SOCIAL WORKS GLORIFY GOD AND BRING PEOPLE TO CHRIST
(Rev. Peter Schneider)
The social work of the Full Gospel Mission in Cameroon is a unique, wonderful testimony of the fact that God is also still talking to His people today, and this is as clear and direct as He did throughout the Old and New Testaments. We hereby experienced the confirmation of God's claim, "I am the Lord, I change not!", as well as the confession in Heb. 13:8: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." As a missionary who has been working since 37 years in Cameroon and knows the FGMC from the time it existed in only 40 villages, in the 2 English speaking Regions, I dare to say: "If God would not have spoken clearly, there would probably until today be no real medical work in the FGMC, at least it would play hardly any role in our mission."
No doubt, we have experienced God's blesings in our endeavour to preach the marvellous gospel of Jesus Christ. Many became real Christians while others experienced divine healing from incurable diseases. The first missionary Werner Knorr was occupied in the Bible School, training young Cameroonians to serve as pastors or evangelists, and the Cameroonian leaders were equally engaged with the ever growing spiritual demand, so nobody was giving much thought to any form of social or medical work.
Small Beginnings in the Mamfe Rainforest
To be exact: since around 1970 a small Health Centre existed in Mbakang , close to Mamfe in the rainforest. This had been started by a Swiss missionary Daniel Roth and his wife Anni. They were sponsored by the "United Mission Friends" (UMF) of Germany. Together with a highly gifted nurse, Dorothea Flick, they treated in this remote place, under very primitive circumstances, sick people, often in a hopeless condition. These were sometimes carried more than a day's walk on simple bamboo-stretchers, and time and again they arrived half dead in Mbakang. But many lives were saved through the restless care of this small medical team. Sadly their work ended due to a personal crisis of these missionaries, which caused them to leave Cameroon. The Mbakang Health Centre was then for a period handled by Allan Turnbull, an English nurse, before another Swiss nurse, Hans-Jörg Zimmermann, sent by the UMF, took over.
Alone, but not without Fruit
Later on another couple, sent by the UMF, Horst and Margaret Nehring, built a health centre in Bamumbo. Margaret was the sister of Siegfried Schaible, the third missionary sent to FGMC, who started with his wife Doris a school for girls, called Social Centre for Home Economics and Bible Training in Muyuka. This school became such a blessing, that it was later greatly enlarged by Harry and Elisabeth van Leuven, who came like us from the ECCLESIA in Germany.
When theNehrings went to the valley of Bamumbo, this entire area was not accessible by car. So Horst tried to improve the horrible, extremely stiff road by constructinga number of simple bridges over small brooks. Under extreme conditions he travelled several years through the villages of Bamumbo, treating the sick and preaching the gospel here and there with some young Cameroonian evangelists. Through their effort not only a number of village churches were established, but among their fruits are today some of the leading pastors of the FGMC. In all their work, however, the Nehrings felt often left alone. Few people had real interest in their medical work. Great blessings can Hinder us to See the Real Need In the meantime the evangelistic activities in the FGMC increased enormously. We saw it as our task to do, what Jesus Christ had told us: "Go and preach the Gospel and heal the sick!" (Luke 9:2). While doing this, we experienced how God confirmed His word by great signs and wonders in our campaigns. Often thousands came together, some walking many kilometers on foot. Countless responded to our preaching by giving their lives to Christ. In 1985 Bernd Scheven, another missionary from the ECCLESIA joined us in this evangelistic outreach.
Full of joy over all these blessings, I, just like other brethren in
the Full Gospel Mission, did not realize, that we forgot a very
important aspect of the gospel, which Jesus emphasized very strongly in
His teaching on the judgment of the nations: "I was hungry. And you gave
me something to eat. I was thirsty. And you gave me something to drink.
I was a stranger. And you invited me in. I needed clothes. And you gave
them to me. I was sick. And you took care of me.
I was in prison. And you came to visit me. … Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Mt. 25:34-35)
Already in the Old Testament Works of Love Were Extremely Important
"Here is the way I want you to fast. Set free those who are held by
chains without any reason. Untie the ropes that hold people as slaves.
Set free those who are crushed. Break every evil chain. Share your food
with hungry people. Provide homeless people with a place to stay. Give
naked people clothes to wear. Provide for the needs of your own family.
Then the light of my blessing will shine on you like the rising sun. I
will heal you quickly. I will march out ahead of
you. And my glory will follow behind you and guard you." (Isaiah 58, 6-8)
Men, who See our Good Works, will Glorify God!
Men, who See our Good Works,will Glorify God!
