Benin is a small country in West Africa. It is roughly the size of Pennsylvania and has a population of nearly 14 million people. Of the 63 people groups in Benin, FBM has focused most of its attention on the Dendi. Of the approximately 280,000 Dendi in Benin, 99.93% follow Islam with only .07% who profess Christianity.
In 1959, missionaries Paul and Vivian Gustenhoven began visiting several Benin villages to bring the gospel to the Dendi people. Missionaries Heath & Norma Bobbett and Jim & Sandy Brock also began visiting Benin. In 1977, the Brocks officially transferred from Niger to northern Benin to expand the ministry. They quickly saw the need of the Dendi and worked to create a Bible training program in the Dendi language.
In 1978, Miriam Morin transferred from Niger to Benin to aid the Brocks in translating the New Testament into Dendi. In 1985, she formed a team of translators and officially began the project. The translation of the scriptures into the Dendi language ignited a desire on the part of some of the Dendi to learn to read God’s Word for themselves. In 1995, after much hard work, the New Testament in Dendi was published. This was the first book to be published in the Dendi language in Benin. Since that time, translation work has continued. We praise God that the translation of the entire Bible is nearing completion.
While the ministry began and churches were established in Southern Benin starting in 1966, beginning in 1977 much of the missionary effort was focused on Northern Benin. In 1977, a mission station was established in Guene, a small village in the North. In 2014, property was secured in the nearby village of Boiffo to establish a medical clinic and additional missionary housing. FBM partnered with GDMMissions as they built a medical clinic on the Boiffo station.
Over the years, other missionaries joined the Benin team. In 1999, Harold & Charlene Curtis arrived in Guene and focused on literacy efforts and the translation of discipleship
materials. In 2007, Colin & Teena Ovenell joined the team to help with translation projects and the establishment of a Bible Institute. In 2011, Ken & Sarah Beckley arrived to assist with the Dendi translation project. In 2017, Joe & Amy Marshall moved their family to Boiffo to help with outreach and vocational training projects.
For many years, ministry in northern Benin thrived. The clinic treated hundreds of patients each week and worked hard to partner the Gospel with quality medical care. Additionally, a Christian elementary school was started in Boiffo and led by Christian nationals mostly from the Boiffo church. Other churches in surrounding villages were encouraged and strengthened. Agricultural projects were ongoing and vocational training was being provided.
And then – God moved in an unexpected way. Last October, state and local Beninese police arrived in Boiffo and ordered our team to evacuate immediately. This began a whirlwind of events that ultimately led to a group of 15 Americans travelling under police protection to Cotonou, a city on the Southern coast of Benin. Just a few days later, our team leaders were in the office of the Benin Minister of the Interior where he informed them that they could not return to live in Northern Benin for at least two years, possibly longer.
You can imagine the uncertainty and confusion that our team felt. Ministry was thriving. Healthy evangelism and discipleship were ongoing. Yet, God had other plans. God’s plan was to take the American missionaries away.
Since the evacuation, God has continued working in Northern Benin. Thanks to years of leadership development efforts by our missionaries, the ministries in the North have continued to thrive under national leadership. Communication advancements have made daily contact with the North easy. We praise God for what He continues to do in Northern Benin. The Clinic continues to meet both spiritual and physical needs. The newly established Elementary School continues to grow and provide a Christ-centered education. The translation of the Dendi Bible continues to move forward. Village church buildings continue to be renovated and repaired. Two new church buildings are currently under construction. American missionaries may have left but God is still there!
After the evacuation, God led our team to Central Benin. The possibilities for ministry in this area are exciting. Already, we have identified a piece of land in a nearby village and are in the process of purchasing it. This piece of land is roughly 43 acres and will be developed with missionary housing and also retreat/conference center facilities. This centralized location will allow the Northern churches and the Southern churches to come together for conferences, fellowship, and meetings.
Once the purchase of the land is finalized, we will begin construction as funds become available. Some initial steps will include road repairs, drilling a well, and fencing the property. Our board has already approved and allocated $50,000 to purchase the land and to begin construction. While this will not be enough to fully develop the property, we praise God for His provision of these initial start-up funds.
Will you partner with us on this project? Pray for the future of Benin. Pray for God to open additional doors for ministry in Benin. Additional churches need to be planted. Clinics need to be started. Christian schools need to be opened. Pray that God will do all of this and more. Consider a gift today to our Benin Land Project Fund to help us develop the land that God has provided.