By Bulus Silas Bossan
Bringing God’s love and hope to rural villages in West Africa is a daunting challenge. Most people in rural areas are devout followers of the major religion that dominates the region. Navigators often need permission from resistant village chiefs. Illiteracy rates and poverty are high. In some areas, there is a risk of terrorism.
But God is opening doors to reach these areas by equipping college students from rural areas to return to their villages after they graduate. About 70 percent of college students in West Africa come from rural villages.
Therefore, one of our African Navigator leaders, David (not his real name), has established a discipleship and training ministry that equips and encourages rural-born students to return with the Gospel to their home villages. They are already trusted and respected within their relational networks, giving the Gospel natural access.
David says, “We want them to gain a heart for missions before they graduate, to be creative and intentional in how they bring the Gospel to these needy areas and villages.”
David’s forums are designed to build strong relationships among participants. He noticed that many Navigator students and emerging leaders were scattered around the region and isolated from one another. So, instead of individually discipling them, he decided to train them as a group in a central location (Togo). Here students and campus workers from four Francophone nations forge friendships, deepen their understanding of the Scriptures, and learn the art of disciple-making.
One example is Gana (not his real name), a forum participant who grew up in a rural village and then attended college in a major West Africa city. He first met some Navigators in a local church. They encouraged him to pray about getting more involved in reaching people for Christ while establishing his career.
Eventually God called Gana to serve the young people in his rural home. As a first step, he decided to spend three months in Togo at David’s discipleship forum. For Gana, this was a life-changing experience. The forum gave him the vision, training and relational network needed to start a rural youth ministry.
With a college degree Gana was qualified to serve as the administrator of a school for underprivileged rural children. Working at the school enabled him to educate rural children and gain rapport with the community. The school offers children a healthy learning environment, at least one meal per day, textbooks and excellent teachers.
Then Gana decided to set up an annual week-long Bible camp for students, in partnership with the school. He teamed up with a Navigator woman named Asa (not her real name) who he met at David’s forum in Togo. They began the camp with about 35 students in 2013. In 2017, they had about 80 students. This growth has occurred because young people enjoy the camp so much that they invite their friends. And, seeing the positive impact of the camp, parents in the village are eager to send their children.
By serving the students through the school and camp, Navigators like Gana and Asa have gained the trust and freedom needed to introduce the Gospel in personal and relevant ways.
Please pray for our work in rural West Africa, that God would continue to sustain David’s discipleship forums, and that He would bear much fruit through our Navigators at the school and camp.
Canadian Navigator Brendan Danielson provided the reporting for this article.
Bulus Silas Bossan, born and raised in Nigeria, has served as the Navigator Regional Director for Africa since 2011. He and his wife, Salama, live in Nairobi, Kenya. They have four daughters.