By Bulelwa Mokori
Dr Rev Abdoulaye Sangho, TWR Area Ministry Director for West Africa was born and raised by a Muslim family in the Timbuktu region, Mali, a landlocked Muslim country dominated by the Sahara Desert, where no other religion than Islam has been known for many generations, albeit tinged with African traditionalism and animism.
Abdoulaye lost his parents and grandparents by the time he was ten years old. Missionaries reached out to him in love during this difficult time and demonstrated to him what a Christ-centred life looked like. As a result of their influence, Abdoulaye gave his life to Christ and learned to walk with the Lord as he grew up. His first contact with a Christian was during dental care. “I was still a teenager. I had two molars with cavities. I had trouble sleeping and needed to see a dentist as soon as possible,” he recalls. The town’s dentist, who also happened to be a missionary and an American Baptist minister, lived in the town for over ten years. He was very kind and spoke the local language, Songhai. After the treatment, he gave Abdoulaye Christian booklets and Bible magazines. Abdoulaye enjoyed the reading, but was also touched by the special attention of this missionary and his wife. “From this reading, I came to the conviction that I had to give my life to Jesus, the Saviour of humanity.”
“Very quickly I began to witness my new faith to all my friends in the neighbourhood and at school. Even my teachers came to me to ask about the Christian faith that was unknown to them. The missionary, seeing my eagerness to witness my faith, advised me to take a Bible course. I declined his offer, which was too much for me to bear. Being a Christian was enough. Becoming a pastor was more than enough,” Abdoulaye continues.
However, with four young friends, schoolmates who all lived in another neighbourhood, whom he drove to the mission regularly, he began visits and discussions about the Bible. He tried to draw his friends to God, the Father of Jesus Christ. “Three of them were converted: Two became pastors and Bible teachers like I did, and the third friend became one of the pillars of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Diré, in northern Mali,” Abdoulaye recalls.
ABOUT WEST AFRICA
West Africa is home to more than 190 million people. Bisected by an invisible division called “The African Transition Zone” bordering the Southern edge of the Sahara Desert, a division between Islam and Christianity and between the Sahara Desert and the tropics is evident. While Islam is the dominant religion on the north side of the African Transition Zone, Christianity is more dominant to the south. The two religions often clash in the areas where they meet. Traditional beliefs and animist religions are also practiced in both the north and the south, many of whom depend on witchdoctors, fetishes and animistic beliefs to carry them through life.
SERVING AT TWR
From 1984 Abdoulaye served as pastor and programme producer at Radio ELWA, and heard about TWR during this time. He met the late Reverend Stephen Boakye-Yiadom, TWR Africa International Director at the time, and his colleague, Reverend Tom Tatlow, during a stopover in Johannesburg on his way to Madagascar, in January 1996. “They directly proposed to me to join TWR to help them set up in West Africa and particularly in the French-speaking countries. I asked them for permission to put this in prayer so that I too would see and hear God’s voice clearly on the matter. This happened six months later, and I gave my consent after consultation with my wife, my director and with God in prayer.”
As a West African Christian from a Muslim background, Abdoulaye was an ideal man to reach this part of the world for Christ. He understood the cultures and mastered the French language.
On October 1, 1996, TWR-Côte d’Ivoire was founded in a small, hot, converted child’s bedroom in Abdoulaye’s home. The walls were lined with egg cartons for sound proofing as Abdoulaye sat day in and day out recording the first French programmes to be aired from a short wave transmitter in Johannesburg. Abdoulaye produced the first TWR programme in West Africa called “Africa Challenge”. This programme taught, trained, and encouraged Africans in vital and practical topics of African life, airing on more than 50 stations.
The day came when the TWR-Côte d’Ivoire office received its first letter from a listener. It was from a woman nearby who was crippled, which caused her to be ignored and rejected by the people in her village:
You don’t know me, but I used to listen to TWR from South Africa. I have a radio that somebody gave me. I don’t know how I stumbled onto your station, but that day I turned the dial and listened to TWR and your show. The way you spoke, the way you shared the testimonies on the programme that day, stopped me from committing suicide. I didn’t kill myself that day like I intended. I cried to God for help. That is why I am writing to you. Can you send me a Bible so I can read the word of God? I know God saved me from killing myself.
The Good News was being received by people in Côte d’Ivoire!
Abdoulaye says, “It was a great privilege to work with TWR International and to participate not only in the production of programmes but also with Rev. Stephen in the search for Medium Wave frequency and the installation of the very first TWR station in West Africa which covers French-speaking Africa with evangelical programmes for the salvation of souls. It is a privilege and a blessing to produce messages to the Muslim world and to see men and women touched by the message of life and turning to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
On 3 June 2018, the government of Côte d’Ivoire awarded Abdoulaye the grade of Commander of National Merit of Côte d’Ivoire for his “contribution to the national and religious development”. He also received an Honorary Doctorate in Leadership in 2016, and PhD in communication in 2018 with Cypress Bible Institute of Lilongwe, Malawi, and Texas in the USA.
Nowadays, TWR airs programmes in more than 35 West African languages and dialects.
LASTING FRUIT IN WEST AFRICA
Abdoulaye describes various highlights during his time with TWR: The signing of the two licenses that allow TWR to reach Nigeria and other West African countries in 2006 and 2021 were great moments. Also, getting the title deed to the TWR West Africa Transmitter Station property is memorable. “But above all, hearing the testimony of men and women rooted in traditional religions and Islam now worshiping the one true and living God through Jesus Christ is a special grace.”
“After working on these different projects, we are concentrating our efforts to allow a local station to be born in Côte d’Ivoire as a tool that will mark the effective presence of TWR in this country where it all began in West Africa,” he says.
With God on his side, Abdoulaye’s goal is to…
- strengthen the broadcasting of TWR programmes throughout West and Central Africa in partnership with local church initiatives.
- strengthen our ministry in Central Africa and reach out to countries that have benefited less from our international ministry.
- create ministry groups for men in different countries in the region through TWR’s Every Man a Warrior (EMAW).
- strengthen the ministry of Women of Hope.
- continue to create content to reach Muslims in the region and contribute to this global initiative.
- and encourage and strengthen African participation in TWR ministry in Africa through financial support and human resources.
The needs are still great:
— Personnel called to the ministry and qualified for the ministry
— Skills to create local programs that meet the needs of Africans
— African missionaries supported by African churches working with TWR in Africa
— Creation of an FM station in Gabon to equip and strengthen the ministry in that country
Please pray for:
- stability and peace in several countries in the region: Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, DRC etc.
- the installation of the FM station in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire.
- the security of the staff at the West Africa Transmitter Station (WATS)