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Church planters initiate strategies in uncharted areas of West Africa

 

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Missionary Clint Bowman talks to Apollos Handan, the principal of the Baptist Pastor’s School in Jos, Nigeria. As members of the engagement team, the Bowmans’ job is to locate the most unreached and unengaged people groups in West Africa. Clint and Harriet Bowman are responsible for greater Nigeria.

NIGERIA, West Africa — In Bauchi State, newly formed Zion Baptist Church meets in a clearing near the chief’s compound. On a recent Sunday he greets Harriet Bowman and her 12-year-old son, James, with these words: “The house that does not receive strangers is not a blessed house. As we receive you, our strangers, we are blessed.”

The Bowmans’ own style reflects that Nigeran attention to strangers. Readily, they welcome the new Christians or non-Christians who come to their door. And as they work, their forte is helping, befriending, and then mentoring potential leaders. Currently they are investing themselves in a handful of young, Bible school- and seminary-educated, Nigerian men.

“Rarely do we start a church,” Clint says. “We are behind the scenes, pushing and encouraging.”

They follow a New Testament model. “In Acts, Paul was always with someone,” Clint says. “That is our pattern here.”

Caleb Samuel Mashingil fits that pattern. The Bowmans met him in 1992 when he came to work as their gardener. He was 16 years old and from a broken home.

“I was excited to earn 300 to 400 naira a month!” Mashingil says. “I was also interested in what it would be like to work for them. I thought I would see only the outside of their house – never its inside colors. Instead, they accepted me. I cannot express what it meant, when they invited me in.”

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Missionaries Clint and Harriet Bowman talk with the registrar and director of Academic Affairs for the Baptist Pastor’s School in Jos, Nigeria. “Our idea is to always be training people,” Harriet says.

Soon friendships developed.

One day, Clint asked Mashingil to go with them to the bush to show the “JESUS” film in the Hausa language. Mashingil was interested in what he heard there. With youthful enthusiasm, he told Clint, “Anytime you go to the bush, I will be happy to go with you!”

After Mashingil became a Christian, he felt God’s call to preach. The Bowmans have encouraged him in every way possible.

“Our idea is to always be training people,” Harriet says. “When Caleb came to work for us, we made it a matter of prayer. We later found he had a heart for reaching unreached people.”

Mashingil is a church planter among the Zari people. Clint is his model as he mentors other potential leaders.

“I thank God for the Bowmans,” the young believer says.