by John Coqueral, Togo.
Togo is a small West African nation. Our team there is focussing upon an area with few Christians for the next year or so. The people are scared of evil spirits and often make sacrifices in an attempt to appease them. Although they want to be delivered from the fear and control of these evil spirits, even after turning to Christ, people often continue with their old practices.
A few years ago Assam* moved to the area. He is a carpenter and tentmaking missionary who serves with GRN. He sensed God's call to bring the Gospel to these people, but he had a problem; he could not speak their languages and the people could not speak his!
He found an interpreter who told him that there were no true Christians in the area. The first missionary got sick and died. His wife took over and also died. Then their two children tried to continue the work of their parents and they died too. Since then a cult came and planted a church that doesn't preach Jesus. That's why nobody talks about Jesus there.
The repetitive deaths are mysterious. The villagers are afraid that if they come to Christ then they will suffer the same fate as the missionaries. They are afraid of the evil spirits they serve. They think they will not be protected. Those who detach themselves from the fetishes are subject to evil spiritual attacks from everywhere, especially from their own family. The devil doesn't let his prey get away easily. Assam has been clearly targeted by the enemy.
Assam finances almost all of his activities himself; an evangelist convinced that God has called him to this particular village. He works as a carpenter, saves some money, and then goes to the village. When the money is gone, he looks for a job, works again, saves as much as he can, and goes back to the village to serve the Lord.
After a year of the Lord blessing his work, Assam had the joy of seeing some of the villagers acknowledging the Lord Jesus. They want to know more about Jesus. They want to be delivered from the evil spirits that torment them. Hardened hearts, rooted in occult practices for so long, are now touched and let some light shine upon them. Joyfully, Assam sees a little bit of hope in them. The church is growing; most of the people had never heard about Jesus before. The cult leader became a fierce opponent and has begun persecuting the fledgling church.
This new church is entirely composed of women and children. Men do not want to take the step of embracing a new faith, they prefer letting their wives and children go. Our team is thankful for that. Even though they rejoice to see conversions, they are concerned about the syncretism (mixing Christian and animist practices). Almost all maintain a tie with a fetish or occult practice or ritual. They are ready to listen to the messages and go to church, yet they have a hard time letting go of some of the old practices that tie them to demons. The challenge now is to teach them to truly trust Jesus in every circumstance.
Our GRN team plans on recording Gospel messages in all the languages spoken in this region and distributing them through the villages. The messages will proclaim the good news and touch the specific needs of different villages. Follow up visits will train pastors and evangelists in the use of GRN recordings and encourage them in their work. It is also hoped that Assam can be supported so he can pastor the church he planted full time.
*Actual name withheld for security reasons