WHILE growing up in a poor neighborhood in Côte d’Ivoire, Pascal longed for a better life. Being an amateur boxer, he wondered, ‘Where can I get a chance to become a sports star and become rich?’ When he was in his mid-20’s, he concluded that Europe was the place. But having no travel documents, he would have to enter Europe illegally.
In 1998, at age 27, Pascal began his journey. He crossed the border into Ghana, traveled through Togo and across Benin, and finally reached the town of Birni Nkonni in Niger. Now the really risky part of the journey was about to begin. To travel north, he needed to hop on a truck and cross the Sahara Desert. Then, upon reaching the Mediterranean, he would board a boat to sail to Europe. That was the plan, but two things happened in Niger that stopped him.
First, he ran out of money. Second, he met Noé, a pioneer, who started a Bible study with him. What he learned touched him deeply and changed his view of life. His material goals were replaced by spiritual interests. In December 1999, Pascal was baptized. To show his gratefulness to Jehovah, in 2001 he began to pioneer in Niger—in the very town where he had learned the truth. How does he feel about his service? He exclaims, “I am getting the best out of life!”
GETTING MORE OUT OF LIFE—IN AFRICA
Like Pascal, many have found that getting more satisfaction out of life centers on pursuing spiritual goals. To reach such goals, some have left Europe and have moved to Africa to serve in areas where there is a greater need for Kingdom proclaimers. In fact, some 65 Witnesses from Europe—between the ages of 17 and 70—moved as “need greaters,” as they are often described, to the West African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo.* What motivated them to make such a big move, and how did it turn out for them?
Anne-Rakel from Denmark relates: “My parents served as missionaries in Senegal. They always talked so enthusiastically about missionary life that I wanted that kind of life too.” About 15 years ago, when Anne-Rakel was in her early 20’s, she moved to Togo where she serves in a sign-language congregation. How did her move encourage others? She says: “Later my younger sister and my brother followed me to Togo.”
Aurele, a 70-year-old married brother from France, states: “Five years ago, when I became a pensioner, I had a choice: live a quiet life in France and wait for Paradise to come or take steps to expand my ministry.” Aurele did the latter. About three years ago, he and his wife, Albert-Fayette, moved to Benin. “Making ourselves available to serve Jehovah here is the best thing we ever did,” says Aurele. “As it turned out,” he adds with a smile, “parts of our territory along the coast remind me of Paradise.”
Clodomir and his wife, Lysiane, moved from France to Benin 16 years ago. Initially, they greatly missed family and friends in France, and the couple feared that they would not be able to adapt to their new life. However, their fears were unfounded. They experienced much joy. “In these 16 years,” says Clodomir, “we have had the privilege of helping, on average, one person per year to accept the truth.”
Sébastien and Johanna, a married couple from France, moved to Benin in 2010. “There’s so much to do in the congregation,” says Sébastien. “Serving here is like attending an accelerated theocratic training course!” How is the response in the ministry? Johanna says: “People thirst for the truth. Even when we’re not out preaching, people stop us in the street to ask us Bible questions and to get our publications.” How has the move affected their marriage? Sébastien notes: “It has strengthened our marriage. It’s a pleasure to spend whole days in the ministry with my wife.”
Eric and his wife, Katy, serve as pioneers in sparsely populated northern Benin. Some ten years ago, while living in France, they began reading articles about serving where there is a greater need and talking to full-time servants. This gave them the desire to move abroad, which they did in 2005. The growth they witnessed has been impressive. Says Eric: “Two years ago, our group in the town of Tanguiéta had 9 publishers; now we have 30. On Sunday, between 50 and 80 attend the meeting. What an incomparable joy it is to observe such growth!”
IDENTIFY AND OVERCOME CHALLENGES
What challenges have some “need greaters” faced? Benjamin, aged 33, is Anne-Rakel’s brother. In 2000 in Denmark, he met a missionary who served in Togo. Benjamin recalls: “When I told the missionary that I wanted to pioneer, he said: ‘You know, you could pioneer in Togo.’” Benjamin thought about it. He says: “I wasn’t even 20 years old at the time, but my two sisters were already serving in Togo. That made it easier for me to go there.” So he moved. Still there was a challenge. Explains Benjamin: “I didn’t know one word of French. The first six months were tough because I couldn’t really communicate.” In time, though, he made progress. Benjamin now serves at Bethel in Benin, delivering literature and helping in the computer department.
Eric and Katy, mentioned earlier, served in a foreign-language field in France before moving to Benin. How was West Africa different? Says Katy: “It wasn’t easy to find a suitable place to live. For months we lived in a house without electricity and running water.” Adds Eric: “Loud music blared in the neighborhood until late at night. You have to be patient with things like that and be willing to adapt.” Both agree: “The joys of serving in an almost virgin territory outweigh any difficulties.”
Michel and Marie-Agnès, a married couple from France in their late 50’s, moved to Benin about five years ago. They initially felt anxious. Says Michel: “Some compared our move to a tightrope walker pushing a wheelbarrow—and we were sitting in the wheelbarrow! It could be scary if you didn’t know that the tightrope walker was Jehovah. So we made the move for and with Jehovah.”
HOW TO PREPARE YOURSELF
Those with experience as “need greaters” stress the importance of preparing oneself by taking these steps: Plan ahead. Learn to adapt. Stick to a budget. Rely on Jehovah.—Luke 14:28-30.
Sébastien, mentioned earlier, relates: “Before moving, Johanna and I saved for two years by cutting down on expenses for entertainment and not making unnecessary purchases.” To continue serving abroad, they work in Europe each year for a few months, which allows them to pioneer in Benin for the rest of the year.
Marie-Thérèse is one of the some 20 single sisters from abroad who serve as “need greaters” in West Africa. She worked as a bus driver in France; however, in 2006 she took a year’s leave to pioneer in Niger. Before long, she knew that this was the kind of life she really wanted to pursue. Says Marie-Thérèse: “After returning to France, I talked to my employer about my desire to adjust my work schedule, and he was willing to change it. Now, from May to August, I work as a bus driver in France, and from September to April, I serve as a pioneer in Niger.”
Those “seeking first the Kingdom” can trust that Jehovah will provide them with ‘all other necessary things.’ (Matt. 6:33) To illustrate: Consider what happened to Saphira, a single sister from France who is in her late 20’s and serves as a pioneer in Benin. In 2011 she was back in France to earn enough money to be able to support herself for another year (her sixth) in Africa. Saphira relates: “It was a Friday, my last day on the job, but I still needed another ten days of work to earn enough for the coming year. I had only two more weeks left in France. I prayed to Jehovah, explaining my situation. Shortly thereafter, an employment agency phoned me and asked if I could replace someone for two weeks.” On Monday, Saphira went to the job location to be trained by the worker she was to replace. She relates: “What a surprise it was to find out that she was a Christian sister who needed ten days off to attend the Pioneer Service School! Her boss had refused to give her a leave unless a replacement could be found. She had begged Jehovah to intervene—just as I had.”
A SOURCE OF TRUE SATISFACTION
Some brothers and sisters have served in West Africa for many years and have made it their home. Others have been able to stay for a few years and have then returned to their country of origin. But even today, such former “need greaters” still benefit from the years they served abroad. They learned that true satisfaction in life comes from serving Jehovah.
The Benin branch oversees the work in all four lands, where French is spoken.