Evangelist Don Ekanem, President of Growing Seed Int’l Missions had traveled to the Republic of Benin from Nigeria in June 2022 for an outreach.
But as soon as the programme ended, an unusual burden filled his soul. It was a burden for the people in the country. That made him stay back.
He soon discovered there was a scarcity of God’s word; and then a widespread witchcraft practice among the people.
Idolatry with church worship
Many of those who go to the church on the other hand have managed to combine their idolatry with their voodoo practice
Ekanem told Church Times that many of the churches also use objects. They do this to give the people a semblance of what they get in their shrines.
These were what he met on the ground in June 2022 when he decided to stay back in the country. And he was poised to change the narrative. The first thing he did was a prayer walk to claim the land for Jesus.
He was also determined to start preaching the good news. He had a loudspeaker and a collapsible pulpit.
He had thought of going from street to street preaching the gospel. But the law of the country is against noise. “You don’t play loud music in the public place.
“And you don’t do open-air crusades with loudspeakers. So those who want to hold crusades have to rent a hall for that purpose. But then, I was introduced Dantokpa Mistsebo, the biggest market in the country where people are allowed to use loudspeakers,” he disclosed.
It was in that market that he began his evangelical work “There is no corner of the market in question that we have not taken the gospel to. It is quite gratifying as many people are coming to know Jesus.”
Change their orientation
Apart from preaching to non-believers, he also looked for avenues to change the orientation of those already in the church. “the purpose is to discourage them from using objects in the place of worship.
“The Lord open many doors of ministry for me including the branch of a major Nigerian church. The church gave me the opportunity to train its members on evangelism and discipleship. We meet every last Friday of the month. They also provided me with interpreters when i go to preach among the locals. It has paid off.”
Ekanem said his romance with another ministry from Cote De’ Ivoire (Oasis De Dieu) Oasis of God has paid off. The ministry gave him a hand of fellowship and has been useful in facilitating conferences for pastors and church workers.
About 350 church leaders were in attendance at the first major conference they had. “My assignment is to charge up the church to be involved in soul-winning. And not just to win souls, but to do it the right way. We equip, encourage and train.” he said.
Snake and Republic of Benin
He noted further that the Republic of Benin was formerly known as Dahomey which means belly of a snake.
That probably explains why snake worship is prevalent in the country. Some of the people combine their worship of snakes and all kinds of idols with their church life.
Ekanem said, “The Benin Republic is a strong man’s house. It will take people who have a clear understanding of the gospel to evangelise the place not just people who want to populate their church.” he said
The canonisation of witchcraft by the government makes the situation worse. “The way we have a holiday for Christmas is also the same way they have a holiday for their voodoo worship. The government accepts witchcraft as the country’s official religion. And it is well respected.
“They are very fetish and so proud of it. I was preaching to some young men. An elderly man came to challenge me. He was into voodoo and had a shrine in his house. I had to engage the elderly man in a conversation so he wont pollute the minds of the young people. I discovered he was a well read person who had lived and studied in the US before coming back home. That is the calibre of people given to the voodoo in the land.”
Ekanem said he had also lived in a house where the former occupant was the head of witches in the community. On the roof of that apartment he would hear strange sound every night. But he was not hurt in any way.
He recounted how an evangelist came to hold a programme in the country. “When the evangelist asked how many of them were snakes almost all the people in the hall put up their hands. It is common to see some people tatoo snake on their bodies. It is that bad.” he said.
Conversion rate slow
While noting that quite a number are coming to Jesus he said, “the conversion rate is slow.”
“it is because they are receptive that is why we can boast of result to some extent. They allow me to preach in their homes. What I do is to stay in their balconies instead of going inside so that other people passing by can benefit from the preaching.”
Ekanem reasoned that a home cell fellowship is more effective in reaching them for Christ rather than asking them to come to church since many of them are averse to Church.
He observed that the big churches in Nigeria don’t have a strong presence in the country despite the country’s closeness to Nigeria. “We need to evangelise that country because we have the resources to do so. We are too complacent here in Nigeria. Beyond evangelising we must make disciples. Evangelical churches in Nigeria should set up their outreaches in the Republic of Benin, it will go a long way to help the people.”
Read also: My vision is to help churches build evangelism culture-Don Ekanem: https://churchtimesnigeria.net/vision-build-evangelism-culture/
He counseled further that believers should strengthen their walk with God and make him their priority in the year 2023. ‘I want Christians to see this year as their year of holy living and evangelism. There are so many themes that parade. It is common to hear people say, My year of breakthrough, My year of miracles, etc. But let us for once make 2023 a year where we will give more attention to evangelism and live for God. It should be a year of increased fellowship with God. If we strengthen our fellowship with God, it will be easy to live for him.”