I was born in the Western Province of Cameroon, of parents who were nominal Christians (Catholic and Protestant), but at the same time, very deeply rooted in ancestral customs and traditions, which included special cults and sacrifices offered to the skulls of the ancestors.
Their faith in their traditions was so strong that they had to part just after I was born, not because they could no longer get along well together, but rather because the customs of the village required it. Thus, I had to live successively with my mother and guardians, and only knew my father after the age of fifteen.
If there is something for which I shall ever be grateful, it is certainly the personal experience of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ who intervened in my life and changed its course on the 15th of March 1978, when I was but a wreck.
My intention, therefore, in the following lines, is to present to the world at large, as a homage to my glorious Deliverer, the sincere testimony of my life. My concern will be to present, firstly, the man I was before the 15/3/78, apparently having a bright future but in reality empty, disgusted with life that had nothing to offer me except its increasing bitterness and hopelessness, and, secondly, the brand new man I have become since then, thanks to the infinite love of the One who is now my Lord and to whom I owe all loyalty - Jesus Christ.
All along, I will insist on one aspect which, up to that day, had contributed a great deal in ruining my life, although I thought I was bringing more taste to it - I mean the sexual aspect.
In fact, I had my first sexual experience right in my early childhood, long before the age of nine. Since then, I was haunted by sexual and immoral thoughts, in which I found myself having sexual intercourse with women and even animals. The loose and shameless life of some men and women that I knew in that delicate period of my life only intensified in me that burning desire for sex. The numerous social taboos in this domain that was exclusively reserved for adults, only sharpened my appetite and curiosity, especially as I had experienced some pleasure at the first attempt. Very favourable circumstances led me in 1961, while I was still in class four, to have my second sexual experience.
In the long run, the consequences of that sentimental adventure became rather critical for me.
As a matter of fact, during my venture, I caught what, seven years later, proved to be one of the most dreadful diseases possible - syphilis.
Being as young as I was at that time, despite some ailments that followed a few months later, I could not suspect anything serious at all.
It was only three years after I had been contaminated that I started feeling some acute pains in my genitals. This happened in class seven. Suspecting what the sickness could be, for we had just had in class a brief lesson on venereal diseases, I went to the school's medical centre in Yaounde. After consultation, the doctor sent me to the venereal disease centre at Elig - Essono, still in Yaounde. Since I did not know the so-called centre, I went to Messa dispensary instead.
There, the nurses, after having read my hospital card and known what my problem was, instead of showing me how to get to the right place, far from helping me in my distress, they rather had a good time laughing at me.
I was terribly shocked, confused and full of shame. So, I preferred to go back home, keeping my sickness to myself. Nobody knew about it, neither my friends, nor my guardians, less still my parents, who were so far away from me.
In the meantime, the pains subsided for a few years, but unfortunately I did not know that the sickness was causing more serious damages in my body.
In 1968, that is seven years after the contagion, while I was in Form four in Lycee General Leclerc in Yaounde, the pains started again, more acute than ever, accompanied by a serious infection of my sex organs.
Since, in the meantime, I had discovered by chance, the said venereal disease centre, I went there straight away, as I could no longer stand the intense pains.
Without any delay, the treatment started. It was very long and costly. Right from the first blood test it was discovered that that vicious disease had gone right into my blood.
From 1968 to 1973, I went from doctor to doctor and from one town to another for treatment. In my desperate pursuit of good health that I needed at any cost, even though I was penniless and without any backing, I went one day to a private clinic. Once again, the indiscretion of the nurse at the reception came as a very heavy blow to me. It left me more downcast than ever before. But my situation was such that there was no more turning back. I was ready to accept any shame in order to gain my healing. Therefore, in spite of their mockery, I persevered and was finally led to meet the doctor himself.
The doctor, probably wanting to sympathize with me, ended up making my psychological condition worse than what it had been up to that time.
Faced with the file of hospital cards that I had brought and, seeing the considerable amount of treatment that I had already undergone without any improvement, he remained speechless for some time, then suddenly I heard these few words, which for a long time became like a death sentence over me: "With all this," he said, "I hope that you are not thinking of getting married one day."
From this statement, so much could be deduced concerning my health and my future. I did not see the point of asking him what he meant; for I had understood everything. As a matter of fact, he had only said what I had been dreading for quite some time - the fear of failing in my marriage, of being sterile.
By then I was in the Upper Sixth form and the tragedy is that, during the same year, my father, who knew nothing about the problems I was facing, asked me if I was not going to get married after the final exam at the end of the school year.