Yes, God alone should be glorified! - Certainly all real Christians, also in the FGMC, have this desire. Yet we have humbly to confess, that over a long period of time the majority of Pentecostal churches believed, to fulfil this commission of our Lord was just by preaching the word of God, and therefore evangelism was very central in our movement, especially as we experienced God's confirmation of His word by signs and wonders. People in great numbers accepted Christ as saviour and Lord, and all over Cameroon new churches were founded. In the joy of all these experienced blessings we did not realize that we forgot the importance of good works for the proclamation of God's love, whic his very clearly seen in God's word. Eph. 2:10: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
Tit 2:14: "Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
Worldwide we Pentecostals left this field to the traditional
churches, especially the Catholic and Protestant churches. For them,
care for the sick, for children and elderly people was since centuries
very important, just as we see this in the
early church in the New Testament. Their hospitals, orphanages, schools and homes for aged people demonstrate this before the eyes of everybody, even to the unbelieving world. Many of our churches, however, argued that in these churches people do good works, because they believe to get saved by their works, what is clearly contrary to God's word. Gal 2:16: "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ…"
Our Works: Our little "Thank You" for the Cross
It is very clear, man gets saved by God's grace alone! Actually the cross and death of Jesus would be futile, if good works could save a man. This is the central message of themgospel, but we should not forget, that it is just because we are freely saved and redeemed by the indescribable love of Jesus, that we should also be zealous in good works. Thereby we do demonstrate our gratitude for our salvation. This is taught by many scriptures. Tit. 2:14: "Who gave Himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Heb. 10:24: "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works."
In spite of these clear statements of God's word the majority of God's children were for a long time really blind to this truth. They didn't see the importance of our love towards the needy, the sick, the poor and the hungry. Also I was preoccupied by their spiritual needs, until God spoke to me in an extraordinary way.
God Speaks very Clear
It was early in the morning. The first sunrays clothed the
Tsinga-valley in a warm light, while I was walking up and down praying
before the Gospel Centre at the edge of this green belt in the heart of
the Capital Yaoundé. As the sun
filled the entire nature with its light, so the joy of the Lord flooded my heart: joy over the marvels, which we had just experienced in our last evangelistic outreach. A great number of people had decided to follow Jesus and many testified that God had healed them from diverse illnesses, and I was crying out to this wonderful God for a great revival in Cameroon and Yaoundé in particular. All of a sudden a loud voice interrupted my prayer:
"This land down in this valley will be yours, and you shall build there a hospital, wherein sick people shall experience my love!"
The voice speaking these words was so impressive that I stopped walking and talking, because it was clear, now God was speaking. Yet, I did not shout: "Hallelujah, this is great!" No, I argued with God, telling Him: "Lord, You have called me as an Evangelist, and You have promised to confirm Your word with signs and wonders, and this I have just now again expe-rienced. Let me fulfil Your commission and preach the gospel. After all I'm not a medical doctor and I have no experience in medicine. Certainly there will be a medical expert, who can accomplish this plan of a hospital!" I must confess, today I am ashamed of my reaction to God's words.
God, however, in His incredible love continued to talk to me. Every morning for 7 days my prayer was interrupted with the same words:
"This land down in this valley will be yours, and you shall build there a hospital, wherein sick people shall experience my love." After one week I spoke for the first time about this divine commission with our Cameroonian pastor in Tsinga. He was totally excited, but just like me he had no idea, how to finance such a project of a hospital.
Then a telephone call concerning some spare parts for my VW-bus
brought a new surprise. My father in law told me: "During your last
visit to Germany a business man, Reinhard Braun, was touched by
your message and received the
commission from God to help you financially to build a hospital."
Obstacles on every Side
Everyone would think, if God speaks so clearly, things must work very
easy. Far from the truth: to build this hospital seemed to be totally
impossible. When I presented my plans of the hospital to the
building-authorities in Yaoundé, I
was nearly kicked out of the office. The area on which God told me to build this hospital had been declared by the government as "zone non aedificandi", and 8 ministries signed a document that no permission will ever be granted to build a hospital there. The refusal was so categorical that even the leading African brethren of the FGMC and the foreign missionaries told me that I should forget this idea totally, that it was just a nice dream of me. But whenever God
speaks, His word comes to fulfilment. It was the Minister of Town-Planning, a Muslim, who turned the "No" to a "Yes", asking us to build within 5 years this God-appointed hospital on that place.
"She is a Daughter of God and Shows His love to the sick!"
Finally in 1999 we were able to inaugurate in the presence of 7 ministers the first part of the Bethesda Hospital. The name ‘Bethesda’ (house of mercy) has a deep significance for our medical work, because God told me, people should experience here His love. Very soon we heard the first testimonies of the loving care, which sick people were experiencing in "Bethesda". Even the Muslim women's representative in Yaoundé declared: "Pastor, people are really experiencing God's love here." Isn't it wonderful, how God's word comes to fulfilment?
The same testimonies we hear also of our Centre de Santé ’Jesus Sauve et Guérit’, which we have built in Garoua. His Majesty, the Lamido of Garoua and Vice-Minister of Health, received me with the following words: "Thank you, Pastor, for this clinic and the nurse you sent from Germany. She is not only a good nurse but she is a daughter of God, showing the love of God to the sick!" When I heard these words I was just rejoicing, because I see how the promises of Jesus come to fulfilment. Mt. 5:16: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
"Pastor, God has Given to you an Open Door!"
