Attack is Blocked
“One of them kicked me on my chest,” he remembers. The man began to kick a second time, but Ngoumape remembers the attack was obstructed. “It seemed like an invisible hand blocked him.”
As he lay on the ground, Ngoumape remembers praying, “God, if there is anything left that you want me to do, let your glory be shown.” He says he repeated the lines five or six times. “After that I had peace. If God wanted to do something, He would protect my life, but if He decided that my life was over, I was ready.”
Finally, the robbers forced Ngoumape back into the village. As the group approached, people began running away, thinking the bandits were coming to raid the town. Then someone realized that Ngoumape, their beloved pastor, teacher, and friend, was being held hostage, so they did the unexpected-they ran toward the eight captors and their prisoner.
A circle began forming around the group-first 20, then 50, then 100 people. By the time it was over, Ngoumape estimates there were more than 1,000 individuals surrounding him and the men who held him. In the crowd was a man with a satellite telephone. He quickly called a pastor in Bangui, nearly 400 kilometers (about 248 miles) away. Within 20 minutes, people in the 70 Grace Brethren churches in the capital city were praying for Ngoumape.
In Bata, the bandits continued to attack. “They started shooting in the air [with their machine guns] to intimidate the people and scatter them,” Ngoumape remembers. “While the bandits were shooting, the people would lie down. When they stopped shooting, the people would get up and keep coming.”
Unnerved, six of the bandits began to walk away. But two continued to hold Ngoumape at gunpoint. Again, they forced him to the ground.
Ngoumape recalls thinking, “This is my last day. I’m going to die.”
One of the six called to his companions who stood over Ngoumape. “I didn’t understand what he said, but my feeling was that he gave them an order,” the African man remembers.
Another Blow Thwarted
One drew a sword from his side and raised it over Ngoumape’s head. As he swung it down, the African pastor realized the bandit’s hand was being pushed aside by an invisible force and the blade struck the motorcycle beside him.
“I heard him hitting the motorcycle with the sword and he hit it the second time and the third time,” says Ngoumape.
Bewildered, the man drew his gun, took five or six steps back, and aimed. “I thought, ‘Okay, he missed me with the sword, now he’s going to kill me with the gun.'” The rounds from the machine gun struck the motorcycle. Again, on three separate attempts, an invisible force moved the weapon away from Ngoumape.
Stunned, the bandit turned to walk away.
The crowd began to wail because they thought Ngoumape had been killed. “I felt I had to stand up to let the people know that I was alive,” the professor remembers. Thinking the bandit was gone, Ngoumape rose to his feet.
“I started to look to my left.” He felt something turning his head to the right. “I see he [the bandit] has a gun pointed toward me. At the same time, I was pushed down, and while I’m falling, he shoots. He shoots a second time, and finally runs away. This is how God intervened in a miraculous way to protect my life,” he concludes. “I’m thankful for it and as I had prayed, He has something for me to do.”
As the man ran into the jungle, the crowd swarmed around Ngoumape, certain he had been injured. “I had to convince them I was not wounded,” he remembers. Then, the group moved into the seminary chapel, where they gave thanks to God for all He had done in protecting Ngoumape during the two-and-one-half hour attack.
The assault, along with continued instability in the region near Bata, was a catalyst to move the seminary to Bangui, an idea that had been under consideration for six years, according to Ngoumape, who joined the seminary faculty in 1990.
The move to Bangui also allows the development of an expanded seminary program and additional leadership training for African pastors. “It is easier to impact the whole country from Bangui,” says Ngoumape, who also oversees four Bible institutes at Bata, M’Baiki, Bossangoa, and Batangafo. He plans to develop the James Gribble Leadership Training Center (Complexe Biblique des Freres Jacques Gribble), named in honor of the pioneer Grace Brethren missionary to the CAR, on a 10-acre site on the north side of Bangui. It will house the seminary, a school of youth ministry, a school of evangelism, and provide a place for equipping lay people.
Ngoumape hopes to partner with faculty at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Ind., to provide doctoral level training for the Africans in Bangui. (The partnership is pending approval by the Higher Learning Commission, the regional accrediting organization for Grace Seminary, and the securing of the finances to make it happen, according to Dr. Bill Katip, Grace’s provost.)
The Seed is Growing
“Our (African) churches are the result of seed that was planted more than 90 years ago by James Gribble, who went to Africa from the United States,” says Ngoumape, who with his wife of 21 years, Marie Claire, are raising 19 children, including 12 orphaned nephews and nieces. “The churches are growing and the gospel is being spread throughout the country.” He sees the need for continued prayer support and financial partnering with
congregations in the U.S. so this growth can continue.
Grace Brethren International Missions has announced two programs to partner with the Grace Brethren churches of the Central African Republic.
The Timothy Project encourages the support of emerging leaders in the CAR. The Aquila Project supplements the training of seminary and Bible institute students through intensive courses taught by experienced North American pastors and teachers. (Grace Brethren pastors Joel Richards, Modesto, Calif., and Jason Carmean, Lexington, Ohio, recently returned from a teaching stint at the seminary. Learn more about the Aquila Project.)