Gabon
Gabonese Republic
May 12
Africa


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GEOGRAPHY

Area 267,667 sq.km. Coastal Central African state on the equator – 77% being dense tropical rain forest.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 1,226,127 +2.62% 5 per sq. km.
2010 1,506,584 +1.97% 6 per sq. km.
2025 1,981,233 +1.75% 7 per sq. km.

Capital Libreville 469,000. Urbanites 75%.

PEOPLES

Indigenous 84.5%. About 65 ethnic groups.

Bantu 83.3%. Major groupings of peoples: Fang(2) 340,000; Eshira-Punu(7) 210,000; Njebi(4) 143,000; Kota-Teke(10) 142,000; Mberi(3) 120,000.

Pygmy 1.2%.

Other African 12.5%. Mostly immigrants from neighbouring countries and West Africa, drawn by economic opportunities.

Other 3.0%. French 33,000; Lebanese 1,000.

Literacy 63%. Official Languages French. Languages with Scriptures 3Bi 2NT 7por 3w.i.p.

ECONOMY

One of Africa's wealthier countries, rich in natural resources, Gabon imports food and exports wood, oil and minerals. Climate and geography hamper the development needed to harness the country's full potential. HDI 0.607; 124th/174. Public debt 87% of GNP. Income/person $3,950 (14% of USA).

POLITICS

The President is autocratic, wanting to move the country further towards democracy, but demanding to be in control of the process. Elections in 1998-1999 determined that the president of many years remained in charge, despite accusations of vote tampering.

RELIGION

Freedom of religion, but a presidential decree restricted Evangelicals from ministering in interior provinces. This has not been withdrawn, but nor has it been enforced. The Catholic Church has been dominant, but its influence is waning. Traditional beliefs remain strong. The President became a Muslim in 1973, and Islam is growing in Gabon.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Christian 77.93 955,521 +2.9%
Traditional ethnic 13.48 165,282 -0.7%
Muslim 6.50 79,698 +5.7%
non-Religious/other 2.00 24,523 +7.3%
Baha'i 0.09 1,104 +0.5%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 11 9.83 120 +4.6%
Independent 16 7.56 93 +13.7%
Catholic 1 54.24 665 +1.1%
Marginal 10 4.02 49 +0.1%
Unaffiliated   2.28 28 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 70 437,500 665,000
CMA (EACMG) P 189 21,269 50,000
Bethany I 29 12,000 30,000
Evangelical Ch of G P 68 10,000 25,000
Pentecostal Ch of G P 46 6,000 15,000
Nazareth I 19 3,500 8,000
Jehovah's Witnesses M 45 2,226 7,500
Deeper Life Bible I 30 2,750 6,000
Seventh-day Adventist P 11 1,864 4,000
New Apostolic I 36 1,250 3,000
Other denoms [28]   379 43,500 113,900
Total Christians [38]   922 541,859 927,400

Trans-bloc Groupings pop. % ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 14.2 174 +9.1%
Charismatic 17.6 215 +7.5%
  Pentecostal 5.0 61 +16.5%

Missionaries from Gabon
P,I,A 27 in 4 agencies; most in Gabon.

Missionaries to Gabon
P,I,A 105 in 15 agencies from 11 countries: USA 42, Nigeria 17, Canada 14.



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Answers to Prayer

1 The 1990s have been a time of God's moving in Gabon. The Church has grown rapidly through the ministries of the CMA, Pentecostal Church (AoG) and newer indigenous African Pentecostal churches. Evangelicals, long an insignificant minority, have grown from 2% (10,000) in 1960 to 9.4% (87,000) in 1990 and then to 14.2% (174,000) in 2000.

2 Peoples of the interior, long unreached and even out of bounds for evangelical missionaries, have opened up for the gospel. In 1998 the CMA launched Operation Village for Jesus to take the gospel to all 14 peoples still totally unreached and develop the pioneering work among 44 other peoples. The results were encouraging: 11 of the unreached peoples had a witness by 2000.

3 Libreville, the sophisticated, cosmopolitan capital had only 16 evangelical congregations in 1990. There are now 125, some very large.

Challenges for Prayer

1 Gabon is a spiritual battlefield. The conversion of the President and many government leaders to Islam, the pervasive influence of indigenous secret societies which all government leaders had to join, endemic alcoholism and widespread ignorance of the gospel are all indicators of this. While the vast majority claim to be Christian, Gabonese still fall back on their traditional religions in times of need. Pray that these influences may be broken down.

