Interview With Tim Byrd, Missionary to South Africa
One of the joys I have, as pastor in a local church, is being able to encourage and support local and foreign missions. If the local church is doing anything, it must be sending and supporting missions and missionaries. Though East Point Church is relatively young, we have had the privilege of partnering with several missionaries. Among these are Timothy and Niai Byrd.
Tim and Niai are American missionaries with Campus Outreach. They serve in Johannesburg, South Africa. They are currently in the States raising support and encouraging the saints. Tim has agreed to join us today on the Front Porch and share his ministry and labors with us.
Tim my man, thanks for coming on the Front Porch. It’s always good to catch up with you. Tell us a little about the wife and kids. How’s the family?
Pastor Tony it is always a pleasure being with you! You know I consider you and the EPC folks like family! My wife Niai and the two girls are great! We have been in the states for several months now traveling raising funds and recruiting prayer partners for the work. When we are not traveling for ministry we are visiting family and friends. After 6 months of traveling the family is ready to get back home to South Africa for sure!
You are currently with Campus Outreach Johannesburg. What exactly is your role?
Yes, I have been with Campus Outreach in Johannesburg for just over 9 years. This year I start a new role called an Area director. In this role I will be serving three different campuses, Wits University, University of Johannesburg campuses Kings-Way and Bunting campus. My job will be staff shepherding and development. Along with this, we hope to create some gospel synergy on these campus with the men and women who have come to faith in Christ and whom we are discipling.
Why Campus Outreach?
The reason I started working with CO is primarily because of opportunity. I saw an opportunity to learn what it means to follow Christ, share my faith and make disciples in a like-minded community while I was a student. So when I went to South Africa with them and saw the work they were doing there, I was like, “Yo, y’all hiring!” I really love the vision and core values of the ministry. CO really values the authority of the local church which positions both their staff and students to be kingdom building leaders for a life time because it is about Christ and not the ministry.
Plus, I think reaching university students is very strategic for the advancement of God’s kingdom. I believe reaching people at the right time is very important. Bringing the gospel to young men and women when they are making some of the most important decisions of their lives is .
Why South Africa?
Why South Africa!? To be honest, I think when I was single I may have gone almost anywhere when God gripped me with a vision for missions. However, because I loved where I was at with CO, I felt like it was a great place to start. Also I fell in love with the people of SA! They have this amazing effect on your heart when you meet them. Plus the Lord just gave me a burden for the lost peoples there and developing the leaders of tomorrow!
What do you find are the particular challenges of being African American on the foreign mission field?
You know every missionary has his or her particular challenges, if this were not true it wouldn’t be much of a mission I suppose. God really has been blessing the work of evangelizing the lost and establishing young believers. But as an African American some challenges we have faced have had more to do with staying on the field and not the mission itself. I have been in South Africa for 9 years (4 years married) and the one reoccurring challenge is support. By God’s grace we have great supporters and prayer team today. So don’t get me wrong God has been tremendously faithful to us and we have exactly what we need when we need it. However, at times we and many other African American missionaries have had to focus so much on getting the support we need just to be there that we can’t focus on the task at hand. I don’t want to speak too generally but many of the African American churches we have connected with either did not had a desire to join our support team in giving to overseas missions or they said they did not have the resources. This can be a significant challenge when you have a clear vision, clear destination and a growing family yet no or very little financial backing. By God’s grace we have been able to go back and support raise, but it is the single largest threat to keeping us as well as many African Americans off the mission field.
Recently you gave a talk at CROSS Conference on the subject of African-Americans in missions. What was the gist of your message and what do you hope people took away from it?
Well, my research on African Americans in missions was one of the greatest things I did in 2013! I was asked to speak broadly on the topic. I really wanted this talk to not only be to the African American Church but the universal church as a whole. I felt lead to hinge everything in history and in time on God’s sovereign hand. He is in heaven and he does what he pleases. If it pleased the father to bring Africans to America so that he might not only get the gospel to them but leverage their lives for his glory and get the gospel through them to the nations, then he can do that and I think that is exactly what he did ().
African Americans during slavery were asking the question “why are we here?” Many concluded that we were called to preach the gospel to their African brothers and sisters in Africa and the Diaspora. So from that point we began to see a rich history of African Americans in foreign missions. They took this theology of missions and ran with it. However, because colonialism in Africa and other varying reasons, blacks were hindered in growing their vision and participation in the Great Commission.
Obviously this would have implications on the black church today. So we spoke into the challenges some African Americans face in foreign missions (like what I mentioned earlier) and why we should even consider this topic today. Is the black church engaged on long term basis or in a transformative way in foreign missions or fulfilling Acts: 1:8, and in regards to reaching the nations with the gospel? After much research I think it is a question every church should be asking, especially ours.
What role does the local church, both in the States and South Africa, play in your work with Campus Outreach?
Campus Outreach is actually a ministry sent from local churches to other local churches. Many people automatically assume we are a para-church, (and there is nothing wrong with Para-churches), but we aren’t. There is no president of Campus Outreach. Each region is under the direct leadership of a local church. This gives each church an authoritative say in our lives and our ministry. Whether in the USA or abroad we hold a strong desire to be not only a part of a local church but under the authority of a church as well.
How can we pray for and support your labors?
Please pray for our family as we head back to South Africa soon after much traveling in the USA. Also, we have recently committed to 10 more additional years in South Africa and we start that this year! We need direction and discernment in this new process. You can pray for Niai’s health and the health of our third child due in July! Also you can pray for the financial support of our South African staff. They often face serious challenges in support raising in their context as well.
Tim, my man, thanks for coming up on the Porch. Your family and ministry are a great encouragement to us. Always good to catch up with you.
Thanks, Pastor Tony, for having me brother. It’s always a pleasure!
26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ (ESV)
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)