Home Features “Doing missions in the North is like signing your death warrant”

“Doing missions in the North is like signing your death warrant”

by Church Times

Global Mandate Conference missions series (2)

Bitrus  Mathaware would have been a victim of a cruel culture while growing up.

He was the eighth child of his mother in a polygamous setting. Unfortunately, the tradition of his people in Gwoza Local Government area of Borno State is not kind to the eighth child of a woman. Such child is seen as a bringer of bad luck.

Mathaware states, “In our culture (Glavda) in those days, the eighth child of a woman is considered to be evil. It is believed that the child would ruin the destinies of other children in the family or cut the parents’ life short.

“It was also believed that if nothing was done the child would turn out to be the only successful person in the family. Therefore, they used to throw away the eighth child to die or the child is killed. They never allowed them to live or stay around the family because of that belief. Hardly would you see the eighth child of a  woman grow beyond the first five years in those days.” he explained.

But rather than have him killed, his father thought of a more dignifying way of doing away with him. He planned to send him to Mora in Cameroon to study Qur’an at the age of 5. The plan was that when he goes to Cameroun, he would not be able to find his way back home.

His mother however opposed the idea. She could not bear the pain of doing away with her child.

Reason prevailed. Both father and mother had to live with the eighth child contrary to tradition.

Bitrus Mathaware got saved

Instead of bringing bad luck to the family, Mathaware got born again in December 1992. Some evangelists from the Christian Missionary Foundation came to do missions in the North. He attended their programme and got saved. He was just about 17 at that time.

Four years after his conversion, the Lord began to call him to missions. He struggled with the call for two years, until on August 2, 1998, when he and some people visited a parish of the Church of Christ in Nigeria on one island called Sigir in Lake Chad.

He recalled, “It was a Sunday. We got to the church just at the time the preacher for that day was to preach. The title of his message was, “Jonah Fled from the Presence of God.”

The whole of what he preached was speaking to me. After struggling in my heart to surrender to God’s calling or not, I made up my mind that I was going to answer God’s call. And I did it right there in the church between me and God. I said I am going to answer this call, if I perish, I perish.” That is how I became a missionary.”

He went through strategic training on missions in the CMF and has since yielded his all.

Mission work begins

Mathaware states, “When I surrendered to God’s call in 1998 and returned home, the pioneer missionary told me that he was leaving. He said God told him that his work in this place had finished and that he had a leading to hand over the work to me.

“I was afraid, I told myself “what do I know?” But God took control. In 1999 the church was handed over to me. After I took over many converts were added to the church.

“Today, many of those converts are now missionaries working in different mission fields, and some are pioneering work among other people groups.”

He recalled that many of those who joined the Church did so because they saw the demonstration of God’s power and ability to heal and deliver.

“Many came with one sickness or the other all were healed to the glory of God with the exception of one boy. But the grace of God was able to hold the boy and keep him in faith.”

God’s miraculous work

Mathaware said he had witnessed several miracles. “This year alone I have seen a young man suffering from cancer healed after praying for him. A woman was healed from impending paralysis. On the 9th of October this year, I was called upon to pray for a woman that was about to give up the ghost. I prayed for her, and after the prayer, to God’s glory, she was healed instantly. She testified that after the prayer, something went out of her body and she regained consciousness.”

He also told the story of an elderly woman in her 50s. “The woman had tears in her eyes. I asked what the problem was. She told me that she was suffering from High Blood Pressure, ulcer, severe headache, typhoid, etc. I laid my hand on her and prayed for her. After I returned the following week she was completely healed.

“On  28 of November, I prayed for a lady in Badagry on the phone from my base in the North. She was severely sick and was on drip. She hardly could talk. After two days when I called to ask about her condition, she was completely healed. There have been several other cases of healing of people with insanity, epilepsy, and many others I can’t possibly recall. God has been faithful. The work here is being accompanied with signs and wonders.”  Mathaware said.

The CMF work and the trials

The CMF according to him has several discipleship centres and Bible clubs in the North East. About 150 people are currently going through discipleship class while over 900 have embraced Jesus in the year 2022.

Mathaware has also had to battle opposition from his own people. But all the attacks according to him have only helped to strengthen him.

The most challenging issue for him now is the insecurity in the North. “For the past 9 years, our communities have been sacked, our houses and churches burnt and destroyed. I have lost my biological son to death after a one-day illness. I have lost six of my brothers to Boko Haram insurgence. All these are painful experiences of reality that I have had to live with.”

The work on the field has also been greatly hampered because the ministry does not have vehicles to move around. “Thieves broke into our house and went away with my motorcycle last year. I have been unable to replace it. So it’s really challenging to move around to do missions given the topography of where we stay. Beyond this is the question of daily survival. It is challenging to feed these days for many of our members.”

Read also: From 3 to 500 Children: Amazing account of Femi Arowaji, a children’s missionary in Badeku, Oyo State:https://churchtimesnigeria.net/from-3-500-arowaji/

The insecurity challenge

Many according to him have abandoned missions in the North because of the insecurity of lives and property. “Most of the mission organizations who were working in the North have pulled out and redeployed their missionaries to safer areas due to insecurity in the region. The work of missions in the northeast has been reduced to the barest minimum level with no churches in the villages. The missionaries on ground are more into discipleship instead of church planting and erection of visible structures.”