You might imagine that my poor health had suppressed in me the appetite for sex. Far from it! My sickness had certainly made me shy and full of fear whenever I was in front of the female sex, but the truth is that I had grown up and the sexual desire was getting more and more devastating in me, especially as the new literature that we started studying in High School was encouraging me in this way of immorality. French authors like Ronsard, Lamartine, Baudelaire soon became models to follow. Some of their poems, like "Mignonne" and "Le Lac", have remained engraved in my memory. How could I resist the temptation when, even the school, which is supposed to be a social and a state institution, was encouraging me to enjoy myself fully, to enjoy my youth, to Apick up the roses of life" (as one of those writers says) before they fade away; since very soon I would grow old and die like the roses and that would be the end of everything?
How could I resist after listening to all the stories of the love adventures of my friends, which only increased in me an insatiable appetite for sex? If, because of my handicap, I could not run after beautiful girls who were the tender objects of my dreams, I could, nevertheless, reach the same final satisfaction through a less risky and less costly way.
Thus, I indulged in masturbation and the pursuit of prostitutes and, by this way, kept spreading the syphilis I was harbouring in my body, and exposing my body at the same time to other diseases. August 1973 marked the apparent end of the treatment. A glimmer of hope seemed to dawn in my life, but I realized very soon that the sickness had left some side effects: rheumatism, threat of impotence and infertility. Nevertheless, after my course at Ecole Normale Supérieure de Yaoundé, I entered the teaching career in 1975, my sentimental conquests extending into a new domain - the girls I taught.
In 1977, I got married, with the hope of settling down with a woman and leading a quiet and peaceful life. But alas! I quickly discovered that the disguised prediction of the above-mentioned doctor some six years earlier, was slowly coming to pass.
My wife and myself lived in a continuous state of tension at home; tension mostly caused by my physical and psychological state. The poor young girl, who had done nothing to deserve for a husband a man already destroyed by life, cried unceasingly.
Her tears filled me with remorse. I was incapable of making her happy, and she was unable to satisfy a fastidious man. Shortly before I got married, a sperm test had already revealed that I was on the brink of infertility.
When I repeated the same test after marriage, the result was even worse. Many medical doctors studied my case; a native doctor too. Alas! my situation was growing from bad to worse; for, after many costly treatments, different medical check-ups revealed each time that my situation was becoming more and more alarming.
After undergoing various other treatments without any favourable results, the last doctor, after studying my case, openly manifested his discouragement before my wife and myself.
I did not know who else to turn to and from time to time I was haunted by thoughts of suicide. My life had become bitter and empty, and marriage, an extra burden. I had come to the end of myself and there seemed to be no way out.
Accidentally, I came across a way out, but at that time no one could think of it as one. We had a neighbour, a colleague of mine, with whom we often went to mass on Sundays. One day she came to us and gave us a very simple testimony, and that is how it all began. It is worth noting here that at the age of 14, I had been baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church, and from time to time I took the holy communion.
In spite of my debauchery, on comparing myself to others, I considered myself one of the best Christians.
A few years before, the scandalous life of a homosexual priest had contributed in keeping me away from church, as well as creating in me a cautious attitude towards the religious authorities. It was only through marriage that I got reconciled to the church. But it was just a formality, for the church, as I knew it, could not solve my problem. What then was the testimony of our neighbour?
She made us understand that she had found a group of Catholic and Protestant Christians who met together to study the Bible. She also said that right from the time she started attending these meetings, she was realizing more and more that whenever she prayed she felt she was speaking to a person who understood her. And that was all about her testimony. Obviously, as an intellectual, I did not attach any importance to it, especially because I did not find anything extraordinary in what she said. Faithful to the said Christian group, she attended the meeting several times a week, and sometimes returned home at very late hours of the night, making us understand that they had been having a prayer meeting.
Deep down within me, I did not want to be involved in such futile things, but because that colleague was professionally more qualified than me, I could not help thinking over her attitude. After a month of hesitation, my wife and myself joined her, just to go and see what was going on there. When we arrived at the yard of the large compound in which the meeting was taking place, I was struck by three things. We found people singing at the top of their voices, while dancing and clapping their hands. I was rather shocked, for I had been used to religious circles where people were more serious and ceremonious. Because of my shock, I was ashamed of being in such a place.
Good enough, after the singing and dancing, more serious things began - the Bible study. It was at this point that I had the second and third surprises of the evening.
With the exception of a few new-comers like ourselves, almost every participant had a Bible - Bibles that they manipulated with much ease under the leadership of the preacher.
