Spiritist beliefs and practices lie beneath the surfaces of Catholicism, other Christian groups, and Islam. Many Gabonese still use charms, hallucinogenic drugs, and ancestral spirits, and go to medicine men. Some leaders of the government, the police, and the army participate in nighttime rituals that use witchcraft and black magic. Christians who do not participate can be refused academic or professional opportunities. Pray for followers of Jesus to remain faithful to Him alone, and for such faith to spread the Gospel even further.
Despite Gabon being wealthy in resources, many Gabonese continue to dwell in poverty. This is largely due to decades of neglecting the nation's infrastructure and to prevalent corruption that prevents the country's wealth from trickling down to all. Women and children are vulnerable to poverty through lack of education and social mores; exploitation and trafficking of children are particularly evil situations. Pray for righteousness to prevail over those seeking to gain profit at the expense of others.
Muslim numbers continue to grow, initially by immigration of Hausa, Fulani and other West African Muslims, and more recently by conversions among Gabonese men. The former president's conversion to Islam played a huge role in this, and his son/successor is likely to continue favouring Islamic evangelism, which often involves financial inducements. West African Muslim immigrants, who make up much of the merchant class, and the Arab influence in the oil industry have shaped the country. Despite plans to do so, the Church has not yet effectively started evangelizing Muslims.
In the church:
- Evangelical churches are committed to evangelizing the whole country. The vision is that by 2025 evangelicals will be 20% of the country's population, and every Gabonese person will have had the chance to hear the gospel. The CMA-planted churches have a World Missions Centre and a Prayer Chapel for the nations and are beginning to send workers to other countries. Bethany churches have been sending missionaries for years. Pray for all evangelical churches to catch the same vision that the leaders share.
- Prosperity teaching is a foreign element that has made rapid inroads into the Gabonese Church. In a poverty-stricken country, such promises of health and wealth are met with great hope, but generally only the pastor sees any prosperity. Pray for responsible teaching that gives Gabonese believers true hope and enables them to find responsible and biblical ways out of poverty.
Specific missional needs:
- The east region was long closed to evangelicals, and the northeast was the least evangelized and least developed. Born-again Christians are very few among the many pockets of peoples - notably Yongho, Wandji, Sanghu, Tsogo, Duma, Ngom, Kaningi, Bubi and Minduumo. But these areas, now open, are seeing churches planted and people reached, although much work remains.
- The Fang are the dominant people (41% of the population) and largely Protestant or Catholic. They are a profoundly religious people, but most of their fervency is dissipated in syncretistic ancestral worship.
- The Baka/Babinga, often called Pygmies, live in the virgin forest. They have been exploited and mistreated by other peoples, despite their unique culture and gentle nature. The CMA and Deeper Life work among them and see much responsiveness and many conversions. There are at least 10 Baka congregations, with a number of other Baka joining churches of other ethnic groups.
- Bible translation may be needed in 22 languages. CMA works on the Yinzebi OT, but generally the Gabonese prefer to use the French translation of the Bible.
- Both national radio and TV are wide-open avenues for evangelism and Bible teaching, but are neglected. Radio Evangile Gabon is one of five Christian FM stations that reach Libreville; ways are being sought to extend coverage to the interior. There is also a Christian TV station on air.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.