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The radio ministry in Cameroon

In 2023, Cameroon will celebrate the sixty years of the radio ministry. More than two-thirds of Adventist Church members in Cameroon owe their conversion directly or indirectly to radio broadcasts.

16 novembre 2020

In 2013, Cameroon will celebrate the sixty years of the radio ministry. More than two-thirds of Adventist Church members in Cameroon owe their conversion directly or indirectly to radio broadcasts.

It’s obvious. All members over the age of 50 today who were baptized thirty or forty years ago cannot fail to tell you about the « Voice of Hope » Bible courses. The ministry was closely related to the activities of Evangelism through the airwaves. In April 2020, the Ministry of Communication of Cameroon granted the radio « It is written » two broadcasting licenses for the cities of Douala (100.3 MHz) and Nanga-Eboko (92.00 MHz). These two come in addition to the mother station in Yaounde, whose authorization dates back to November 24, 2003. It had been allocated a frequency in Yaoundé, 92.4 MHz.

The official launch of the programs took place two years later, on December 9, 2005. The Secretary General of the Ministry of Communication, Antoine Medjo Mintom cut the symbolic ribbon. The Radio « It Is Written » launched its 2KW Elettronika transmitter and thus became the first broadcasting station of the West-Central Africa Division (WAD). Pastor Luka T. Daniel, then president of the WAD, complimented this achievement with at his side, Pastor Gilbert Wari, then Executive Secretary of the WAD, Pastor Jean Emmanuel Nlo Nlo, Director of Communication of the WAD.

Today, the radio has made a significant contribution to breaking down prejudice against the Adventist Church. More and more non-Adventist people are going to churches even without an invitation. Some people ask for baptism directly after listening to the messages. Others attend on-site Bible studies at the radio every Tuesday and Wednesday. About fifty listeners meet each week to pray and to study the Word of God. The doors open easily to Literature Evangelists when they put forth the « It is written » radio. In taxis, offices, homes, the radio signal is on. The musical color is calming and many like it.

The radio has been in the vein of the Adventist Church in Cameroon. But above all, it was thought out and asked of God with strong insistence. Pastor Jean Emmanuel Nlo Nlo along with others played a big role in the creation of the station. Pastor Nlo shared his dream of a network of FM radio stations. Despite Adventist World Radio’s strong roots in shortwaves, the idea caught on. The administration of the Central Africa Union (CAUM) agreed to embark on this adventure of faith while the audiovisual communication sector in Cameroon was not yet liberalized.

In September 1995, fresh back from Utrecht in Holland where the General Conference session took place, Pastor Nlo Nlo Jean Emmanuel, then Director of Communication of the Africa-Indian Ocean Division, met the Minister of Communication, Pr Augustin Kontchou Komegni accompanied by Pastor Jean Bikanda. The minister encouraged the Adventist Church to acquire its equipment pending the decree to liberalize broadcasting in Cameroon, which will come in five years later.

On the occasion of the Executive Committee of the General Conference held in Brazil in 1996, Pastor Emmanuel Boma, then president of CAUM accompanied by Brazilian Pastor Paulo Leitao was able to meet with Brother Afonso Milton, an Adventist billionaire. He told him about an FM radio project in Yaoundé. From this meeting, he received support of $ 45,000 for the purchase of equipment and other financial support for the construction of churches. In 2000, Pastor Gilbert Wari, Director of Communication at the CAUM steered the project and passed the baton to Pastor Vincent Roger Same a little over a year later. The latter worked tirelessly for the launch of the broadcasts but he will be called to serve as President of the West Cameroon Mission in 2004. He passes the baton to Brother Abraham Bakari who completed the project on December 9, 2005.

Today, « It is written » radio has performed thousands of baptisms by the direct influence of its messages, not to mention the indirect influences. About thirty volunteers work tirelessly to proclaim the message of life. The challenges remain enormous with the plan to extend the signal to 14 more repeating stations across the country. There is still a long way to go. As this station came from a far way, it intends to go farther. Mostly as the Adventist World Radio (AWR) gives a big support around the Globe.

The history of this radio station is not new. It dates back to the early sixties. This was long before the advent of Adventist World Radio (AWR), whose first committee on African soil was held on February 5, 1992 in Nairobi, Kenya under the leadership of Dr. Walter R. L. Scragg, President of AWR. The AWR had about twenty years of experience.[1]  As Pasteur Aimé Henri Cosendai, pioneer of this work, recounts: « In Cameroon and in Central and Equatorial Africa, it is indeed Providence that has opened up ‘the way of the waves’ for us. In July 1963, Mr. Jean Bikanda, then Commissioner General for Information of the Cameroonian Government, noting that the Adventist Church had not yet its program slot, summoned the representatives of the various churches in an attempt to revise the program schedule (of Yaounde-Radio) so as to give a place to Adventists on the air.