The preacher also backed each of his arguments with specific Bible passages, which the others checked in their Bibles with all their seriousness, while remaining completely attentive to him. Their seriousness and concentration rather put me off. This was more than at the University.
However, I could not help being scandalized because, as a Catholic, I had never been encouraged to read the Bible. On the contrary, I had been made to believe that it was a book reserved for the initiated - that is the priests - and that any layman reading it, was running the risk of going mad.
As a result of all what I saw and heard that evening, a taboo was lifted. Since then I could follow, with much interest and attention, those precious things that had been hidden from me all my life.
The third thing that surprised me was the content of the message. It seemed to have been prepared for me. The philosophy I had studied from High School through Ecole Normale Supérieure into University became useless that evening. The few philosophical and literary quotations that I often used to support my unbelief, lost their power before the mighty conviction of the Word of the Creator.
As the preacher presented sin in the light of the Holy Scriptures, with its present and long-term consequences, I saw in my true condition a man ruined, undermined by sin and waiting only for the final and eternal chastisement reserved for sinners - hell.
However, hope came with the presentation of Jesus as God's solution to the sinner. Jesus the only One able to deliver from the present and long-term consequences of sin, the only One to give to any repentant sinner eternal life. The more he insisted on the necessity to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus, the more I understood that even in my own personal situation Jesus could do something. Therefore, at the end of the message, when he asked all who wanted to give their lives to Jesus to wait after the meeting, I did not hesitate to do so. My wife joined me in this move. After the meeting, someone counselled us and, with his help, we gave our lives to Jesus.
For the first time, I confessed my sins directly to God, without passing through a priest, and without being asked to recite the prayer of contrition. The result of the decision I had just taken was immediate. That same night, I who before knew neither peace nor rest, I who spent nights tossing in my bed only to get up tense in the morning, was filled with deep peace and I slept like a log. We devoted ourselves to discovering the Bible and also got into the habit of praying together. The former tension and conflicts gradually disappeared and gave way to harmony and peace.
Two major problems remained:
- Health for which we used to spend ten to twenty thousand francs a month.
- The urgent need for a child.
We continued attending meetings in this group while undergoing medical treatment, which always ended up more and more discouraging. We asked for the advice of the leaders of our new group. One of them, seeing how much we had already spent on medicines, all in vain, exhorted us to stop all medical treatment and commit the matter into the hands of God, who alone could help in such a situation. We took the advice and got rid of many drugs which had already become an integral part of our food. Many brethren in Douala as well as in Yaounde, offered to pray for us. A few months later, the symptoms that I used to feel disappeared bit by bit, and I suddenly discovered that I was healed. I was convinced of my healing, even without asking for any medical test to confirm it. The only thing we needed then was a child.
On the 2nd of September 1978, the believers in our group in Douala decided to pray specifically for our home. The leader of the group rounded up the prayer by asking the Lord that on the same date the following year, my wife should be suckling a child.
The prayer was immediately answered, for in the month of October of the same year, my wife conceived.
All through the nine months, I watched my wife's abdomen grow with inexpressible joy in my heart. It was as if I had just resurrected from the dead. For the first time in my life, as I looked at my wife, I could consider myself as a man among men. I felt like sharing my joy with the whole world. Life became more and more tasteful; not that former type of life, which was corrupt and ruinous, but the pure, holy and full life that Jesus gives.
When, after the nine months term, my wife gave birth, what I saw was just too good to be true.
The dream that had seemed a utopian dream a few months earlier had become a reality. Thanks to Jesus, I had become a man; thanks to Jesus, I had become a father. I could hardly contain my joy. I felt like flying up, but the force of gravity held me captive. My freedom was henceforth total: at the physical, spiritual, emotional, and sexual levels. With all these blessings, how could I doubt God who, for me, had ceased to be a distant and inaccessible God, and had become a God who is real, a God who is near, within the reach of man, at the disposal of man, a God who loves even a sinner as rotten as I was when I heard that gentle voice in my heart? As I say these things today, five years and nine months after my conversion, I can confess with full assurance and conviction that I am happy. I am satisfied, not only because Jesus has healed me and has given me two children, but moreso because I have Jesus Himself as my Lord and Saviour. Despite the numerous obstacles to my faith that I have met along the way, obstacles such as the strong opposition from my relatives and in-laws, as well as the ever-increasing demands of the Lord Himself, I can testify from experience that life has no meaning outside Jesus. He is the only One who can guarantee for man full and abundant life on earth and eternal life hereafter.
High School Teacher