Cameroon Bible Society leader Luc Gnowa praying at Joseph’s grave.

My journey into the shadow of death

Cameroon Bible Society leader Luc Gnowa tells us of his dangerous and emotional trip to the village of two Bible Society workers who were murdered by Islamist terrorists.

Last Autumn, the Bible Society of Cameroon experienced two tragic losses: Jonas and Joseph, two Parkwa language literacy facilitators, were killed in separate attacks by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram on their village in the far north of the country.

I went to their village to comfort the grieving families. I also felt that visiting would help me to better understand what life is like for this community that experiences repeated attacks by terrorists.

Jonas, 42, and Joseph, 43, were both married with young children.

I flew to Maroua, the main city in the region, with a colleague. I planned to ask the military authorities to provide an escort to the village, given the insecurity in the zone.

Overcome with fear, I looked to the Lord

However, once I got to Maroua, I heard the Lord saying to me that for my safety on this trip to the village where the horrific atrocities took place it was better to be without security assured by Man. I was almost overcome with fear but I looked up to the Lord. We needed faith and courage for the journey.

In Maroua, I was met by two of our Parkwa Bible translators and we rode to the village on the back of motorbikes.

We rode for an hour and a half, passing through village after village abandoned due to the threat from terrorists. We arrived in the village at 3 pm, just as everyone was leaving to hide in the hills for safety. People were surprised at our arrival.

They recognised our courage and love for them. Nobody comes to visit them any more.

Above all, I wanted to visit the widows and children of Jonas and Joseph, so we left the motorcycles to travel by foot.

Unfortunately, the families were already in hiding at the very top of a mountain so I wasn’t able to meet them. I was, however, able to visit Joseph's grave, which was halfway up. I also managed to meet Joseph's cousin and a friend just before they went up the mountain for the night. I quickly prayed with them beside Joseph's grave before we came back down to the village.

Luc Gnowa walks with two translators near a village where
Christians are repeatedly targeted in attacks by Islamist terrorists.

Hiding in mountain caves

I asked what conditions people face in the mountains. They explained that there are small huts where the women and children sleep, and caves are also used to hide. People take turns to stay awake and keep watch.

Unable to do anything more, we then headed back. It had been an emotional day. We had seen fertile land, plots that had once been well-tended. We saw health centres, schools and churches – all standing empty and abandoned.

I returned very confused and very disturbed by the destruction that Boko Haram is causing in this part of the country, which has so much agricultural potential. It was a very long night for me because I could not sleep. I was going over everything I saw and heard.

It was during that long night that I also realised the great risk I had taken. As if to confirm my thoughts, early in the morning the phone rang and I was told what had happened in the village that night. At 7pm, just a few hours after our departure, Boko Haram attacked the villagers sheltering on the mountain.

They killed one man, the father of the landlord of one of our translators. Our translator, himself, was on the next hit list. In view of this, we moved him and his family from the village to the nearby town. And at the end of the school year, the three translators will be relocated to the city of Maroua until the end of the translation project.

I give thanks to God who has shown me once again that he is my shepherd and my true security. But you have to be armed with a good dose of faith to hold out.

Let us continue to serve our Lord with fidelity and dedication. He takes care of the rest.

If you would like to share the Bible among communities in the shadow of Islamist extremism then please donate now. The Bibles you provide will be distributed to remote communities, people will start to learn in Bible-based literacy classes, and traumatised families will be healed through God’s love.

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