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NO THREAT IS ENOUGH TO INTIMIDATE THE CHURCH IN PLATEAU STATE FROM HER PRIMARY ASSIGNMENT. THE BLOOD OF OUR MARTYRS IS THE FUEL FOR EVANGELISM.
– DR. SOJA BEWARANG, CHAIRMAN, CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA, PLATEAU STATE CHAPTER.
Plateau state was hitherto regarded as a haven for evangelism up to the 1980s. Suddenly, the rain began. Rain of persecution, killings and needless death. Only God knows what went wrong. Are the Christians in Plateau state intimidated in their faith? Dr. Soja Bewarang is the current Chairman, Plateau Chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria. Immediately he was chosen to lead, news got to ELIFEONLINE to speak with him. He was said to be a great example of who a leader should be. In this interview, Soja Bewarang comes as a real Soja. (Soldier) He speaks on the pains of Christians in the state and insist that no persecution is strong enough enough to deter the Christians in Plateau state from the assignment of Evangelism. He also added that… “the blood of the Christian martyrs in Plateau state is a fuel for greater evangelism”. Great! the Soldier of Christ takes a look at the church then and now, his sad and happy moments, and what he plans to do as the CAN chairman for the state.
Looking at the political and security challenges facing the Christians and indigenes of Plateau state, what is the situation like now? Has peace returned to the state?
God has been gracious to us in Plateau politics and its security challenges. As in the words of Lamentation 3:22-23 It is for Jehovah’s loving kindness that we are not consumed, because His compassion fail not. 23 They are new every morning great is thy faithfulness.
Regardless of our political differences and the security challenges facing the Christians and indigenes of Plateau, the church remains united, creating avenues for dialogue and exploring ways for peace, co – existence among tribes and respect for indigenous territory. Peace has relatively returned to Plateau. CAN is continuing advocacy visit to ensure that farmers have a peaceful farming season.
How was the state able to confront the security challenges like bombing of churches, invasions at nights, leaving scores of people dead?
There is no magic way of confronting the security challenges or preventing the bombings and invasions more than prayers, dialogue and security alertness. Churches have over stretched their lean resources which is mainly offerings toward doing what is humanly possible to secure their churches. The youth have been tremendously helpful in organizing themselves to complement the efforts of military and para-military security services particularly on Sundays and other mid week church activities. Churches where hither to had no security outfit have established security unit with efficient networking.
How has evangelism and soul winning fared in Plateau state in the last ten years?
The Church is established for evangelism and soul winning. As far as I know no threat is enough to intimidate to prevent the church from her primary assignment. As it has remain, the blood of martyrs is the fuel for evangelism. As the church is persecuted and believers scattered, churches are established where it may not have happened that soon. New Life For All an evangelistic outfit has been up and doing. The Bazata Evangelistic Group has weekly Television programs and going out for out – reaches.
What is the level of spiritual sincerity and commitment to the gospel seen amongst pastors in Plateau state?
This is hard to measure. But the Bible tells us that we know them by their fruits. Furthermore the Bible warns us about being judge of others. However I commend the spiritual maturity and commitment of our members to the gospel. Despite harsh economic situation in the country and salaries are hardly paid for months, members are faithful in giving through offerings and tithes as well as giving to support mission work and relief for Internally Displaced People regardless of faith affiliation.
What are your expectations for becoming the CAN Chairman of Plateau state?
I had no plan to become the Chairman of CAN Plateau State Chapter, it was a need that arose and I was asked by the Church leaders in Plateau to fill in the position with the view of stabilizing the situation. Thus I did not campaign for the position and had no prior intention for the position so as to line up my plans and expectations. However I desire or expect to see peace and unity within the body of Christ in Plateau.
What are the new things your executives and tenure plan to introduce into the CAN affair in Plateau state?
This year has been extremely busy for CAN Plateau. Series of positive initiatives have been planned and executed sequentially. See report with photos attached should you care to know and reflect in your reporting. We are organizing three Zonal Unity Services beginning with Plateau Central Zone coming on the 24th April 2016. There will be seminar titled Leadership in difficult times coming up in May 7th 2016.
Other events are under discussion with respective committees. We have introduced visits to Para Military organizations as well as major parastatals in Plateau. Several activities towards consolidating on the peace efforts of the State and Federal Government are in progress.
There was a media report of challenges with the last CAN executives. What actually happened and what is the state now?
That is of the past and by nature I do not dwell on the past.
Can you compare Christianity those days to what we have now?
Life is dynamic. Therefore I cannot say Christianity today is the same as in those days. In those days there were no IPads, today the Bible seems to be forgotten as preachers preach from computer or IPads or other modern communication gadgets. Hymn books are hardly used in most churches today and as the Golden Bell hymns are becoming extinct. Soon SS&S will also be extinct. The mode of preaching is certainly not as was before. In summary, there has been both positive and negative changes. Either way, as Paul will say, the gospel is being preached.
If you have any disappointment with what you see today, can you mention some of them?
For me disappointments are not discouragement but opportunities to review to find why and how things went wrong that cause the disappointment. There is no extra ordinary disappointment worthy of note than the normal routine of life when we see things differently. There are cases of oppression, corruption and neglect of the poor and widows in the church. I am not necessarily disappointed; rather, I feel concerned and wish that the church should do better by setting examples for the world to follow.
Are you happy with the quality of messages coming from pastors in Nigeria today?
As an evangelical, I wish the preaching of the gospel and salvation messages should be coming from our pulpits more than prosperity gospel, miracle and healing sermons. When these are emphasized above the Salvation message it goes against the purpose of the sacrificial coming of Christ.
In your Christian journey, where are you coming from? Give us a brief rundown of your life from childhood till now. How did you end up in the church as a clergy man?
This is a long story, I wish you were close for me to give you a copy of a book written about me titled ‘From Grass to Grace’.
What have you seen of life that you want to warn the younger generation about? Are you satisfied with the younger generation of Christians?
Every generation has its challenges, what the generation of today think they are doing is right the next generation will look back and say – wait a minute, why did our elders past did so and so.
As worthy servants, we will not claim we have arrived or achieve all or have come to our place of rest. We are pilgrims pressing on till we reach the ultimate goal of our calling. I am not satisfied with the younger generation of Christians in the sense that the challenges they are passing through requires our encouragement and prayers.
You must have had your sad and happy days. Will you share some with us?
My sad moments are only when I see injustice increasing in the church especially spearheaded by Christian leaders as was during the 2015 politics. When I see the church retarding in mission work and as one time President of COCIN when reverends fall into sin and I had to pronounce discipline when the sin had been established. My joy was when I was National Chairman of an evangelistic outreach program known as New Life for All, we went on evangelistic outreach to some villages in Uganda and hundreds of people of various ages gave their lives to Jesus Church. Last year a group of 15 of us planted two Churches in Burkina Faso. `