Sweet, Gentle Voice

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Sweet, Gentle Voice

GABON | August 8

Jean Obame-Efayong, 58

Jealousy changed the life of police officer Jean Obame-Efayong.

Every night, his wife, Rosette, came home late in Libreville, capital of the West African country of Gabon. Jean didn’t know what she was doing or where she had been. His imagination ran wild, and he feared the worst. Finally he asked her directly.

“I came from my sister’s house,” she said. The next night, he asked the same question.

“I came from my sister’s house,” she said. She gave the same answer every night. Jean couldn’t believe that his wife was spending so much time at her sister’s house, so one morning he asked her to take him to her sister’s house.

Rosette took him to a church with a sign reading, “Eternal Life.” Jean was surprised to see a church when his wife had said she was at her sister’s house, but he was relieved that she was at church every night and not doing something else. The church taught a mix of Christianity and traditional African beliefs.

Jean went to the church for three nights in a row to see whether Rosette really was attending. He stood outside and watched. On the fourth night, a young woman who owned the church building demanded to know what he was doing.

“Why are you coming and not entering?” she said. “Come in today or don’t return again.”

Jean went in. The church was interesting, and the church members were friendly. When he had an out-ofbody experience — a not-unheard-of occurrence in traditional African religion — the church members made him a church leader. During the week, Jean worked as a police officer and, on the weekends, he led the church.

One day, Rosette abruptly stopped attending church services. Before Jean could learn why, she unexpectedly died during childbirth. Grief-stricken, Jean reassessed his own commitment to the church and prayed.

“If this church isn’t the true church, help me to leave easily,” he prayed. He never returned to the church, and he didn’t have any trouble.

Three years later, Jean was walking home one evening when he saw a huge tent pitched in a soccer field near his house. He heard a sweet, gentle voice speak to him.

“Sir, we came here for you,” the voice said.

Jean stopped and looked around to see who was talking, but he didn’t see anybody. As he took a step forward, the voice spoke again.

“Sir, go inside and sit down to hear the gospel,” the voice said.

Jean entered the tent and sat in a chair in the back.

It was the first night of a 10-day evangelistic series. The Seventhday Adventist evangelist called for repentance, and Jean wept as he listened. Jean came back the next night with a paper and pen to take notes.

At the meetings, he felt an irresistible urge to get baptized. At home, he felt an irresistible urge to get baptized. He spoke with the evangelist.

“I don’t know anything about your church, but I want to be baptized all the time,” he said.

The evangelist smiled. “The Lord has revealed Himself to you,” he said. “Come and be baptized.”

Jean was baptized.

Today, he is an active church member. Every day, he remembers the sweet, gentle voice that he heard as he passed the tent.

“The voice helped me to find the right path,” he said. “Jesus lives in my life.” 

Three years ago, part of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering helped construct a high school for 280 students in Jean’s hometown, Libreville, in Gabon. Thank you for planning a big Thirteenth Sabbath Offering this quarter to help build schools in two other African countries, Guinea and Liberia.

By Andrew McChesney

Story Tips

 Watch Jean on YouTube: bit.ly/Jean-Obame-Efayong.

 Download photos on Facebook (bit.ly/fb-mq) or ADAMS databank (bit.ly/sweet-gentle-voice).

 Download photos of Thirteenth Sabbath projects: bit.ly/WAD-2020.

Fast Facts

 Libreville is the capital and largest city of Gabon. The city is a port on the Komo River, near the Gulf of Guinea, and a trade center for a timber region.

 The region was initially inhabited by the Pygmy peoples; later the people of the Bantu tribes immigrated to the area.

 About 85 percent of Gabon is covered by rainforests, 11 percent of which has been dedicated for national parks, making these some of the largest nature parks in the world.

 Gabon comprises a largely young population with 40 percent of the total population being below 15 years of age. About 56 percent of the total population is within the 15-64 age bracket. Less than 4 percent of the population is above 65 years.

 Mask making and ritual face paint are important parts of Gabonese culture, and styles vary dramatically between groups. The Gabonese people use masks to praise the ancestors and to mark important life events by signifying transformation. They are part of funeral and agrarian rites, and Gabonese people use them to promote fertility, provide spiritual protection and express cultural identity. Masks vary in style and include geometric shapes, stylized and exaggerated features and realistically detailed faces.