Rev Anatole Lordon
Anatole is associated with the Barnabas Centre in Douala, Cameroon, through United for Mission (UFM).
Here is his own account of how this came about.
Cameroon, Cardiff and the Caspian Sea!
I was born and raised up in a staunchly Roman Catholic family. From an early age, with the encouragement of my parents, I took a personal interest in Catholicism and became very devout. In 1986 I left home to train in what used to be the Soviet Union (USSR). Whilst there, I missed what I then regarded as my dear church back home. My few attempts to find a place for worship ended in failure. I gave up searching after a few months and spent my time absorbed in entertainment and my studies. I graduated in 1991 and returned home, hopeful of getting a job immediately. This did not happen and things became very difficult.
From Communism to Christianity
Unfortunately, everything went against me. Firstly, my father passed away and I could not get a job. In desperation I resolved to return to Azerbaijan in 1992 for further studies. By April or May 1993 a friend informed me of a Protestant church in the area. We went along on Sunday morning. Only the presence of a crowd of over a hundred people convinced us it was a place of worship. The building was nothing like a Catholic sanctuary. When I walked into what for us was just a house, I became even more surprised. How can this be a church on Sunday morning without an altar, candles, or Mary’s statue and so on? Then three men took their seats behind the pulpit – to my surprise, none of them was dressed like a priest. As they read from the Bible and explained the text, I paid no attention, being interested only in looking at the surroundings to see what was lacking, while asking myself how it could be a church. At the end of the service we were approached by members of this fellowship and although we did not like it very much, we told them otherwise! With some we made friends who encouraged us to come to the following services. I resolved to return to that church rather than go nowhere at all. For a few weeks I attended, following more or less what was taught, but not understanding why the preacher always asked people to repent.
The following Monday I had an appointment to meet a friend at the church building. On arrival I saw there were three foreign guests present, Dr and Mrs Wayne Curles and a friend. Dr Curles was there to teach a course on Romans. Out of simple curiosity I decided to listen for a while. The interpreter happened to be a Muslim. Realizing that I was following him in English, Dr Curles invited me to interpret the second half after the break. I refused, not knowing how I could translate from a second language to a third. Nevertheless he later persuaded me to translate his prayer at the end of the session. The teaching seemed somewhat strange to me, but inflamed my desire to return to the following session and see where it was leading.
Next day, the interpreter did not show up, so I had no option but to translate for Dr Curles. He went into Romans chapter 3, and I was challenged by what it was to be a Christian. He quoted Paul in saying that there is no one who does good. To make sure I was not mistaken, I paraphrased the question to him, asking if he meant that in the whole earth there was no-one who ever did anything good? To my surprise he said ‘Yes’ and prompted me to translate. He then moved on by asserting that a person cannot be a Christian either by being born of Christian parents or by attending Church services Sunday after Sunday, or by doing ‘good works’.
I couldn’t cope with that, for that was what I had always believed and had always tried to do. In our discussion, he asked me how I would answer God if He asked why He should allow me into His heaven. I thought of the good I believed I had performed, not mentioning what I had done wrong, and not considering what would be done with it. At this point I was shown that the only way of salvation is to be found in the Lord Jesus Christ, through His perfect life and sacrificial death; His righteousness is made ours as we trust in Him alone for our salvation.
I was greatly helped to grow by my mentor, Wayne Curles, and was soon involved in the ministry of my local church. Along with the local Gideons, we went into schools, hotels and hospitals, offering free Bibles after short gospel messages.
From Drilling to Divinity (Seminary Training)
Upon completion of my studies, I took a job on one of the oil drilling platforms in the Caspian Sea. I quite enjoyed the job I was doing as well as the opportunity of sharing the Gospel with the crew. If anyone has worked with drilling crews, they will know what type of guys they are. Yet one morning I had a special visit, soon after a crew change, a new ‘remote operating vehical’ (ROV) pilot came into the Radio room and noticed the Christian literature I was reading. After a few conversations we both realized we shared the same faith in the Lord and this was the basis of a new friendship. We had a great time of fellowship during our time offshore. During his leave period, in the UK, this friend attended a church summer camp where he shared with others the special encounter he had on the platform. One of those present happened to be the accountant of a theological seminary. He was aware of a bursary fund that had been set aside by a Christian businessman to enable a Cameroonian to study reformed theology.
With this information at his disposal my friend came back with the prospectus of the theological seminary and challenged me to consider another area of service to the Lord, apart from just distributing literature as a Gideon and occasionally sharing the gospel with my fellow workers. I wrestled within myself whether to engage in training for full time Christian work or to pursue my career in the oil industry.
The dilemma was finally resolved when the pastor in my church in Baku preached on 1 Timothy 5:8. Through this message, I was convinced both to pursue theological training and then return to minister among my own people in Cameroon. I applied to the Evangelical Theological College of Wales (now Union School of Theology) and was accepted to commence studies in September 1999.
Upon completion, there was still the need for practical on-the-job training. Again the door opened for service at Cannon Park Congregational Church in Middlesbrough, in the North East of England. I spent a year and half sharing the ministry of that church, having special responsibility of ministry to French speakers in the area, many of whom were asylum seekers from different African countries including Cameroon. This was a great preparation, getting me reacquainted to the African mind-set and preparing me for my future ministry back home.
Settling in Cameroon
Since coming back to Cameroon in February 2004, I have settled (or should I say: am settling?) in Douala. So far, I have been involved in various preaching engagements, training, speaking at camps and retreats, in addition to renewing fellowship with my family and friends. I am based at the Barnabas Centre, a three roomed building built with financial support from Barnabas Kamerun, a Swiss based trust. Until recently it has been used as a library where people can borrow Christian reformed literature as well as video and audio material.
The clear message of the gospel is not being understood and accepted in this area, where a ‘Health and Wealth’ message is regularly proclaimed by almost every group calling itself a church. We seek God’s help in order to be a Bible-centred group focussed on that learning that will definitely influence and enhance our way of life.
Our long-term goal, God willing, is for a church plant to grow into a worshipping community where the gospel is faithfully preached and where many will come to a saving faith in Christ, and where the saints are nourished and edified, and that it may replicate itself across the country.
This is not a human task and our prayer is that God may be pleased to use us towards accomplishing His plan here in Douala, a prayer that is better expressed in Robert Rowland Roberts’s hymn below
Far off I see the goal;
O Saviour, guide me;
I feel my strength is small;
Be thou beside me:
With vision ever clear,
With love that conquers fear,
And grace to persevere,
O Lord, provide me.
The new signboard for the Barnabas Centre at the entrance on the main road.