We wrapped up our convention this afternoon and will be departing from Bafoussam very early
in the morning. The morning was very cool and overcast. In the final moments of receiving
communion together, which served as the last session of the convention, the clouds blackened
and at the final amen the floodgates opened, and it poured for the next few hours. It’s a good
thing I was not long-winded since we were in the open air! As everyone made a mad dash for a
place under the tents or to their vehicles or buses, I took some time to reflect.
My three messages for the conference came from 2 Timothy 4:1–5: Preach the Word, Persevere
in the Word, and Progress in the Word. There was an overwhelming response to the Word and
Joseph Ngwani (our ITEM coordinator for Cameroon) was inundated with requests to bring
ITEM training to various parts of Cameroon. I’m grateful that so many were encouraged and
edified. However, whenever I come to Africa, I’m challenged in new ways and humbled by the
struggles so many pastors face.
A recurring refrain in my messages for the convention has been the theme of suffering. In fact,
Paul mentions suffering three times in 2 Timothy warning him of the certainty of suffering, but
also inviting him to not be ashamed to suffer. The pastors in many areas of Cameroon are
undergoing intense suffering due to the civil unrest.
Cameroon is an interesting country in that it is comprised of both former British (Anglophone)
and French (Francophone) territories combined into a single country. The Anglophone areas are
primarily the Northwest and Southwest and the Francophone areas comprise the rest of the
country. In 1960, Cameroon was granted independence from the French. In the aftermath of
independence, there was a concerted effort to establish French cultural hegemony, which resulted
in the increasing marginalization of the minority Anglophone population. The unrest simmered
Adding to the ethnic unrest is the political destabilization. Cameroon is officially a republic
comprised of a multiparty system. Paul Biya captured the presidency in 1982 and has remained
in power ever since through rigging elections, curtailing the freedom of the press, disallowing
opposition activities, and employing the resources of the state for political patronage. In 2008, he
abolished the election laws and essentially made himself president for life.
Able to bear the oppression no longer, Anglophone activists began to protest in 2016. When Biya
suppressed the protests, the Anglophone regions declared independence in 2017. Subsequently,
Biya sent in his military forces to crush the opposition. The Anglophones responded by engaging
in guerilla warfare. The conflict has led to the displacement of almost one million people and the
tragic deaths of many thousands. Horrible reports of human atrocities abound on both sides. As if
this situation were not tragic enough, the Boko Horam terrorist group have made their way from
Nigeria into the North of Cameroon and are beginning to wreak havoc.
There were many pastors attending the convention that faithfully shepherd the flock of God in
these war-torn areas. For these pastors, suffering is not an ethereal subject to pontificate about
but an everyday reality they face. My first-world notion of suffering pales in comparison to the
suffering of these pastors and the people they lead. One pastor who was presented at the
convention had his house burned down by security forces because he was simply a pastor. These
faithful brothers and sisters are my heroes. I was grateful and deeply humbled for the opportunity
to encourage them to remain true to the Savior and to faithfully proclaim the Word of God
despite intense persecution.
I pray God will use my feeble efforts in some way to bless, encourage, and strengthen these dear
brothers and sisters on the front lines. Would you also join me in saying a prayer for Cameroon?
Until next time..