Four years ago when I met Eric in Cotonou, Benin (West Africa), he was a young university student. A year ago he had discovered our French broadcast, Perspectives Réformées, and was converted to the Reformed Faith. At the end of our conversation I asked Eric what his plans were after graduating. I remember his response as if it were yesterday: "Do you remember what you have written in one of your books about that Dutch gentleman, pastor, theologian, professor of theology, founder of University, journalist, philosopher and Prime minister, Abraham Kuyper? I WANT TO BECOME THE ABRAHAM KUYPER OF AFRICA."
During my recent visit to Benin, I met him again; we had been asked to give a lecture in his University. He had started a young Christian people's movement, with the motto: "TO SAVE THE SOUL OF AFRICA." He is one of the most promising future leaders of the continent. No wonder he has been elected, a Christian, as the president of all University students of Bénin. (Some time ago, before his stepping down from his position, the "Christian" president of the country had decreed VOODOO to be the official state religion of Bénin!). Eric has now received a scholarship to attend one of the most prestigious European universities, in Louvain, Belgium.
"To Save the Soul of Africa" is inspired by the Biblical and Reformed convictions which our broadcast in Africa (as well as in Canada and Europe) has proclaimed now for more than twenty-six years.
Thanks to the untiring interest of Rousas John Rushdoony, it has been possible for me, after my "official retirement" in June 1995, to visit again "The Beloved Continent," its "crying children," a huge wound on the Heart of Humanity. My son Eric, who is attending the Potchefstroom's Theological School in South Africa, accompanied me during this trip last June and July. What he saw, observed and witnessed, what he experienced during the rather short visit to four of Western African countries (Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo) has confirmed him in his calling, and conviction, that he must enter such a ministry, after his graduation very soon.
Report on the Africa Trip
In Douala, Pastor Bernard M., leader of a small denomination, which seceded from one of the most "bizarre African cults," is despairing, nevertheless very confident too, for the renewal and reformation of Christianity in Africa. "Mon Pasteur, we can no longer be satisfied," he tells me at our very first meeting, "with clapping hands, shaking heads and with dancing and prancing, shouting endless Alleluias, to express our Faith. We urgently need solid Biblical training, and appeal to you to help in this respect." Space does not allow me to reproduce in totality his letter explaining the plight of African Christianity. Books, cassettes, correspondence courses are being sent to Douala and Yaoundé the capital, as well as to other parts of the starving-for-reformation continent and crying to "Save our Soul." In the face of the needs we sigh because of the extremely limited resources at our disposal and the adequate help which has been denied to such a ministry.
In Yaounde, Vincent de Paul B. is one of my most faithful correspondents. For some years he has attended a theological school with some very strange Reformed doctrines, such as premilleniarism and dispensationalism. No wonder my books are "outlawed and put on the index" by the American Director. Vincent de Paul can no more stand these and several other oddities; he with some of his friends have decided, whatever the price, to start a really Reformed by the Spirit and the Word Church.
The first time I had met with Joseph N. in Abidjan Cotonou, he was a shy 22-year-old listener. He had traveled, almost on foot, all through his town, some 200 kilometers from the capital. For several years I had lost track of him. A couple of years ago he surfaced. He has entered the ministry. He expressed his strong conviction for a genuinely Reformed church. When I met him again in June, he reminded me what I had said during our first meeting: "Joseph, do the work of an Evangelist." As we were discussing the ecclesiastical situation in the country, I ventured the idea that something serious could be undertaken there. The reaction of Joseph was sudden and almost shocking. "Mon pere," he said, "were it not for those words you just uttered, our meeting, even your visit to Abidjan would have been useless! We are ready to undertake such an action." When I observed that the material means were not sufficient, and his health and economical condition with six children precarious, he bluntly reacted: "God will provide. This is not time to hesitate for such reasons." Joseph is dissatisfied with the church, which other correspondents tell me, has a very shallow preaching and teaching not helping grow in faith and in action. Like in Cameroon, a new Reformed denomination is being officially started, here too.
While the car, a specimen of a splendid production, probably of the forties or fifties (had the old Latins seen this vestigia of the automobile industry, they no doubt would have exclaimed: sic transit gloria mundi), was taking us from Man to Danané, in Ivory Coast, the two young ministers, Bernard and Patrice, were curious to know what my name Kayayan meant. I explained its Armenian origin. "Do you know that in our local language, Kayayan means Watcher?" I knew that when preaching to the congregation I needed to completely modify my sermon! My message would be about "Watchers" over the African Soul. The congregation had come already the previous evening. But "Air Ivoire" flight (which many call Air-Perhaps perhaps it will take off, perhaps it will . . . land), had detained us. People had come again early the following morning. To be "Watcher" and announce the coming of the dawn: what a privilege in the heart of the suffering continent! These churches will now join Joseph and others to form the New Reformed denomination in Ivory Coast.
In Lome, Togo, after an adventurous and highly risky ride, in the hands of an uncautious young chauffeur jumping over holes and almost flying over the curves we landed late in the evening. My surprise was great. When we arrived on that Friday evening, people had come from three hundred kilometers on Monday and were waiting in the lobby of the hotel. We had a rather short time to meet and discuss ecclesiastical and doctrinal matters, but time was used with great profit. Pastor Afan of Lomé and his council, many others, had one request: How to start a Church on a Biblical and Reformed basis. The denomination(s) they belonged to were the type of a moralistic type one discovers on every step, and even some very queer groups. Like in Cameroon, and Ivory Coast, those dissatisfied have decided to start a new church. They are listeners of our broadcast, readers of our literature, correspondents of many years.
