The Biblical injunction, which instructs Christians to go into the world and preach the gospel, is one instruction so timely, as humanity faces the reality of the end time. Nigerian missionaries have, however, located mission fields in the neighbouring Republic of Benin where some unreached groups of people must hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. DAYO EMMANUEL encountered Christian missionaries in the Republic of Benin, who have been ‘sold out’ to the mission fields, surviving on stipends, just to make sure the gospel is preached and heard. He writes:
Republic of Benin is Nigeria’s next door neighbor on the west coast. Despite geographical, cultural, and language barriers, Nigerian missionaries are trying their best to evangelise the unreached villages; sharing the love of Christ to peasants who are yet to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
Evangelist Olusina Sadiku, has a passion for evangelism and missions, he has staged series of crusades and evangelical outreaches in Nigeria and beyond. From his Ibadan, Nigeria base, he has found treasures of souls in the Republic of Benin, where he has defiled language barriers to minister among the Barubas, Fulanis and other tribes in the northern part of the francophone nation. The Republic, of Benin sharing boarder with Togo to the west, by Nigeria to the east and by Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, has since opened its doors to the gospel from Nigerian neighbours.
With its capital in Porto-Novo, and seat of government in Cotonou, the country’s largest city and economic capital, Benin Republic covers an area of approximately 115,000 square kilometers (42,000 sq mi), with a population of approximately 9.98 million. The climate is tropical, sub-Saharan and the nation depends largely on agriculture, with substantial employment and income arising from subsistence farming.
A majority of the population live on its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin, part of the Gulf of Guinea in the northernmost tropical portion of the Atlantic Ocean.
Though the official capital of the geographical area formerly referred to as Dahomey French, there are other indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba which are commonly spoken.
The largest religious group in the republic is Roman Catholicism, followed closely by Islam, Vodun and Protestantism.
From the 17th to the 19th century, the main political entities in the area were the Kingdom of Dahomey along with the city-state of Porto-Novo and a large area with many different tribes to the north. This region was referred to as the Slave Coast from as early as the 17th century due to the large number of slaves shipped to the New World during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. After slavery was abolished, France took over the country and renamed it French Dahomey. In 1960, Dahomey gained full independence from France, and had a tumultuous period with many different democratic governments, many military coups and military governments.
Newswatch Times, however, engaged the missionaries operating in the northern part of the country, fulfilling their part of the great commission of Christ. Talking about what gives him the passion to forge ahead in the missionary efforts, Sadiku said, “number one, it is God’s divine leading, number two, it is ministering to the people and finding them accepting Christ. This is the joy that makes us to continue.”
Operating under the platform of Olusina Sadiku World Outreach and in partnership with missionaries on ground, said the majority of Christians do not know anything about missions.
“Generally, it is very few Christians that know about missions, the majority do not know and the few that know about it don’t do it; I was speaking with a very close friend, who is also a banker, and he saw some of the pictures and he was amazed; even in his own church, they are just acquiring properties. According to him, he said they have not even finished building their church and the ministry is seeking to build a camp ground somewhere, while they are putting the money, they don’t even have money to give to missions like this,” he said.
Talking about ministries that often concentrate on the urban and so called viable areas, forgetting the rural areas, the alumnus of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, who ministered at the open air crusade in Hare, Northern Benin, he said: “That is why the Bible says this gospel must be preached to all nations and then, the end would come, so God is not happy that this gospel is not preached, we are just concentrating efforts to one side, like I personally believe that the church in Nigeria have the capacity of reaching all the nooks and crannies of this country but unfortunately, that is not being done, it is so sad; we concentrate all our efforts on a particular area and God is not happy as we neglect the rural and unreached areas.”
Talking about how his mission is funded, Sadiku confirmed that he was funded by friends who believe in what he was doing on the fields. “We are funded by the support of brethren, people of like minds who understand missions and who know that it goes beyond my church thing but see it as a kingdom thing, and they are supporting. Basically, we are solely trusting the Lord for our funding,” he said.
