Voodoo-dominated Benin opening to message of Christ

The West African country of Benin is emerging from darkness as the message of Christ spreads, Christian workers report. "The nation of Benin is now being blessed, and the open door for the Gospel goes hand in hand with the country’s growing stability," said Peter Darg, regional director for CBN WorldReach (see link #1 below) in West Africa.

...President Matthew Kerekou supports Christian ministries in the voodoo-dominated nation. The former Communist dictator became a Christian after he was ousted from power in 1991. He was elected president in a democratic election five years later. He often refers to his Christian faith in public speeches and addresses to Parliament, Darg said.

...Kerekou is called "pastor-president" because of his advocacy of Christianity. "He is very articulate and makes a strong argument for Christianity," Marti Roman, an Assemblies of God (see link #2 below) missionary to Benin, told Religion Today. He personally invited German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke (see link #3 below) to hold a crusade in the country and supports WorldReach’s broadcast and church-based evangelistic outreaches.

...WorldReach broadcasts Christian programs on Benin’s national TV station. In March the ministry began airing weekly half-hour programs produced by Virginia Beach-based Christian Broadcasting Network (see link #4 below). WorldReach is CBN’s global outreach division, designed to reach 3 billion people by 2001. Working through the Federation of Evangelical Churches, the ministry supports outreaches in remote regions of the country by supporting evangelists and church planters.

...More than 600,000 attended Bonnke’s January crusade in Cotonou, the capital. About 200,000 people became Christians, and workers distributed 120,000 follow-up booklets, Bonnke’s Christ for All Nation’s ministry said. Counselors from the 32 denominations and churches that participated are attempting to follow up on the converts. Bonnke and fellow evangelist Peter van den Berg ministered to 5,000 Christian leaders in daily conferences.

...Followers of voodoo were freed of demonic influences affecting their minds and bodies, Bonnke said. Believers in the dark religion seek to communicate with spirits through pagan rituals and can become possessed, causing physical sickness and mental torment, he said. "Escape from its serpent-like coils is impossible, except by the power of the Gospel."

...Christians need the power of God to confront and destroy the power of voodoo, Roman said. "Christians there have to live for Christ, because they are put to the test almost immediately." New believers are often thrown out of their homes and are sometimes beaten because they have left the traditional faith, he said. Churches have been burned and Christians’ lives threatened.

...Demonstrations of God’s protective power have convinced many to become Christians. Voodoo believers threatened to kill members of a Christian church in a southwestern village, Roman said. About 15 men came into the church with machetes on a Sunday morning and warned the worshipers not to return. The men gathered outside the church the next Sunday but wouldn’t come near it.

"They said large, muscular men in white robes were guarding the building," Roman said. "I believe they were angels."

...Voodoo worshipers are in awe of a Christian church in Akpome.Local voodoo followers donated land to Christian workers for the church, but intentionally put idols on the property to prevent them from building. Christian workers cut down the idols and built the church to the astonishment of the villagers, Baptist Press reported.

...When an indigenous Christian evangelist in the village refused to participate in voodoo rituals, witch doctors attempted to put a curse on him but failed, and one of the witch doctors mysteriously died a few days later. When the others asked the worker where his power came from, he told them it came from Jesus Christ. "We need to know more about this Jesus," they said.

...Benin Christians are zealous evangelists. "We can’t keep up with our pastors in terms of evangelism," Roman said. The number of Assemblies of God churches doubles every three to four years, because pastors target villages and send evangelism teams to start new churches. A deacon will make several trips to a new village, preaching the gospel and encouraging new believers to do the same. New churches meet in homes until they grow enough to purchase their own building. There are at least 260 established congregations and each of those supports two to six satellitecongregations, Roman said.



1: http://www.worldreach.org

2: http://www.ag.org

3: http://www.cfan.org

4: http://www.cbn.org


(Religion Today, April 6, 1999, www.ReligionToday.com).

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