This article was originally published by The Mennonite

An open door for study course in Nigeria

Photo: Gabriel Aiso, missions director of the Christian Faith Institute in Jos, Nigeria (left), and Jonathan Bornman of Eastern Mennonite Missions (second from left) visit the Bisichi Computer Centre located in a Muslim district where Christians and Muslims are learning together. Photo by Ezekial Aiso.

Yusuf was the leader of a terrorist group in Nigeria. He not only hated Christians, he attacked and killed them. But one day Yusuf had a vision. In the sky he saw Jesus’ cross and the Arabic words: “Jesus is Lord.” A door opened in the cross, and people were going inside to eternal life. Yusuf had this vision three times.

“It took Yusuf about a year before the Spirit of God came into his life,” said Kent Hodge, co-founder of Christian Faith Institute (CFI) in Jos, Nigeria. “He was totally changed, totally saved. He now loves Christians and loves Muslims and wants to reach them with the love of Jesus and plant churches.”

“There are a number of students like Yusuf at our school. Some planted and ran Qur’anic schools that were very radical and strong,” said Kent Hodge. “Others were active terrorists who used to kill people. God has been revealing Himself to Muslims in northern Nigeria through dreams and open visions. A lot of the students in the college have been saved this way.”

Students attending CFI come from all denominations, although up to half are Muslim-background believers.

Amnesty International estimates that 17,000 have been killed in and around northeastern Nigeria. “There are some very challenging happenings in Nigeria at this time,” Ruth Hodge, cofounder of CFI, said. “Each day in our office we talk to those who have fled the area where Boko Haram continues to cause such devastation. A number of children orphaned through their destruction are with us here, and there are many more. There is not just the ongoing loss of life but [also] the devastation of the countryside. In most of Borno State, no crops have been planted this rainy season. What will the survivors eat?”

CFI has mission stations in remote areas of Nigeria, including a new one in the far northeast of Nigeria to serve areas devastated by Boko Haram. Pastors spread the gospel in nearby villages, and the stations become a support for new believers. The stations are linked with “safe houses” where new believers can be protected and nurtured in the faith and skills for life.

Jonathan Bornman of Eastern Mennonite Missions’ Christian/Muslim Relations Team visited CFI at their invitation in June. He taught classes at the school and spoke at a local church. Bornman said, “Through their relational networks, the students at CFI have access to Muslim communities and leaders all across north Nigeria. CFI leaders and students feel there is an open door for using the ‘People of God’ study course.”

Created by EMM worker David Shenk, “People of God” is a four-booklet biblical study course designed for a Muslim audience. The study focuses on Bible stories and events that the Qur’an alludes to, such as Noah and the flood. The study includes the books of Moses, the prophets, the life of Jesus, and the life of the Church. The course concludes with an invitation for the reader to accept the gift of salvation offered through Isa al-Masih (Jesus the Messiah).

Via the internet, CFI leaders had discovered Anabaptist approaches to peacemaking and witness, including the “People of God” materials. Paul Shettima, a leader at CFI, worked through the four booklets and found that the invitational and Muslim-friendly approach was transforming students at CFI. “It’s a simple and effective tool to reach the Islamic people,” Shettima said. “It will be very helpful.”

“The ‘People of God’ study presents the gospel sensitively to Islamic people groups,” said Ruth Hodge. “This series is enthusiastically received by our students, who are believers from a Muslim background. They are keen to use it to introduce their Muslim friends to God, as seen in Jesus Christ.”

“We are using a team of translators in Jos to translate the ‘People of God’ series into Hausa [a trade language used in parts of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and other countries], reviewing it until there is consensus that the translation is good,” said Ruth Hodge. “With all the trouble we have been through in this country, we have it deeply impressed in our hearts that the harvest is ripe, both for the church to begin to move with respect into the Islamic community and for the Islamic community to respond to the gospel. We believe the ‘People of God’ series is a vital tool at this time.”

Shenk and a team created the “People of God” course after one of Shenk’s young East African students in 1963 said: “Please give me a book that explains the Bible message in a simple way for me as a Muslim.”

He began writing in 1970 as an EMM worker in Somalia, involving a team of 15 international members. Shenk and a team met with Muslim-background believers and chose stories and events alluded to in the Qur’an. The team invited Muslims to assess the course, and at least one imam provided constructive critique. After five years of development and testing, they had created 23 lessons, key vignettes of the biblical narrative.

The books have now been translated into 45 languages. According to Shenk, hundreds of people have professed faith in Jesus as a direct result of the “People of God” study course. Thousands have taken the course; the completion rate is about 80 percent.

Learn more about the “People of God” resource at

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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