi, leaving his widow Rachel and the AE family to mourn his departure to God.
The work of AE is characterised by boldness and adaptability to difficulties in Africa’s social and environmental conditions. We also recognise the many leaders who have sacrificed so much for the cause, including those martyred in the field. COVID-19 is the latest of many challenges we face in mission, including election violence, civil war, ethnic cleansing, disease and food insecurities. Throughout these challenges, AE adapts to the conditions, and during this pandemic, we have introduced home-based evangelism and media outreach to increase the gospel footprint in the cities of Africa. We recognise the new generation of leaders today, who will serve as catalysts for effective and holistic mission in Africa. We appreciate all the prayers and support that help to make AE an effective ministry today, thanks to all our past and future leaders and supporters.
For more information, visit africanenterprise.org.au
Ben Campbell is finishing as CEO of African Enterprise at the end of this month.