In Bénin, several churches have already been established as a Reformed denomination. The amazing alertness of teenagers, some of them scarcely between 16 or 17 with a keen interest for the Reformed Faith, has been one of the rewards while visiting Africa. Invigorating too, for the old minister that I am. Sylvestre Ciza is from Bujumbura, Burundi. He is one of the leaders of the newly established Reformed Evangelical denomination, with some ten churches in the country. Sylvestre has gone through unheard of tribulations and tortures. Twice his house has been burnt, and all the books he has received from us were stolen or destroyed. Recently he was beaten badly, his wife sexually molested, and his little child left in bad shape. His latest letter did not contain complaint; on the contrary, he expressed his determination to continue the ministry. He needs theological training. After many attempts to bring him to the States, I finally chose to direct him towards an evangelical Institute of Theology in Africa. His school fees and living expenses for the family will not exceed two thousand dollars a year. Plus his flight from Burundi to Ivory Coast. I am praying for the funds to come.
In this same Institute, the Faculty, the majority of them being highly qualified North American professors, as well as the more than fifty students, welcomed us almost triumphantly. All of them had received Calvin's Institutes and several of his commentaries, as well as hundreds of copies of our own literature.
In Rwanda, where I was planning to go two years ago, just before hell emptied its demons to devastate the country, we had seen the formation of a Reformed community with Donatila and her husband. It is useless to add that there is no longer a trace of them and I am without news from my friends.
A letter from the Central African Republic informs me of the events during the recent army riots. Our correspondent, a church leader, who uses our literature as a lending library, says that not only all his belongings were looted, but also all of Calvin's Institutes and commentaries and our publications were taken away as if they were the most precious items! Shall we lament or rejoice? The Lord may use these books and our cassettes for another purpose.
Letters from Congo and Burkina Fasso, Zambia and Tanzania, and Haiti, tell how much my broadcast, the literature, the personal correspondence, mean to hundreds of our friends, who are spiritually starving for the Word of God. They have no other Biblical and theological resources except that which we provide.
PerspectivesReformees, our French-language outreach, started in 1969, for the French-speaking world Canada, Europe, Africa, the Carribeans. From the very beginning our special concern was not only to use the radio waves but also the written material. More than 45 titles have been produced during those past years. Carmen, my wife, has helped me more than a simple "secretary." The large central-African country of Zaire alone counts more than 250 congregations (the Eglise Réformée Confessante). Two Reformed denominations, an American and a European one, are closely following the work started by our Broadcast ministry.
Regular visits to these countries, personal letters offering pastoral direction, and sending abroad more than ten students for theological training one of them in South Africa preparing now for his Ph.D. under the guidance and the powerful intervention of the Spirit and the Word, have contributed to the Biblical and Reformed understanding of the Christian Faith. A correspondence course called Didaskalia has registered several hundreds of young students. It consists of two levels:
Level A: basics of Christian Faith, with Introduction to OT and NT, Introduction to Christian doctrine, Catechism of Heidelberg - Explanation of Christian life, and Church history prepare in two years those who in their local churches may prove helpful in the ministry.
Level B: more advanced, with Biblical and Systematic theology, Ethics, Pastoral theology, Religions and Cults, Apologetics and Christian philosophy (Rousas J. Rushdoony's and Van Til's, translated into French, is one of the textbooks used in this last course). For lack of funds, the North American organization I served, may no more be able to assist me in this branch of the ministry. I am also trying to secure the official recognition of a French-speaking theological institute, which may deliver a diploma after the completion of the course.
One of the our latest undertakings is the constitution of an African Reformed Alliance (A.R.A), among the several denominations mentioned above. The project has been received very favorably.
"Shall Africa Die?" asks Ka Mana, an African Roman Catholic priest, in one of his books. The essay is one of the most brilliant and realistic analyses on the African situation I have ever read: a serious and urgent challenge to Africans to forsake forever their "mythologies and their fantasmagories and their servile aping of the West." As a Protestant, I have to admit that I often feel frustrated considering the absence of Protestant "thinkers" with the same intellectual power the Roman Catholics have produced. Protestant missions have undoubtedly achieved some good things. Yet one must objectively recognize that we have not been able to prepare elites such as the Roman Church has achieved!
Notwithstanding this, I was also saddened by the conclusion of the Roman Ka Mann. It expresses the philosophy to which we have been accustomed for some three decades: theologies of liberation, revolution, violence (though the author does not explicitly advocate them). Yet the thinking is also an expression, the natural outcome of the perennial Roman Catholic syncretism, and natural theology, plaguing Christianity since the Middle Ages.
Shall Africa die soon? It may, unless eyes, minds, and hearts are turned to the Lord of Africa, not to African despots, nor to Western vultures.
Eric A. has launched his: "To Save the Soul of Africa." Others, more modest, with their newly acquired Reformed convictions, are actively involved in such a task. The Word of God understood as Gospel and Law, will help Africa not only to survive but become a powerful witness in the face of the degenerate Western culture and civilization. To achieve that goal my African friends are aware that the "Africanization" of Christianity is futile. We seek rather the "Christianization" of Africa.
Will Western Reformed Christians understand not only what the plight of Africa is, but also get actively involved in a task, for which, as a couple, we are deprived of adequate means, unable to respond to crying needs.
P.S. (For some incredibly...unbelievable pretexts [excuse the redundancy] of insipid administration, our French Ministry until now called Perspectives Reformées, linked with my name and address, can no longer be used. Therefore this ministry will be called: "REFORMED LIFE AND FAITH."