An interview with our partner in West Africa where he shares his testimony, love for the Lord and passion for reaching the broken!
Gods Plan unfolding
Back in the late seventies I arrived in the United States of America for the first time. I was already a born again Christian and was there to study. I came to know the Lord after coming contact with missionaries traveling to Nigeria from the USA and Great Britain. Missionaries from the Anglican church who brought Christian literature and scripture through the ‘Scripture Union’.
I remember how surprised I was arriving in the United States seeing the great wealth and development around me. It was then that I realized how much these missionaries had left behind to come and share the Gospel with my country. It shocked me, because I could not understand how somebody could leave so much wealth and pleasure to come and live in difficulty in order to reach people with Gods word.
Attending Wheaton College and Graduate school–Billy Graham Center where I completed my masters, I was struck by the contrast of two worlds.
Seeing the upper middleclass children, healthy with smooth skin and happy in the Lord. These people, happy in the Lord would go to be with the Lord forever when their life is over. Not only enjoying this life but also knowing that they would spend eternity with their creator.
Looking back home, I saw people suffering excessively. Individuals not only living their lives filled with suffering, but also headed for an eternity in hell after their death due to their unbelief in Christ.
I decided then that I must go back and reach them with the Gospel of Salvation in Christ. My friends and colleagues thought I was crazy and encouraged me to stay. They all stayed back.
The two reasons people stayed back has to do with the insecurity and poverty in Africa. There is so much insecurity in Africa because of constant political crisis, insecurity and the ravaging poverty.
But I had to go back.
There was a Christian University in Nairobi Kenya whose goal was to develop Christian leadership in Africa, and I was approached by the director to come and teach there. I accepted because I felt strongly that Africa’s problem was basically a leadership problem. Corruption and inefficiency needed to be addressed.
I felt strongly that if we could develop good Christian leadership, that things would be better. And so we worked to develop and teach people on two levels, academically as well as spiritually.
While I was still in Kenya, teaching at the university, I was approached by the head of the Association of Evangelical Alliance and asked to develop a blueprint for them that would help pastors and church leaders to improve in communicating the message. I accepted the challenge and began a journey which drastically opened my eyes to the situation of the African society.
As a child, I grew up in a very protected environment. My father was a Christian leader and I knew little of the brokenness in which many families lived. It was later in life that I discovered that there were many broken families and many children growing up missing their fathers and mothers.
But then, when I was going into different countries to teach these church leaders, I discovered 3 things. First, I didn’t know much about the French speaking countries and there were 32 of them in Africa. I didn’t know that they were mostly Islamic.
Because of the influence of the western missionaries, the English speaking African countries are majorly Christian. In fact in eastern Nigeria where I come from, it is believed that majority of them are Christian. But it is not so in the northern Nigeria because most of them are Islamic with the problem of Boko Haram. Out of the 32 French speaking countries, 22 of them are majorly Islamic . Some of these countries were 90% to 98% Islamic. I was shocked.
Secondly, most of the poor countries in the world come from the French speaking countries in West Africa.
Thirdly, witchcraft, animism and Voodoo are rampant in these countries. Voodoo originated in the small country in French speaking West Africa called Benin. You can now find Voodoo in Brazil, Haiti and New Orleans just to name a few examples.
It was overwhelming. I had come back to Africa to evangelize my people, but I was just one man teaching in a university not knowing how I could possible reach these people.
But then, God began putting the puzzle pieces in place.
When I was studying in the USA, I traveled with a group of students to Europe on a tour to learn about the European broadcasting system. The tour took us to the Netherlands as well as visiting the BBC in the UK. It was there during this trip that I met the head of the Dutch Evangelical Broadcasting organization. After this tour, I returned to the US to finish my studies after which I returned to Africa.
During the time that I was struggling with the challenge of how we could best evangelize in Francophone Africa, my path crossed again with the Dutch Evangelical Broadcasting organization. They were on a mission looking into using media to evangelize in Africa.
I met with them. It was surprising for both of us that I had first met them in the their country and now they were meeting me in Africa.
That was the beginning of something profound. We have now been working together for over 20 years. The Lord works in amazing ways.
Another struggle we faced was how we could reach a Muslim audience. You cannot preach openly without serious, often deadly consequences, and even if you did, they do not want to listen to the Gospel.
So we searched for a way we reach them where they are. A way we could enter their sitting room. The answer was television—TV. National television station is existent in all these countries. TV reaches all the people and it is the only source of entertainment news and information.
The idea was that if we produced quality programs, dealing with the needs of the people that this would definitely catch their attention. That is how things began to come together.
We began selecting topics causing pain and brokenness in society. Topics including street children, HIV/aids and unemployment. We started making a program series on these. At the end of each program a contact number was given providing the program viewers with the opportunity to call if the program had really touched them. We are now working in 11 countries and in each country, we now have trained individuals available to answer calls and offer pastoral care.
The responses are overwhelming. Last year, over 600,000 people responded to our programs. Reaching out in a longing to change. Responding to Gods message of love.
Even when the situation seemed impossible, God continues to help us find a way to reach out to the unreachable.