DOWNINGTOWN, Pa. (BRN) — Born and raised in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, Pastor Ricky Wilson of Christian Faith Fellowship, is accustomed to the importance and urgency of local ministry.

“You can’t have a global one [church] unless you first start locally. You have to have some way of developing and encouraging people to see beyond themselves, but also to see the needs they have and address them,” said Wilson.

Pastor Ricky and Shirley Wilson
Pastor Ricky and Shirley Wilson

Since 1996, Wilson and his congregation at Christian Faith Fellowship have been ministering to the Downingtown community.

“We’ve done what we call ‘Unity in the Community’ barbecue fellowships in our Downingtown area; we have assisted churches when they have had some issues; we have done benevolence activity, food giveaway, and clothing giveaway to the people in our local area,” shared Wilson.

Through these various outreach initiatives, the Christian Faith Fellowship community applies what Wilson calls the “Four C’s.”

“We here operate [on] what I call the Four C’s – our community, our country, our continent, and our cosmos. So, our missions efforts are the four C’s. We have to be actively engaged somewhere in our community, in our country, on our continent, and in the cosmos – and it’s either by sending an offering or sending people.”

Wilson continued: “So, we have sent people locally within our country. We send people locally in our community – cleaning up streets and things of that nature – and it’s revolutionizing. In the sense that seeing what you’re doing and how it is impacting people, [that] when we do it globally – when we go outside of ourselves and leave a comfort zone – it leaves a different mark on a person.”

In 2004, Wilson experienced this ‘different mark’ for the first time as he embarked on a mission trip to Zambia, Africa.

“I got a call in 2004 from a friend of mine who said, ‘Hey, I’m going to Africa, and I was asked if there’s any brothers that want to go to Africa with us.’”

Wilson replied with an emphatic, “Yeah, man, I want to go!”

Wilson then returned to Zambia, for a second trip, in 2008. This time, he and his friend went and preached in three different cities. Prior to doing so, they were warned about local pastors asking them for money or sponsorships.

Pastor Ricky Wilson teaches in Zambia
Pastor Ricky Wilson teaches in Zambia.

“After preaching and leading a conference, one of the pastors came up to me. He introduced himself – his name was Bishop Andrew Kasongo Malemba – and he said, ‘What I would like to ask you Pastor is – I don’t want any money – I want to know if you would mentor me.’”

Surprised at the Bishop’s request, Wilson asked for time to pray about the mentorship, before making a decision.

“So, I left and I really didn’t think anything of it, until I was invited to come back the following year. I went back the following year and I ran into him again.”

The eager African Bishop introduced Wilson to his wife and then inquired again about the mentorship.

To which, Wilson responded, “You know what? I’m gonna go ahead and do this. Let’s just go ahead and do this from a distance.”

Wilson and the Christian Faith Fellowship community have been mentoring Bishop Malemba – also affectionately referred to as Bishop K – since 2009.

“It has been a great uniting. People ask did I pick Zambia [and] I say, ‘No, Zambia kind of picked me.’ That was what it was. So, he never asked for a dime; he never asked for any money. He just asked if you would mentor, and that’s what we’ve been doing with him. I’m embarrassed to say that he is doing the work better than I am,” said Wilson.

Since Wilson’s mentorship started with Bishop K, he has planted 18 churches throughout Africa.

“In the time we’ve worked with him, he has planted 18 churches and about 13 church pastors have come under him – so he has 30 to 31 churches that he is mentoring,” shared Wilson.

Those churches span not only Zambia, but other countries within Africa, such as, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and South Africa.

Now, what once started as a one-on-one mentorship has grown to be a global ministry partnership, as Wilson travels to Zambia annually and then with a team every other year.

“We have done things such as Vacation Bible School… Marriage Enrichment – and we’ve had exciting times with that because every culture is different – … we did Men’s Ministry development [and] had a couple of our ladies do a thing on women’s ministry…we did what we call temple beautification – where we would help them clean up – … [and] we would go into the community, after evangelism training, and invite the community to come back to the church for a barbecue,” said Wilson.

For more than 10 years, Wilson and his church have partnered with fellow believers in Zambia to cultivate local Christ-centered communities on a global scale. Wilson and a mission team of more than 20 people are due to return to Zambia next year.

“I think every believer should get a one-time experience and exposure – either locally or globally – to kind of have an appreciation for who God is and what he’s doing in your life, and where you are in comparison to where somebody else is. I think it kind of helps you to understand [that] some things that you have are really not needs – and I think that’s something to think about.”

Listen to the podcast interview.

The “50 Stories of Transformation” series, told in honor of the Baptist Resource Network’s 50th anniversary, highlights the many ways God has moved throughout Pennsylvania, South Jersey and beyond. Your generous support of the Cooperative Program makes this ministry possible and fuels evangelism and outreach in our local churches and all over the world! Thank you!