Just two weeks after attending the baptisms of some believers in Aumalo, we were invited to come to the village of Warango in the heart of the Tamberma region, where another one of our students, Philippe, started a church around nine months ago.
As we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to see such a large group gathered under a shade tree worshipping Jesus before we marched off 2.5 miles to the nearest water. As you can see from the video, the people seem to genuinely love singing praise to their Savior!
Unfortunately, not everyone was so happy to see this gathering and hear of the upcoming baptisms. A regional pastor of a large denomination showed up just before we left for the baptisms, and he pulled a couple women out of the group and began questioning them. I approached him and gently asked him what the problem was, and he immediately became angered and began yelling and causing quite a scene. The whole church noticed what was going on and began watching the spectacle. Four of our Oikos students were there, and they stepped in and began arguing with him, but I was glad to see that they kept their cool. It turns out that he was accusing Philippe of “stealing” his church members, but we later discovered that the three women who had once attended one of his churches left the church on their own and decided to come to Philippe’s church in Warango because it is in their own village whereas their old church was a two mile walk each way. On top of that, the church had no local leader, and this regional pastor only showed up every eight months or so to collect all the tithes and offerings they had saved up so he could line his own pockets. In fact, this pastor is known all around the area for being what Jesus refers to as a hireling, one who leads God’s people merely for personal gain. One church in a neighboring village that used to be under his oversight told him that if he ever came back to one of their meetings, they would literally chase him off! Jesus was very clear that persecution will come from the world, but that wolves would be present even within the church as well, so this is not something that we are shocked or surprised by. But please pray for wisdom as we navigate how to deal with not just this man, but also with his denomination.
Everyone was a bit shaken up following this unwelcome interruption, but by the time we got down to the river we were all very excited to get on with the baptisms. It was a great encouragement for me to see two of our students, Philippe (on the right in the video) and N’tcha (on the left), standing in the water. We have invested hours of teaching, mentoring, counseling, and prayer in both of these guys, and the fruit of our labor was clearly seen through the fruit of their labor. This was Philippe’s first time ever baptizing, and N’tcha had only done it two weeks prior, and that in itself was a huge step in their growth. In the church culture here, no one is allowed to baptize unless they have been to a denominational seminary and been ordained as a pastor. We have been teaching the students, however, that Jesus gave each and every disciple all the authority they need to baptize when he commanded us to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey his commands. It is such a blessing to see these men empowered by the truths of the Word of God to go and make disciples of Jesus!
Please pray for this church in Warango that they continue reaching their village and that they stand firm in spite of any type of persecution that may come.