Pastor Oluwasegun Raphael Adepoju is a missionary resident in Nikki town, Republic of Benin. He’s so conversant with the terrain after 10 years on the field. He operates with the Christ for Rural Area Ministry (CRAM), and relayed his experience.
“This November will make it 11 years that we have been here. When we got here on transfer since there was no church, we had to start from the scratch, and we thank God for all He has done and how far He has helped us.”
On his challenges on the field, Raphael, who is on the field with his family, said mobility is one great obstacle. “There are lots of challenges including mobility, language barriers and the fast spread of Islam. But to the glory of God, He is helping us to reach the unreached places. But if God helps us and we get mobility, we would be able to do more. This mobility includes cars and motor cycles because of the difficult terrain. For instance, we have missionaries in difficult terrains here including Bakessina, Burore, Kourel among other villages.”
Adepoju, whose church attendant has gone beyond 70, said the harvest is indeed ripe but the labourers are few. “The Fulanis in the north of Benin Republic I can say are ripe for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. But for the Barubas here, it is a bit difficult to break through to them, but God is helping us in this regard as well. We thank God for giving us few people from the indigenes. We have Beninoirs here and we have few Barubas also in the church. We have about seven branches on the field, but in Parakou area, we have about six so all together we have about 13. Our General Overseer is Rev. Sam Olanrewaju, he is from Rore in Kwara State,” he said.
On how the mission is funded, Raphael told Newswatch Times that, mission work is best done trusting God and not man. “We trust God, all we do here is from our property we are selling to move on with the work, we get stipends from the headquarters and that is what we manage.”
He added that, “we also raise rabbits, but unfortunately, there is no market for it, we have raised, at a time, about 200 rabbits, we have spent much from our little stipends to build cages for them and they have done so well, but the challenge is market, there is no market; if we get market for them, it could augment income and we would have a little more to fund the work from our end.”
Another missionary in one of the fields was Pastor Andrae Salifu, a Nigerian born Beninoir, who also told Newswatch Times how he fared on the field.
“I am from Benin Republic, but born in Nigeria. The work is moving on, the Lord is confirming His word. My mission field is at Burore, there is no day that I go to struggle for people to come to church, people come on their own, they would come that they want to accept Christ, so that is the grace the Lord gives us; if someone brings problems and we pray, the Lord will remove the problem, so there is no time we pray that the Lord does not prove himself,” he said.
On his challenges on the field, Salifu, a photographer, who also speaks seven different languages including Fulfulde, French, Yoruba, English, Tamari, Baruba, said: “The challenge here is that number one, they have some local gods they worship, the idols are their problem, but God is doing wonders here, another problem here is that we have not found enough volunteers for the work, the number two is that, we are not mobilized; we don’t have instrument like motor bikes for mobility, if we have more support, the work would go further and be easier too.”
Also on Sadiku’s team are two other pastors, who told Newswatch Times that the harvest is truly ripe but with few labourers. According to Pastor Akin Ajiboye, “going on mission is biblical and every Christian must see this reality. It is not enough to concentrate on cities and fighting for members when souls are perishing in the rural areas, I think Christians should have a rethink on this.” In his own comment, Pastor Ajayi on the team was worried about the ignorance of Christian clerics on mission.
“It is a clear-cut injunction to go into the entire world and preach the gospel. I wonder why people today are building empires in the cities and neglecting the unreached people. I can say that we Christians are delaying the second coming of Jesus Christ when they neglect his injunction of going into the entire world to preach the gospel,” Ajayi said.
Christians must, however, look beyond comfort and go into the rural places to fish out the unreached and show them the love of Christ. It is obvious that not all can be on the mission field, but it is real that if Christians cannot go physically, they can as well send their support in cash by encouraging those who have volunteered.
In all, the Republic of Benin is said to be lucky to have a caring neighbour in Nigeria. This is because missionaries with the mission to reach out are already breaking new frontiers to share the love of Christ away from their comfort zones to reach the unreached with the gospel.
- Written by DAYO EMMANUEL after his trip to the Republic of Benin and first published June 2015 in Newswatch Times newspaper.