When a local church is sharply divided, the path to restoring unity is often long and tedious. But for a small town in northeastern Cameroon, this healing process took an unexpected turn when the arrival of a surprising new group cut through the tension. What was startling about this group of peacemakers? Well, for starters, they’re pigs.
“Before I moved over here in 2014, it was really difficult for different churches to come together,” explains Ferdinand, one of the local pastors. “Even pastors from different churches shunned each other. The church was going through a serious denominational problem.”
Some Important Background
Christians in Cameroon are the minority religion in a Muslim dominated country. Because Muslims dominate the economic market, Christians struggle to be financially successful. Some even convert to Islam to get ahead.
In 2014, Open Doors started holistic ministry training with pastors in the area. Pastor Ferdinand and some forty others took part in the first phase, exploring a Christian worldview on economics. A few months later, in 2015, the group reconvened and attendees were encouraged to come up with concrete economic projects that encouraged different churches to work together.
This is where the pigs came in.
A Pig Farm That Symbolized Hope
With some support from Open Doors, churches were able to set up three micro projects at the beginning of 2016. Six different church communities, including Pastor Ferdinand’s, decided to start a pig farm. Their project began with four pigs–a number that soon doubled, then doubled and then doubled again.
“This is just the beginning. This first year is for investment,” says Salomon, one of the main caretakers of the piggery. “Though it is mainly me who cares for the animals, brethren from the other participating churches take turns to work here during appointed times in the week.”
Salomon, like Pastor Ferdinand, is convinced that the project will bear fruit. They already see the first improvements. One of these is the unity and warmth that exists today amongst the Christians of the six different churches that work together in this project. “We do not only come together during teachings we receive from Open Doors. We have reached a point where we work and even pray together while doing the different projects we started.”
Not all of these business ventures have been immediately successful, but the economic seed sown in this region is beginning to bud. Bertrand, a Christian from one of the local churches, has started a miniature version of the joint piggery next to his house. Two other groups have decided to start their own individual projects too.
“Many more Christians have opened up shops and boutiques in the market; something many would never have dared in the past,” Pastor Ferdinand said. “Other brothers are opening up community farms where they cultivate corn, beans, etc. The influence is really big. Even mothers have joined in. Apart from individual farms which they have started, they are also grouping themselves to have community farms.”
Open Doors is funding similar efforts throughout the nation of Cameroon. In a small town in the North Province there is yet another group of churches that has set up a community project. Members of different churches work together on two hectares of land, cultivating soybeans. The crops are nearing maturity, and once harvested, this group intends to do it again. The group then wants to use the surplus of money to support individual members to start their own farms.
Bele, the group leader, marvels at the prospects that could come up while showing his visitors around the farm. “In the near future each group member could become a leader of a new group. They already have the experience: how we hold meetings, how we start the project, and how we move forward. And it is really wonderful that the group contains brethren from different church communities.”
The task of helping local churches grow together economically, as well as spiritually, was an uphill one. However, over time there has been a change in the perception in churches. A growing number of local church leaders embrace the idea of holistic ministry. Many have personally testified about how the training they received from Open Doors has opened their eyes to the pressures they and their church members face.
“How can we take care of widows and orphans if we are not strong all round?” one of them asked.
“We understand now,” confided another, “that we have to earn our own money like the apostle Paul did. Even though he was busy with spiritual matters, he made room for economic projects.”
Projects like these are what your generous donations to Open Doors go toward. If you feel God prompting you to help unify and financially support the church in Cameroon you can donate here.