Adamou, one of Abraham’s spiritual descendants, now ‘as numerous as the stars in the sky.’
(…continued) Thirty years ago, the congregation I was serving sent money to help in the construction of a church building for a congregation in the African nation of Cameroon. Two years later, I met Adamou, the pastor of that congregation, who was then doing graduate work for three years at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He spoke at my church a few times and we became good friends. He then went back to Africa to teach in a seminary and we lost touch. Twenty years after that, he was again in Minnesota. He called me, and we got together and renewed our friendship.
Adamou is from a remote village in the middle of Africa. His father, Monga, was the village chief, and was raised in the traditional tribal religion of his ancestors. Monga converted to Islam in 1920, and the whole village was converted with him. That often happens in Africa, where such decisions are made as a community.
In the area of the jungle where Adamou lived there were 35 villages, but only one village had a public school. Education is not a government priority there like it is here. However, there were Lutheran mission schools in all 35 villages, schools financed and staffed by Lutheran missionaries. Parents, eager for their children to receive an education, would send them to these Lutheran schools. Muslim children were welcome, but it was made clear that the children would hear stories from the Bible.
Adamou started school when he was six, and he loved to learn. He especially loved the Bible stories. His favorite story was the story of Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph. At first he loved those stories like school children love stories of Daniel Boone or Laura Ingalls Wilder; as interesting stories of other times and places, but without religious significance. He, like his father, was a faithful Muslim, praying five times a day, and fasting at all the proper times.
But when he was 14 years old, Adamou heard something that would change his life. What he heard was John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This promise of eternal life had a profound impact on Adamou. Life was hard in his primitive village, and death was always a threat. Six of his eleven brothers and sisters died in childhood, and he wanted to know more about this assurance of eternal life in Jesus. There was no such assurance in his Muslim faith, in which he had to just do his best and then accept his fate from Allah. There was no assurance of going to heaven.
Adamou already knew and loved the Bible’s stories, but now he read the Bible for faith and assurance. Eventually, he came to believe in Jesus as his Savior. But now what could he do? His father was the chief of the village and a Muslim, and there was not one other Christian in the whole village. For several weeks, Adamou said nothing about his new faith, and continued in his daily prayers to Allah.
He finally decided he could no longer pray to Allah, so he ended his prayers and all other the religious duties and practices of Islam. His father saw this, and called him in for a talk. The old chief, old enough to be Adamou’s grandfather, did all the talking. “Son,” he said, “I see you are no longer praying to Allah. I know you are going to that Christian school, but I do not see you praying to or worshiping in that way either. Be careful, son. No one should live without God.” That was all he said, and Adamou took that as permission to become a Christian. The next Sunday he walked ten miles to go to worship at a Lutheran missionary church in another village. Muslims and Christians live together peacefully in his area, and his conversion was accepted without any trouble. Many other conversions soon followed.
Later on that same year Chief Monga died, and Adamou’s older brother became chief. A few years later, that brother died, and now Adamou is the chief of his village. He is also a respected member of the council of chiefs, and a good friend of the Muslim king of the entire Bamoon tribe, a tribe of over a million people. Adamou’s work as a pastor and seminary professor means that he must live in the big city, but he often returns to his village for his duties as chief. 45 years ago when he became a Christian, he was the only one in his village. Now, his village is 75% Christian. That is the kind of church growth that has been happening throughout Africa. The Genesis 12 blessing upon Abraham continues to reach around the world. Abraham, and then his descendants, were “blessed, so that they could be a blessing.” All over the world, in places far from the land that was promised to Abraham, his family of ‘spiritual descendants’ continues to grow.
Matthew 28:18-20 — Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Galatians 3:26-29 — So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, and heirs according to the promise.
PRAYER FOR AFRICA (www.educationforjustice.org):
O Lord, Creator of the entire world,
O Loving God,
This prayer is for Africa.
Bless the plains, rivers, trees
And all the African lands.
Bless the birds, fish and animals
That bring beauty and abundance to Africa.
Bless O Lord,
Your children in Africa.
Dry their tears,
Bring hope into their hearts,
Health and safety to their lives,
Food and water for their nourishment.
Bring peace to their countries
And still the guns of war.
Bless us, O Lord,
And heal your continent of Africa.
Renew the land, renew the spirit
Of all those who are wounded in any way.
May justice roll down like water
On the parched ground of your beloved Africa. Amen.