Cameroon, a Central African country of twenty-two million people, borders Nigeria on the west and shares borders with five other countries. Sometimes called “Africa in miniature” because of its geological and cultural diversity, it is home to two hundred different linguistics groups. Natural features include beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, and savannas. The country is primarily divided into an English speaking area of approximately 20% of the population and a French area with 80% of the population.
Cameroon is the home of two schools of preaching affiliated with the Bear Valley Bible Institute. The English school is located in Wotutu and the French school in Mbanga. David Ballard, who preaches at Pattonville, near Paris, TX, serves as the Bear Valley Coordinator of Cameroon. He has encouraged me to come to Cameroon to teach since 2011. Our daughter, Tonya, joked, “Dad, Cameroon is an invisible country.” However, after two eight hour flights from the USA through Paris, France, I found that the country really exists with many wonderful people and a growing church.
Through the efforts of the students and staff of the Cameroon schools of preaching, more than 1050 have been baptized, 450 restored to the faith, and 27 congregations either established or restored to service. Forty-four gospel preachers have been trained with 21 students currently in the English school and 7 in the French school.
The English program, which began in 2011, is overseen by the South Twin Cities church of Christ in Rosemount, Minnesota. Elangwe Esowe Gregory capably directs the school. Two classes have already graduated, and a new dormitory was recently completed. Wotutu is an extremely evangelistic congregation. Elangwe began the congregation ten years ago with 4 people. Recently, 217 attended. The acceleration of growth has been due primarily to the establishment of the school of preaching. A morning radio program from 5:30-6:30 reaches approximately 10,000 people.
My assignment was to teach in the French school, which began in January 2011. Located on the edge of the French speaking section of the country, the school can appeal to those who are bilingual or who exclusively speak French. The overseeing congregation is the Main St. church of Christ in Frisco, TX.
I taught “The Scheme of Redemption” (God’s Eternal Purpose). Ititi Benedict Mimending, the Director of the School, translated for me. Ititi, who speaks both French and English, is a graduate of the first class in the English school at Wotutu. While still a young man, he has been a Christian for a long time and is exceptionally gifted, while very humble in attitude. I can truly say the school is in good hands with Ititi. He is respected by students who know that he practices what he preaches. Students rise at 5:00 A.M., have a morning devotional and are active on weekends teaching and preaching in area congregations in addition to their seven hours of class time and night studies.
I also taught a course concerning the “Godhead.” I recently taught this course in Paraguay. Emphasis is placed upon the work of the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—areas fundamental to what Christians believe and practice. Nkongwe Bekwike Norbert, who graduated with Ititi, translated for me. Both Norbert and Ititi finished first and second in their graduating class. An older man than Ititi, Norbert has more than twenty-five years teaching experience in public schools. Since he teaches the Mbanga students regularly, he could tell when they needed some further clarification of a scripture. I felt like I had a co-teacher as well as a translator in the class. Norbert teaches in both the French and English school as well as preaching in a local congregation.
Since the school recently began, the facilities are small but adequate. Because the rainy season was in progress, we did have to move to the middle of the building at different times because of a leaky roof on one side (It was amazing how quickly we could shift to the other side). Like most equatorial countries, when it rains, it pours. I stayed in a hotel about a twenty minute walk from the building and waded through some mud every day, trying to skip around the waterholes. It was amazing how fast I could walk when the clouds were building up.
Students frequently preach on Sunday in Mbanga, while others may travel two or three hours distance to preach. The schools are really “preaching and teaching laboratories” as men learn what to preach, how and why to preach.
On the personal side, I always take plenty of food in case the circumstance require it, but I was well fed in Mbanga. Ititi’s wife, Mary, is an excellent cook. She spoiled me with chicken or fish every day at noon. However, in spite of my regular and hearty eating, I lost five pounds due to the extreme heat and humidity. However, I did have weight to lose as my wife reminds me.
I learned quite a bit about African marriage customs from Ititi and Mary. Ititi and Mary have only been married sixteen months. They had both a tribal ceremony and a religious ceremony. The husband pays a dowry or “bride price” for his wife. Ititi told me he would still be in debt quite a while for Mary. I told Ititi that I did not have to pay a bride price for Sarah, though I have been paying for her for fifty years.
I was thankful that David Ballard and his wife Nancy were also in Cameroon at the same time. David taught for a week in the English school in Wotutu and was active in evangelism. Nancy, his wife, conducted a Ladies’ Day on Saturday with more than 150 ladies present.
Cameroon really does exist and is becoming ever more a beacon for the gospel of Christ throughout the country and in time throughout Central Africa.
SCHOOLS IN CAMEROON
I began work the Bear Valley Bible Institute in 2011. Bob Turner, Extension Director, asked me to replace Josh Austin as Coordinator of the country of Cameroon, Central Africa. At the time I was teaching mathematics at the Chism School System near Paris, Texas and preaching at the Pattonville church of Christ. My wife, Nancy and I both retired from teaching June 2015 to devote our time more fully to this ministry.
Since 2011, Bear Valley started two preacher training schools in Cameroon. The Bear Valley Bible Institute Cameroon: Wotutu began in 2011. Wotutu is an English speaking preacher training school. It is overseen by the South Twin Cities church of Christ in Rosemount, Minnesota. The school is in need of $1000 in monthly funding. If you can assist, please contact me at the Pattonville church of Christ, P.O. Box 5, Pattonvile, TX 75468. The Bear Valley Bible Institute Cameroon: Mbanga, a French program, began January 2015. Both of these schools are affiliated with the Bear Valley Bible Institute.
Students are taught to use personal Bible studies in evangelism as well as mass evangelism. Each student gains experience in radio ministry and the use of Bible literature. A brother traveled the whole night to Wotutu to receive tracts from Mission Printing. He said, “Many will import what brings them physical gains to Cameroon, but these tracts are amazing and will touch the lives of many in their community.”
Outreach of the students also includes prison evangelism. A prison ministry in Wotutu began in 2014 when one of our students, Vincent, was wrongly imprisoned there. During his stay, he continued his studies and also converted many inmates. After he graduated, he become the minister of that congregation. He has baptized over 25 into Jesus Christ, and about 80 inmates attend worship each Sunday. The Mbanga Prison ministry began in 2015 as a part of our ministry. A baptistry had to be built in the prison as 20 have been immersed into Christ. Most of the prisoners attend worship. This is an outreach that is sometimes overlooked even in our own country.
We will begin to do quarterly training of wives of Wotutu students by teaching a series of short courses that are being developed by Robin Martin. Robin was a part of the preacher’s wives program in Denver, while her husband, Randy, was attending the Bear Valley Bible Institute. Robin will teach the first course in December when she and Randy travel to Cameroon. Randy is an elder and the minister of the South Twin Cities church of Christ in Rosemount, Minnesota. We know that the preacher’s wives will do much of the teaching of the children in the congregations, and we feel that it is important to prepare them for this work as well.
Efforts to promote basic education—reading and writing are conducted. We know the value of Christian education and are doing all within our ability to make it known in the communities around Wotutu. We started with the very young and empty minds of the kids in Brightland Christian Academy and now we are taking it gradually to the parents with what we call Adult Literacy Classes. We are teaching people for free to come and learn how to read and write in the evenings after they return from their farms. Through this media we are being able to help people improve their lives, but more important to know about God and His word.
Evangelism is our Mission and our Mission is Evangelism. We continue to transplant into the heads of our students the 4 Gs, which stands for Gaining, Grounding, Growing, and Glorifying. This goal can only be attained as we go out to share the message—strengthening, developing leadership, and praising God for all His goodness.