Testimony for Francis

My name is Francis. I was born and raised in Zanvé, Togo. Togo is a country located in West Africa, between Ghana and Benin Republic. I was born into a pagan family, worshiping Vodoo and the spirits of the dead. Sometimes I heard to the Word of God, but I did not care it. For me at that time, Christianity was a religion of White men and some Africans assimilated. But, a revolution took place in my life to upset the course of events.

I fell ill and my mother thought it was a disease from the evil spirits. She brought me to a witch doctor named Tchabassi in Benin to find healing. He was famous and could do both good and bad things. This fetishist (witch doctor) viewed his gods and suggested that I was on the way to dying unless he quickly “crossed the road” and delivered me from the evil spirits. He listed items and poultry to bring within seven days for my redemption.

I knew this man was an abnormal fetishist (witch doctor). I became even more skeptical and the fear grew in me when I remembered that his wife had fallen ill and died in unclear circumstances. He could not deliver her. Another time, one of my cousins named Gbeblewu was ill and was taken to this man. In my presence, my cousin died in his arms without being able to heal or revive him. In addition, a young man named Folly fell ill and was brought to this fetishist (witch doctor). The youth died in unusual circumstances in the home of this “savior.” The head of the dead boy was cut off and exposed on an altar for rituals. This list is not exhaustive. Remembering all this, I simply told my mother that I was afraid to return to this fetishist (witch doctor). Fortunately, in the meantime I was recovering slowly from my illness.

I lived in this uncertain situation until one day a cousin of mine invited me to visit their church called “Heavenly Christianity” founded by a Benin man name Samuel Biléou Oshoffa . I acquired a taste for the occult practices that were in this church. They were not different in any way from those of our traditional pagan rituals. But very quickly, I became shocked and was unmotivated by certain practices such as the use of python fat as olive oil to anoint members. I do not like snakes and the python is the worst. So I abandoned the church.

Some time later, I was attracted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religion founded by Charles Taze Russell, a freemason. In nearly twelve months with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I rarely heard preaching about Jesus Christ as personal Savior. The Lord Jesus was reduced to a mere man and a simple prophet. They taught that the Holy Spirits is just a power rather than a person. Many questions came to my mind. Although it is not recommended for Jehovah’s Witnesses to read from any Bible apart from that published by “Watch Tower,” I tried to get a King James Version of the Bible to read. During this time with them, there was no study of salvation through Jesus. The name of Jesus Christ was rarely spoken in meetings. Their doctrine of salvation was based on good works through doing Bible study with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their teaching was based on a paradise on earth. Heaven is reserved for 144,000 people belonging to the Jehovah’s Witnesses only. Whenever I mentioned a biblical concern that contradicted their teaching, I was frowned upon, even considered a rebel.

This contempt forced me to look elsewhere. In June 1986, a classmate named Labité invited me to visit their church called Bible Baptist Church. I visited this church twice. I was interested in the opportunity given to members to ask questions. The name of the Lord Jesus was preached there and there was no taboo. This was also the time when people were registered for the baptism class. I asked to register to attend the class without knowing that baptism class was for those who were saved and not to everyone.

The first day of the study, we were asked a puzzling question. They wanted to know if anyone was in the class who had not yet receive the Lord Jesus as his personal Savior. I raised my hand and asked the teacher: “What does ‘receive the Lord Jesus as personal Savior’ mean?” Thus, he told his assistant (Agbati) to help me out. He walked me through the plan of salvation in all its details. I remember he proceeded as follows:

“Do you think you are a sinner?” I answered, “no.” But he convinced me that I was a sinner with the verse Romans 3.23: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” He added that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6.23). To take away my anxiety concerning death, he reassured me that it is said in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He explained to me that if I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, then I would be saved from that death. Convinced by the Scriptures, I told the assistant that I was in the state of a sinner and of distress. I realized the Lord Jesus is the one who can save me.

Then, I repeated after Agbati a prayer like this: “Lord Jesus, I realize that I am a sinner and I am on my way to hell. I believe you died on the cross for my sins. I confess my sins to you and ask you to wash away my sins with your blood. I now accept you as my personal Lord and Savior. I am satisfied to receive the forgiveness and eternal life you promised.”

By praying this prayer I became a child of God because the word of God says in John1:12: “But to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” At the end of this interview, I was confident and joyful to belong to the Body of Christ. It was after this that I started attending the class for baptism confident that in the event that I died or if the Lord came at any time, I would be with him. Jesus Christ has changed my life. Moreover, he later saved my mother as well.

I have to admit that after my repentance and salvation, persecutions came from everywhere. Many of my friends and some members of my family abandoned me. Some of them criticized me and spoke very badly about me. They avoided me for fear that their relatives would be converted to Christianity. But in all these difficulties, the Lord Jesus Christ was always on my side. I always see victory because according to I Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be temped above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Above all, Romans8:35,37 teaches us: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

After coming to knowing the Lord, I was involved in his service. I lead four small churches including the Church of Fidokpui, the Church of Adamavo, the Church of Dagble, and the Church of Amou Oblo. I served as a deacon until I moved to another region for a job at Adeta Hospital.

I experienced many tribulations. Let me mention just one that led me to flee my country and to come in to the United States, and then to the Commonwealth Community Baptist Church. I was the Human Resources and Financial director at Adeta Hospital in Togo for almost ten years.

The jeopardy started when the former president of Togo died. His son and his tribal members took power by force in February 2005. People were protesting and being shot by soldiers. All the hospitals were closed to the wounded. Only our medical facility was open to them in the entire region. The wounded protestors were admitted and treated in our hospital. I took photos of them in order to get them to pay the hospital after they went home. This was the only way to collect our debts in that particular emergency case.

It was reported by some of our employees to the Perfect (government official) that I was taking pictures of wounded protestors. These employees claimed to be brothers in Christ, but they were also working for the local Secret Service, their tribe, and the politicians. I was seen as bad by those who perpetrated the killings and injuries because they were afraid the pictures would be sent to the NGO and western governments to wreck their reputations.

In February 2006, a conspiracy was formed against me. Allegations were brought against me and I was put in jail. I spent seven days in prison. While there, I preached the gospel to the people in prison. On the seventh day, I had just finished speaking about Romans 10:13 – “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” when a man called on me saying the prosecutor wanted to see me. By the grace of God, the prosecutor released me stating that he didn’t find any reason why I should be in jail. The plotters were disappointed and started threatening me. My family and I fled to Ghana, then to the U.S. We stayed in Queens, New York and found a Baptist Church where we could worship. Later, we moved into the Bronx. On the recommendation of our former pastor (Pastor Oliver), we joined Commonwealth Community Church. This church has the same doctrine as our church back in Togo.