Over one hundred years ago, an intrepid band of Brethren in Christ with a passion for spreading the Gospel set out from North America. Sailing from New York City in December 1897, they journeyed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean and eventually made their way to the Matopo Hills in Southern Rhodesia—a country now known as Zimbabwe—by summer 1898.
The arrival of these strange-looking white men and women by donkey-drawn wagon (pictured above) must have sent waves of shock and confusion through the Ndebele people who had long occupied the land. Indeed, initially the missionaries struggled to communicate their message. But there was no turning back. Eventually, some young people responded, and the missionaries held the first baptism in August 1899.
The work of these early missionaries sparked a passion among Brethren in Christ for the cause of global witness and service. Over the years North American missionaries have contributed to the establishment of 30 national BIC conferences, associations, or church clusters in places beyond North America, and the ministry of BIC World Missions continues today, with 69 cross-cultural workers engaged in 20 countries. As a result, today 80 percent of BIC congregations are outside North America.