Global Mandate Conference

Mathaware says he got to know the Global Mandate Conference of Agape General International Church in 2019. “I attended the conference of 2019 and 2020. The two times I attended GMC was a refreshing moment for me.

“The teachings I got, the interactions I had with colleagues in the ministry, the accommodation, and the food we ate was fantastic. And in the end, they paid for our transportation to and fro. The whole program served as encouragement to me to forge ahead in the work. We are grateful to God for what he is using them to do to touch the lives of the missionaries across the country and beyond.”

Vision of CMF

CMF according to Mathaware focuses on unreached people groups. “We also reach out to internally displaced people in camps and other places with the holistic gospel. Over the years, God has used us to mobilize help for the IDPs from different corners worth millions of naira to support them to the glory of God. Presently, we have three discipleship centers among IDPs”

Labourers are few

Mathaware however laments that the work in the field is enormous. “There are only a handful of people working. Even among the few that are working, many are getting exhausted and frustrated due to lack of fruitfulness in the work, lack of financial support, and encouragement. There is also the threat to life we face on daily basis. Many fields have been deserted and overrun by terrorists and kidnappers. In recent years there are reports of missionaries leaving the mission fields in search of other jobs so they could provide for their families despite the obvious call of God upon their lives.

Need for more prayers and support

He called for more prayers and support for missionaries from established churches adding, “What we need most in the missions field is God’s presence. Anybody may abandon you, but God will never leave you. It is the presence of God that makes the difference.”

Mathaware notes further, “This is the most appropriate time to trust God. The just shall live by his faith. Doing missions in the North is like signing your death warrant.  It has never been easy from the beginning, and it has worsened in recent years with the security challenges 

“The advent of Boko Haram has made many missions organisations restrategize their approach to missions in the North. Some have resorted to diaspora missions instead of sending people to the North of Nigeria.”

There is hope

He however expressed confidence that the work in the North though challenging is doable. “The mission was never easy for Paul. He faced many dangers. Yet, that did not deter him from doing the work in the face of the dangers. All we need is God’s wisdom and leading. The work of missions in the north is not safe but with God on our side, it is doable.”

Note:  You can be a blessing to missionaries in Nigeria and from across Africa with your resources. Plans are underway for the 2023 Global Mandate Conference. It is a platform that brings missionaries together from all parts of Nigeria and Africa. If God is leading you to support missionaries kindly contact

Deacon Leslie Johnson +2348033047831
Mrs. Tolu Dawodu

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1 comment

Eugene December 7, 2022 - 6:48 pm

Bitrus Mattaware is an alumnus of West Africa Theological Seminary, Lagos, Nigeria, and a graduate of Intercultural Studies. WATS is a nondenominational seminary that trains Christian workers for Africa’s harvest.
I met Bitrus Mattaware in Maiduguri in Borno State in a Deeper Life Bible Church, Ngoshe, as WATS Spring board missionary.
His elder brother James was the pastor of the DLBC in Ngoshe. By then we worked with the Church Missionary Foundation (CMF) missionary, Rev. Timothy Ogunbowale (now Olunbowale), and an Anglican reverend.
During that trip, the missionary shared work to the Springboard missionaries, and I was sent to led prayers in the DLBC . Twenty eight years later until 2018, I met Bitrus at WATS. I couldn’t tell him by face and neither did I know he was in the prayer meeting of that day in the church. In fact, I can’t recall who and who were there, including the pastor of the church. All I could recall was that I led a prayer meeting in that church that day.
However, Bitrus’ elder brother, the pastor had told him to locate the missionary who conducted a prayer meeting in their church. He even told him my name.
I was sharing questionnaires in a class where Bitrus and his colleagues were having lectures, but on break. When he saw the name on the questionnaire, he asked if I was the one and I said yes. He exclaimed and hugged me and said his elder brother had told him to locate me when he comes to WATS. But that’s twenty eight years ago.
I couldn’t recognise him, but I remembered there’s such a place where we did missionary work several years ago. Unfortunately, this is a place overrun by Boko Haram insurgents now.
I can recall vividly we worked with the CMF missionary, who worked with the EYN church in Ashigashiya. He raised a band of disciples whom we led in Bible studies then, and Bitrus was one of them. I trust also the others may be somewhere working for God. And may the good Lord continue to bless them and the work they’re doing.
We paid a courtesy visit to the chief of the village when we arrived and we visited many places, including climbing the Ngoshe mountain. We left for the place early in the morning and with the assistance of our tour guide got to mountain where we had fellowship with the church there. We returned late in the evening.
We also went to Kirawa, across the Cameroun borders, where we visited the Leprosarium and ministered to the brethren there. It’s an adventurous mission.
Missions is the heartbeat of God. And God manifest Himself in the missions field more than He does in the City churches. A little prayer you offer in the missions field gets God’s answer faster more than days of fasting and prayer in the comfort of your home or church. We can go, give and pray for missions. And may God help us to give, go and pray for missions. And may God bring to an end terrorism, violence, kidnapping, killings and all manner of wickedness in Nigeria.


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