In two decades as Christian missionaries in Niger, Africa, Neal and Danette Childs have faced a host of challenges. Critics have doubted their approach to ministry. Supporting funds and personnel have been slow to come at times. And violent attacks have forced them to rebuild.
While the remote nation regularly ranks as one of the world’s poorest, the Childs and their multi-national team are seeing their long-term efforts bear fruit. One large-scale terrorist incident particularly revealed to the missionaries how the Gospel has changed Niger.
“Terrorism cannot stop the Gospel,” says Neal Childs, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a missionary and now leads RUN International. “RUN” stands for “Reaching Unreached Nations.” “It’s definitely not something that would drive us away from serving in Niger. We’ve been able to build back better, and our faith has grown stronger.”
Faith Like a Child
Founded in 1992 by Ron and Jerry Childs, Vie Abondante (“Abundant Life”) is a ministry of diverse pastors and missionaries in Niger. Six years later, their son Neal and his wife Danette joined the work. “Our ministry is very focused on discipleship,” says Neal. “We started working alongside local leaders and planting churches.”
Within a few years, the next-generation Childs were providing leadership to the network. They helped establish multiple Bible schools in Niger to train pastors. By 2018, Vie Abondante had grown from eight to 52 churches established across the nation over two decades. One reason for the growth, the Childs believe, is a unique ministry strategy that enables them to marshal resources and give children a hands-on faith experience.
“Where we have churches in villages, the Christians there are a minority,” explains Neal Childs. “They are few in number, always around a Muslim environment. Once a year, to create a strengthening of fellowship and community, all the children in our churches come together.” Pew Research Center reports the population of Niger as currently 98 percent Muslim.
Read more at the Stream.