The door was open and we started with the “Voice of Hope” broadcasts prepared at the Paris studio, with a 15-minute educational program called “We and our Children” from the title of the excellent book written by R.W. Beach, and with a 30-minute, locally-prepared religious show running every Saturday morning titled « It Is Written. » It’s introduction is the following : “an analysis of trends, facts and events of our time in the light of the Holy Scriptures; a revelation of God’s plan for the future of our planet and its inhabitants ”. More than 700 « It is written » programs have passed on the airwaves of the National Station of Radio-Yaoundé, not to mention those which are broadcast on the airwaves of the Provincial Station of Radio-Douala and on those of Central African Radio and Television, in Bangui where they are also translated into Sango. « [2]

“The success is resounding as evidenced by government authorities and citizens who have remained attached to the « It is written » brand. This is what motivated the choice of the name of the radio that was born out of this fruitful ministry which has reached millions of listeners across Cameroon and much of Africa. From the pen of the chronicler Pasteur Cosendai in his report, we can read his account: « By the many letters which reach us each week from Cameroon, Gabon, the People’s Republic of Congo, Chad, the Central African Empire and even from Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, we know that these programs are well received beyond the borders of Cameroon. Growing interest in « It’s Written », which contains the texts broadcast, is on the rise. We can no longer meet all the demands. The “Bulletin” currently has a circulation of more than 5,000 copies and we could double this circulation if we had the means. « [3]

While Cameroon has extended its broadcasting network with new provincial transmitters, “It is written” programs were requested to be part of the schedule. Countries such as Gabon, Togo, Senegal, the then Upper Volta, the then People’s Republic of Congo, Chad, the Central African Republic as well as French Polynesia were the consumers of the programs produced from the modest studio housed in the garage of Pastor Cosendai. He trained Patrice Ngangoumou, one of his worker’s sons. He was in charge of the technique and the realization and had recorded the roll of the drum of the jingles used today. As for the call sign of the programs bearing the voice of Cosendai, Brother Aboutou Jérémie had played the drums in Avebe. For the record, Pastor Cosendai would have liked to record the voice of Aboutou for the call sign, but he could not quite articulate « It is written ». So he resolved to do it himself. And his voice stuck as a symbol to the “It is written” productions. Some instrumental music was the work of pastors Nlo Nlo Jean Emmanuel and M’Bouala Alphonse who were excellent guitarists.

The financial and material challenges were enormous, but the impact of these « It Is Written » broadcasts and bulletins was so great that the Library of Congress in the United States of America wrote to solicit copies as a gift. It was the result of the excellent work of many preachers including Pastors Aimé Cosendai, Marcel Fernandez, Karl Johnson, Jean-Paul Cosendai, Joseph Nkou, Eya Medjo Clemenceau, Gilbert Wari, Jean Bikanda, Jean Emmanuel Nlo Nlo, André Makong, Jean Trebeau, Vincent Roger Same, to name just a few. There were also enormous technical and procurement challenges for tapes and other materials. But thanks to the support of brothers and sisters in Europe, Brother Kilian, Director of the Communications Department at the Eurafrican Division, a new professional recording studio has been set up. In this way, the demand from the surrounding countries had been satisfied.

And this is also how Bible correspondence courses could be offered to the many listeners. Their thirst aroused by broadcasts led them to study the Word of God in depth. A whole team was responsible for carrying out the follow-up, which largely ended in baptism. These fruits of radio broadcasts were the primary strength of the Church. Many of the older members went through this school before they ended up in the Adventist Church.

Pastor Aimé Cosendai says that another « sign of the impact of the broadcasts is certainly the fact that Mr. Jean Bikanda, the very one who, in his capacity as General Commissioner of Information, introduced the Adventist Church to the Radio-Yaoundé, was in his turn seized by the message broadcast and by « The Voice of Hope » Bible lessons. He was baptized. In December 1986, he became the director of the Radio-Communications department of the CAUM. Later, his testimony added to the impact of broadcasts and Bible correspondence courses would win over Brother Rostand Mvié, a former Secretary General of the Ministry of Information.

Ultimately, radio has a bright future ahead of it. It sticks well to the web to become a webradio. It clings to digital to become digital radio. And as the pioneer of Adventist radio work in Cameroon said, « Radio is unquestionably the most powerful and effective news ‘medium’ in Africa. » We welcome the proliferation of broadcasting channels across the territory of the West and Central Africa Division. The future is bright.

Abraham BAKARI

Director of Radio « Il est écrit »

[1] Report by Japheth L. Agboka, “Adventist World Radio-Africa Committee Meets in Nairobi, Kenya” in AID Adventist Review, vol. 10, February / March 1992, p.7

[2] Report in May 1976 by Pastor Aimé Cosendai

[3] Report in May 1976 by Pastor Aimé Cosendai

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