2 Muslims have multiplied over the past 20 years – initially by immigration of Hausa, Fulani and other West African Muslims, and more recently by conversions among Gabonese men. The West African Muslim immigrants make up much of the merchant class and thus have significant influence in the country. There are moves by the national Church to partner with missions to reach the Muslims of Gabon based on models successfully used in Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea, but this plan is only in its initial phases.

3 The Catholic Church retains its old political influence, and the majority of the population were baptized Catholic, but a large number still follow the old animist ways. The Catholic Church's growth peaked decades ago, but with steady losses to Islam, other churches and sects in recent years. Pray that the many nominal Christians may see and embrace the pure gospel.

4 The first major Protestant denomination was the fruit of French missionary work, but the legacy of liberal theology has been a stagnant, nominal daughter church with a leadership more concerned with social issues than evangelism. Ask God's Spirit to revive this Church and make it again a force for evangelism.

5 The evangelical witness was long limited to the CMA (EACMG) and several smaller indigenous denominations, mainly Pentecostal. Pray for the calling and entry of church planting and specialized ministry agencies to work together in discipling the peoples of Gabon. Some missions have targeted Gabon for several years with little result. The only large grouping of evangelical missionaries are the 50 CMA workers. The recent rapid growth of Evangelicals now needs to become a true discipling movement that will bring holiness, obedience and love.

6 There is a dearth of indigenous church leaders in Gabon. Gabonese Christians need teaching and pastoring to mature, but the first step is to train national pastors and leaders for this. Opportunities for trainers are many. Pray that God might raise up those equipped for the task. There are two small Bible schools with 40 students, along with hundreds of TEE students.

7 Vision for the future. Evangelical churches are committed to evangelizing the whole country.

a) A national survey of Gabon's peoples and prefectures was carried out in the 1990s.

b) Plans were laid to act on its findings by planting churches in every people, and in every one of the 46 prefecture capitals.

c) The CMA's implementation through Operation Village for Jesus (1999-2000) and Operation Barnabas (2000-2001) has been very successful. Pray for continued progress.

d) The vision is that by 2025 Evangelicals be 20% of the country's population and every Gabonese person have the chance to hear the gospel.

e) Pray that missions vision among leaders become part of the life of congregations and stir them to action.

8 Less reached peoples:

a) The 58 unevangelized peoples of the interior. The national survey revealed 14 peoples to be totally unreached and 44 with only an initial penetration of the gospel. The CMA programmes and work of other evangelical denominations is rapidly changing this. Since 1999, 11 of the 14 unreached peoples have begun to hear the gospel. Pray that every people may soon have a growing, indigenous church and also the Scriptures in their own languages.

b) The east and northeast regions were long closed for Evangelicals. They are the least developed and least evangelized areas of Gabon. Born-again Christians are very few among the peoples of the area – notably the Kota, Mbede, Mahongwe, Mbangwe, Tsangi, Teke, and others. Since 1995, 20 towns have been opened up by CMA and others.

c) The Fang are the dominant people (28% 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.

d) The Babinga, or Pygmies, live in the virgin forest and are despised by other peoples. The CMA and Deeper Life are working among them, and are seeing much responsiveness and many conversions.

9 Help ministries requiring intercession:

a) Bible translation has been a neglected ministry, and a comprehensive linguistic survey is required. There may be as many as 22 languages which need the Scriptures. CMA are working on New Testament translations in three languages. SIL entered Gabon in 1998 for translation ministry.

b) The JESUS film in French is shown widely, and is in production for 3 more languages. It has been a key tool for opening up ministry to unreached peoples in 1998-2001.

c) GRN has made recordings available in 25 languages.

d) Both national radio and TV are wide open avenues for evangelism and Bible teaching, but are neglected. Radio Evangile Gabon, is being planned by a coordinating committee of 5 denominational leaders. Pray for its swift and effective implementation.

e) Literature. Tens of thousands of tracts are being printed and shipped to Gabon, along with 400,000 copies of the Gospel of John. Pray they might be distributed to the right people and that those reading them would be challenged.

f) Bongolo Hospital ministers to both the physical and spiritual needs of the thousands who visit every year. Nearly 1,000 people every year are coming to Christ through the hospital's work. Pray for continued grace in this area, and that all who visit would receive healing of body and soul.


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