Especially among our Muslim friends in the Northern Regions we would
like to show the love of Jesus, who died on the cross for all mankind So
I was deeply touched when the
Delegate of Health in Garoua told me: "Pastor
Peter, God has given to you an open door
among the Lamidos in the North! Please go to
the Lamido of Tcheboua and build a health centre
in Ngong." Proposing this to the Lamido of
Tcheboua, he donated to us right there a beautiful
piece of land, directly at the main road.
Meanwhile we have built there a clinic and a
church. So people can experience healing for
body, soul and spirit.
Now the medical work has become for the Full
Gospel Mission a very important tool of evangelism,
and it is just exciting to see that also other
brethren have received the same vision. So another hospital was built in Mamfe by the effort
of a retired technician Werner Tillman and
Hansjörg Zimmermann from the UMF, just like
we did from Love in Action, the Mission Agency
of ECCLESIA (Germany) in Yaoundé, Garoua
and Ngong , and certainly other places will follow.
70.000 m² Land for God's Work from the Muslim Lamido
I would have omitted a very important fact, if I would not speak
about Ngaoundéré. During our first campaign in this town, the capital of
Adamaoua, God glorified the name of Jesus by extraordinary miracles of
people demonstrated publicly that Christ had healed them totally. Cancerous tumours disappeared, and people who were tormented by evil spirits were delivered. The report of this reached also the palace of the Lamido, the most powerful traditional ruler in Northern Cameroon. So I was called to the palace by his Majesty, because he had heard what God had done in our campaign. In the presence of several Imams he asked me to heal him also, because even a twomonth treatment in Paris had not brought any improvement for his suffering. I told him that I could not heal anybody, but if he would allow me to pray for him to Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and also all our diseases, I would do so, and he would certainly be well. About a month later he came more than 800 km all the way from Ngaoundéré to Yaoundé to tell us, that God had answered our prayer and had healed him totally.
Then he presented to us a document, by which he attributed to us a hill in N'déré- Bamyanga with more than 70.000 m² land. Here a new Bible-school for North Cameroon is in construction.
Schools and other Social Centers in North and South
Meanwhile the Lamido’s son has ascended to the throne and he declared to me that he would like to be our friend like his father. Therefore he gave to us another big piece of land in N'déré II - Gada Mabanga. There we are building presently a primary school and a kindergarden, the latter one in typical African style. Our desire is that the children there will not only get first class education but encounter also deeply the love of Christ and thereby make a positive contribution t o the society of Cameroon.
We have made the same experience in Batouri, where we could build with Hans-Jürgen and Erika Klußmann another primary school; likewise in our school for the Bakas in Domiaka, in the tropical forest. We see that there are still many areas, in which there is need for a practical demonstration of God's love in our societies. Our school for blind people in Maroua and our Professional Training Centre in Yaoundé, on the way to Nsimalen, are yet just a small beginning. For this Centre and for the delivery ward in our hospital we received from the German Ministry of Economical Cooperation and Development 75% aid of the total costs. We are very grateful.
In all Social Activities we Depend totally on God
To have always the needed finances is a great challenge in the social
work, but for all the 90 projects, which we from ‘Love in Action’ could
realize in cooperation with FGMC, we have always seen God’s marvellous
Brother Braun suddenly stopped his generous assistance to our mission work and we still experienced another blow through the worldwide financial crisis, it looked impossible to complete the 18 projects we had at that moment. But just in time God moved the heart of the family Mühlhäuser from Munich / Germany. And they donated in the year of the deepest recession the greatest gift we had ever received for God's work. So we were able to continue what God
told us to do. However, to get the right personnel is still a greater challenge than finances. That's why Jesus told us: "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Mt. 9:38). Just in this area we have another reason to thank God, because He has heard our prayers. Until today more than 10 nurses have left their well-paid employment in Europe to care for the sick in our clinics in Cameroon and many medical students came to do their internship in Bethesda , going home excited about Cameroon.
Yet neither the financial supply nor the nurses and other workers
from Europe are for me the greatest joy. Much more I am excited about
the wonderful relationship between the African and European brothers and
sisters! It is a demonstration that the Holy Spirit can do what no man
and no round-table-conference can ever achieve! Also in this respect it
is clear: God is always using men to fulfil His plans! We in the FGMC
have all reasons to thank God for the leadership, God has given us,
especially the Superintendent Pastor David Njemo, who has led the
mission for many years, and his assistant Pastor Daniel Mbiwan, but also
many other pastors and co-workers filled with the love of
God. The mission has a great vision for Cameroon and we have seen our responsibility for the sick, the poor, the needy, the children and the old. This assures me that we will see in the FGMC the promises of Isaiah 58:10-11 fulfilled: "Your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The
LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."