The path to becoming a native church planter is not always straight and smooth; for one local missionary in West Africa, it began with coming to Christ after getting poisoned.
Yacouba Sanou* had helped his father, a Muslim traditional healer, in black magic as far back as he could remember. Knowledge of spell-casting and other occultic practices formed part of his armor and arsenal as a young man active in politics, but it left him defenseless against a poison attack by a political opponent.
“My whole body was swollen, and I found it hard to walk,” Sanou said. “I was convinced that I would soon die, so I left home and traveled five hours by bus to stay with my older sister.”
A friend visiting his Muslim sister had heard of a church that prayed for sick people and, though not a Christian, she persuaded his sister to bring him there.
“My sister eventually took me – early one morning, so as not to be seen,” Sanou said. “The service started, and then before the time of prayer for healing, someone prophesied about me, ‘God has chosen this man to do His work!’”
Congregation members later prayed for him, and though he continued to suffer, he sensed the presence of God for the first time. He returned the following weeks, receiving prayer several times and steadily recovering.
“It was during this time that I decided to follow Christ, and from then on I didn’t practice Koranic magic anymore,” he said. “When my father learned that I had become a Christian, he sent people to make me recant, but they couldn’t force me. I had received my healing from the Lord, and there was no way that I could turn back to Islam.”
For nine months he went into hiding in another village, where he met a Muslim woman who later put her faith in Christ and became his wife. A native ministry gave him pastoral training and he assumed leadership of a church, but it was not until the ministry gave him and his wife vocational training that they were able to plant a new church in a new area.
The leader of the native ministry said Sanou and his wife spent four months in vocational training, where he learned to run a grain mill and she learned tailoring. The native ministry then sent them to a village to search for a “person of peace,” a welcoming presence through which to begin ministry (Luke 10:6).
“We thank God that they were able to identify a person of peace within two months, and they started a Bible study with his family,” the ministry leader said. “They have seen people coming to Christ at the home of the person of peace.”
Area villagers who previously had to go great distances to get their grain milled were grateful for Sanou’s service, and his wife also built relationships and good will as she earned additional income making women’s clothing, the leader said.
“Now, by the grace of God, after 10 months of ministry, there is a community of believers for the first time in this village,” he said.
Vocational training is strategic for giving local missionaries access to the unreached amid widespread poverty, and it is especially crucial during times of economic downturn worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.
The native ministry plans to send 90 local missionaries, each at least partially self-supporting with skills to generate income from small businesses, to plant churches in West Africa.
“Training is very strategic, as we need well-trained laborers to do the harvest, and also, without such training, the laborers would not be able to serve well in the field,” the ministry leader said.
Vocational training was pivotal in the life of another emerging church leader whose journey involved a winding path from Islam. Abdoul Kabore*, a graduate of Koranic school who was regarded as surly and troubled in his native village, was suffering from foot and hand pain when a local missionary met him through an area “man of peace.”
The missionary invited him to a group Bible study, and Kabore began visiting him at his workshop to hear more biblical stories. The local missionary also gave him an audio Bible in Kabore’s native tongue.
Kabore trusted in Christ for his salvation, and as his relationship with the Lord grew, his foot and hand pain vanished. More relaxed, warm and confident, Kabore left his solitary ways and began to connect more with people in the community, the ministry leader said.
When his family noticed that he had stopped saying ritual Muslim prayers, relatives and others in the village pressured him to renounce Christ. The local missionary encouraged him to persevere. The worker saw Kabore had potential as an emerging leader and recommended he sign up for vocational training.
A shepherd once skilled only at caring for cows, goats and sheep in the savannah, Kabore is now learning carpentry and church leadership, and he is making more friends.
“Abdoul longs for his family and community to know Christ,” the ministry leader said. “Along with 53 other trainees this year, he is being equipped to go to make disciples in places where there is no church.”
The training incurs costs for materials and other instructional tools, transportation to and from the training site, health care and food and accommodation. Please consider a donation today to help provide training to workers in three West African countries.
*Names changed for security reasons