The story of SIM | Three men with a gospel vision
Updated: Aug 3, 2021
The story of SIM traces back to 1893. It is a story of God’s faithfulness and his desire to make himself known among all nations, despite the many barriers that stood in the way of the gospel. The story starts with three men, two Canadians Walter Gowans and Roland Bingham together with Thomas Kent from the USA, who arrived in Lagos Nigeria on the 4th of December 1893.
The three men were captured by a vision to evangelise the unreached people of Sudan (Soudan in those days). Having been rejected by the established mission organisations, who said that reaching the Soudan was impossible, the 3 men set out in faith, unaware how God would use them. Looking back at the story of SIM over the past hundred years, it is encouraging to see how God used these three young men to transform generations of people all over the world with the good news of Jesus shared and the love of God expressed.
In 1894, Gowans and Kent died from malaria and Bingham was forced to go back home to Canada to recover. His attempt to return to Nigeria also ended in malaria, but with his vision and faith undeterred, he sent other Christians. They landed in 1902 and travelled inland, establishing a base in Patigi, 450km from Lagos. Bingham continued to support the Soudan Interior Mission (SIM) mission team, supporting them in prayer, finance and through sharing their stories. In 1918, Bingham was appointed SIM’s General Director.
In Southern Africa, the Africa Evangelical Fellowship (AEF) was formed by Andrew Murray a Dutch Reformed minister, Spencer Walton and Martha Osborn-Howe in 1889 in Cape Town. From this root, a mission, the Cape General Mission began. In 1894, the Mission, known as the South African General Mission ( SAGM ) was founded as an evangelical faith mission with an emphasis on the propagation of the gospel in an interdenominational context. SAGM began to expand into other parts of Southern Africa, and then to islands in the Indian Ocean.
Today, SIM exists as a partnership of all these disparate mission organisations – from Africa to Asia, from the Indian subcontinent to South America, from Europe to the Middle East. In 1982, SIM merged with the Andes Evangelical Mission (itself formed out of agencies dating back to 1889) in South America, and then the International Christian Fellowship of South Asia (1989). The partnership grew even further when the African Evangelical Fellowship joined in 1998. More recently, in 2016, the UK and Ireland branchesof Middle East Christian Outreach also joined SIM.
It goes without saying that gospel partnerships are at the heart of SIM. SIM maintains the same DNA today as most of its work is primarily done in partnership with churches and other parachurch organisations. Here in Zimbabwe, SIM has, for a long time, worked under the United Baptist Church (UBC). The work started around 1897 when SAGM sent 3 young men, John Coupland, Harold Raney and Dudley Kidd to reach the Ndau tribal groups in in the Eastern Highlands on Zimbabwe ( the Rhodesia) where they established two mission centres at Rusitu and Biriri. Over the next century, SIM has sent worked hand in glove with the United Baptist Church , sending missionaries who served at the two mission centres in various capacities from teachers at the schools, theological lecturers at the Bible College and doctors at the hospital.
With the desire to foster and grow interdenominational gospel partnerships SIM Zimbabwe was registered as a stand-alone TRUST in 2014 with the appointment of Rev Caiphas Ngarivhume as the first country director. SIM Zimbabwe later on attained the private voluntary organisation ( PVO) status and it is currently working in partnership with over 30 different denominations across its various ministry departments.
To God belongs all the glory for the great story of his faithfulness in growing his work under SIM.