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Restive – stubbornly resisting control (Webster’s Dictionary). Up until a couple of years ago, the word restive was not part of my vocabulary. I did not know its meaning and did not use the word in any form of communication. However, as I started to hear my part of Cameroon (the English side) being called restive, I was inspired to learn the word.
There is a stubborn resistance to control in the part of Cameroon that has English colonial roots, because of political domination and marginalization by those in authority coming from the side of Cameroon that has a French colonial background. It started with the English educational and judicial systems not being properly respected, even though formally recognized in the Cameroon constitution. By late 2016, the Anglophone frustration turned into a movement, with other disgruntled groups joining and the call for Anglophone separation and independence was made. However, as time progressed the movement degenerated into a disunited group of armed factions that sometimes engage the government in armed combat but also harass the general population with extortions and kidnappings. Thus, the populace has become restive to both the government and the separatists.
How does this influence ministry? The lack of freedom of movement has a wide-reaching effect. In some areas, Baptist-run schools cannot function. Visits by field pastors to meet with churches under their supervision are oft stifled, as are other evangelism/discipleship efforts. Patients can only visit Baptist-run health institutions on days that it is safe to travel. And sometimes getting medical supplies to health institutions in frustrated by the lack of freedom of movement.
The migration of internally displaced people has depleted many churches of their members, while boosting the attendance of those churches in areas where the displaced have migrated to. One pastor has moved to Nigeria specifically to minister to Cameroon refugees there.
As part of resistance, all Mondays in English Cameroon are “ghost town” days where vehicles do not move and businesses do not open. In addition, there are frequent calls by the separatists for other lockdown days to frustrate government initiatives. All these days of being closed for business has taken its toll on the economy, and that also affects the finances of the churches.
Then there is the trauma. It is difficult to measure its effect on ministry. I know many Cameroonian coworkers who have been kidnapped for ransom. Recently, a teacher from Baptist Comprehensive High School, Nkwen returned from being kidnapped, having his arm broken by his captors. In late February, one of the nurses who works at Nkwen Baptist Health Center, while returning with other medical staff from a visit to a rural health center, was shot and killed at a “separatist” road stop. This nurse was a widow with one teenage son.
Amid this restive situation, God is ministering through His Church. Trauma counselling is taking place. Even I reluctantly attended a session, but afterwards was thankful that I did. The NAB Crisis Relief Fund has helped many victims pay some of their medical costs and also has been a resource to minister to those in prison. Many are looking to the churches for hope and help through this. God is giving His Church new opportunities to minister.
Living in a restive place, I pray that I myself will not be restive to God and stubbornly resist Him, for there is no better authority and control to be under. What a wonderful privilege we have as Christians to have peace and hope despite living in trying circumstances. Thank you to everyone who prays, supports, and partners for myself and others who minister in this restive place. God bless you.
Walter & Florence Grob
Nkwen Baptist Centre, PO Box 1, Bamenda, North West Region, Cameroon