CHICAGO – For months he slept in someone else’s apartment while his wife and four children slept 5,800 miles away. For Eric Aidoo, penetrating lostness in the city of Chicago isn’t just an abstract idea – it’s a calling worth giving up everything.
Aidoo had been a Baptist minister in his home country of Ghana for 17 years before he felt God’s call to a seminary in Maryland three years ago. While there, God began to point him toward Chicago.
“God laid on my heart that there are no Ghanaian African Baptist churches [SBC
] in all of Chicago,” said Aidoo, a North American Mission Board (NAMB
) church planter. “I was a student. I had no money, but I knew if God called me to do this, He would provide.”
And He has. God has brought people to the new church, which has averaged 50 in attendance since launching earlier this year. God also provided through Southern Baptists, whose Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering gifts have helped support Aidoo’s work.
Photo by Jim Whitmer
NAMB church planter Eric Aidoo talks with a woman at an African grocery store in Chicago. Before starting Calvary Baptist International Ministry earlier this year, Aidoo got the word out by putting up flyers at African markets around the city.
With more than 8.7 million people in the metro area (an area of 10 Illinois counties surrounding the city), Chicago is one of the largest of NAMB’s 30 Send North America cities. Southern Baptists currently have 275 congregations engaging the area, but many more are needed, according to the locals formulating the Send North America: Chicago strategy. So far the local strategy team has identified 161 locations in the Chicago area that need new churches.
Send North America is NAMB’s strategy to help churches and individuals become active in all regions of North America to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ and start new churches.
While Aidoo isn’t limiting his ministry to Africans, his natural affinity for those who’ve immigrated from Africa – and particularly Ghana – has made it a particularly fertile field. Seventy-five people showed up when the church started. Seven months later, it is still growing.
Photo by Jim Whitmer
Mavis Afum leads children in a song during the Sunday School class she teaches at Calvary Baptist International Ministry in Chicago. She became a committed follower of Christ earlier this year and now teaches Sunday School regularly.
“Just like everyone, African people have lots of needs,” Aidoo said. “We know only God is the solution. So we get together regularly to pray. We pray that God would draw people to the church.”
And He has. A few months back, Aidoo invited Mavis Afum to the new church. Afum had grown up in a Christian family in Ghana and came to the United States in 1993 with them. When she had a baby as an unwed teenager, she felt ostracized from her family and her African roots.
Her life grew more and more rebellious. Homeless for a time, she and her son moved in and out of shelters as they “grew up together,” Afum said.
“Along the way, I got into a lot of trouble,” Afum said.
When she first came to Calvary International Baptist Ministry she was afraid that the other Africans in the church would judge her. Yet she found the opposite. The new church embraced her. Eventually, Afum said, she began to understand the gospel and was born again.
“I had been through so many problems and gotten myself in so much trouble. I knew only Christ could deliver me,” Afum said. Today she teaches a children’s Sunday School class.
Aidoo wants to bring that kind of deliverance to as many people as possible.
“My heart is for reaching lost souls,” Aidoo said. “If other churches partner with this ministry, it’ll help us reach more people.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry is a writer with the North American Mission Board. For more information about Send North America: Chicago, visit namb.net/Chicago.)