A missionary society feeds on a special diet. This diet consists of encouragement, vision, urgency, and suffering. We here in the United States with Anglican Frontier Missions have been generously supplied with this diet by association with our partners in Nigeria.
Let me tell you of one particular person who has brought large helpings of this diet, servings of great proportions. His name is an African form of Solomon. In his home country of Niger his name is Souleymane Oumarou. Like Solomon of the Bible, this man is blessed with wisdom and the desire to serve the living God. His story shows his strong desire to serve in missionary outreach.
Souleymane was born into a prominent Fulani family. His early impression of Christians was that they worshipped the god of woods that is a dead god. A Christian woman befriended him and told him the Christian Gospel. He wavered between mosque and church for the next four years until, in 1987, he took several classes at a Bible school in Benin. After that he realized God had a special calling for him as church planter to the nomadic. Years later he became involved with Anglican Frontier Missions as a participant in The Blessing of the Twelve. This was a training for Nigerians in Abuja in 2004 to give a vision and tools for church planting. Eleven men and one woman took the training.
Twelve years later Bp. Inyom and I could trace the missionary work of nine of them. The stories of their trials, challenges, courage, and mission continue to bring encouragement to the larger AFM family. Souleymane has recently reappeared in the life of Anglican Frontier Missions in Nigeria. The Chairman, the Rt. Rev. N. N. Inyom had gone to Singapore with a contingent of five other Nigerian bishops in 2001 for training in raising up church planters back in his own diocese. After that first group went, another two groups of Nigerian bishops also went to Singapore for training. Like the Blessing of the Twelve, these bishops have pushed the vision into their own leadership and have shown much fruit.
One of them, Archbishop Ignatius Kattey, has spawned and sponsored many mission outreaches to several countries from his diocese, Niger Delta North. Bishop Segun of Ibadan, has begun a missionary training school for Nigerians preparing for mission among the least evangelized groups in Nigeria and north. While in Singapore God moved in Bishop Inyom’s heart to love and learn about the Baka Pygmies of Cameroon. Africa has several tribes of pygmies, forest dwellers who have little contact with the world outside. Governments often disregard their needs and frequently destroy the pygmy forests, their primary habitat. This threat for their lifestyle and their ignorance of the Gospel continued to disturb Bp. Inyom’s heart. Then in the fall of last year he began to plan a visit to the Baka pygmies of Cameroon. In the early stage of preparation one other was to accompany the bishop. That was an evangelist/church planter named Abraham. Because of Abraham’s previous visits to the pygmies, he was to take the lead in finding the places and people for the mission.
Souleymane has stayed in touch with Bp. Inyom since the training of the Twelve in Abuja in 2004. Knowing Souleymane’s intense desire to take the Gospel to people of Central Africa, he was asked to be part of the team. The trip was planned to leave on May 6th. Because of illness with Mrs. Inyom, the bishop joined the others later. The preliminary reports of the trip have just come in. This is not the place for a full report on the trip, but the highlights tell of the divine leading of the Holy Spirit at several critical places.
The first was passport control entering Cameroon. Delayed and challenged, they did get through. The next key point was finding the “Man of Peace,” someone who would open doors for them to gain favor and a hearing with the pygmies who are not used to visitors. God led them to this man, and the team were well received by the people. They had occasion to tell them the Gospel of the God in heaven, the One who made the forests, and the One who loves them and sent His Son to die for them. Souleymane, recently reporting to the people of Makurdi, said, “I wept at their desire to know that a God exists who is this loving, having allowed the missionaries to leave their homes as far as Nigeria to visit them with the Gospel.” He also reported on specific needs for education, health, and agriculture. The accompanying photos show the team, some of the pygmies who received them, and some shots of life among the pygmies.
This brings to us on this side of the Atlantic the essentials of a mission society diet. These are friends. We communicate often and see each other occasionally. We know them, and so we are not surprised at how their vision drives them. They have the vision of heaven and all the nations before the throne. But around them in West and Central Africa are many nations without knowledge of Jesus Christ. Boldly they step out. It takes courage and a willingness to face the cost and possible suffering to keep going to these unreached areas. Their stories bring us encouragement, urgency, and motivation for the same venturing forth that they exemplify. Anglican Frontier Missions Nigeria continues to feed us over here with a healthy diet.
The Rev. Tad de Bordenave
Founder of AFM