Growing up in a village in Cameroon, Africa, Louis Bassay never imagined that he would end up in the U.S. studying Christian ministry. But now at age 43, Bassay along with his entire family, has moved to Arkansas for him to get his bachelor’s of ministry in the Center for Advanced Ministry Training (CAMT) at Harding.
As a child, he had few ties to Christianity. Bassay said his culture in Cameroon is heavily influenced by the acknowledgment of magic and spirits.
“I grew up where if you walk at night, you are more afraid of the wizards and witches than you are the armed robbers,” Bassay said.
Bassay describes his father as a “juju man.” Bassay worked as his assistant and witnessed many encounters where his father would help heal those in the community. “My father was the kind of person where if you have a disease, he would use the spirit to give you healing,” Bassay said. Bassay attended a Catholic school as a child, where he was introduced to Christianity. His father was intrigued by the spiritual power that Christians talked about and would often send him to church and ask him to relate the events.
Bassay’s mother, who passed away when he was 12, was the first in the family to be introduced to the Church of Christ by a local preacher named Duombe Pierre. Later, Pierre began talking to Bassay’s sister about Christ. When Bassay was 15, his sister, who was 19 at the time, was baptized. Bassay attended the church service and baptism and was compelled to be baptized himself.
From there, Bassay learned more about Christ and eventually became an interpreter for Church of Christ missionaries in 1996. There are over 200 languages in Cameroon, but the official languages are French and English, with French being the dominant language and Bassay’s first language.
“I started working in Cameroon in the church in the field of translation and interpretation,” Bassay said. “You know, when you are interpreting for someone, you are saying exactly what a person is saying, and if you do that again and again and again, the tendency for you to be able to reproduce a message, even in their absence, is multiplied. And so I started developing some skills in preaching. The interpretation brought me into the knowledge of God.”
Eventually, someone asked Bassay why he could not be trained to be a minister himself. From 2001 to 2016, Bassay served as a full-time minister at a congregation in Cameroon. During this time he also became a prominent youth leader, organizing youth events across the country. Bassay also created directories of all the Churches of Christ there, and with the help of wife, produced a written catalog of 400 religious songs for the churches in Cameroon.
It was also during this time that Bassay first met Chris Lowe, a missionary from the Cloverdale Church of Christ in Searcy, and began translating for him. Lowe introduced him to CAMT, and Bassay began researching the program.
“I read about it and immediately fell in love with Harding University,” Bassay said.
However, it would be a while before Bassay was able to think realistically about studying in the United States.
“In February of 2015, Chris Lowe came again, and my wife told me, ‘You know what, let’s go talk to him again about this idea,’ and if my wife wants you to do something you do it,” Bassay said. “So she and I went to see Chris and we talked with him, and I told him that this is what I want. And he said he would help me.”
From then on, Bassay started making preparations and seeking support to leave Cameroon in order to study at Harding.
“I lost my full-time support because I came here,” Bassay said. “The congregation that was sponsoring me dropped my support. So many times I was frustrated because of that, but Chris was there to tell me, ‘If God wants this to work, it will work.’”
Bassay said eventually, money started to come in from places he never imagined would support him. However, there was still the issue of getting visas not only for himself, but for his wife and three daughters.
“Chris Lowe, with the money we had raised, bought our tickets before we had even gone to the U.S. Embassy to get visas,” Bassay said. “He is a great guy of faith.”
Surprisingly, Bassay got the visas fairly quickly, and soon he was on his way to the U.S. to study ministry. Bassay and his family lived with the Lowe family for six months while they transitioned into life in America. Bassay and his wife have had a son since being in Searcy and he said that his other daughters made the adjustment quickly. According to Bassay, many were concerned that he would not return to Cameroon, but Bassay assured them that his story is one of ministry, and for him that requires him to return. Bassay will finish the CAMT program in May 2018 and then travel home to Cameroon with his family.
“If I don’t take this back to my people, I can’t see how I will look at myself in the mirror and live with it. Above all, I don’t see how I will go before God someday and say, ‘This is what I did for you,’” Bassay said. “Where I worship here, there are so many Bible professors with doctorate degrees, and so they don’t even need me here. And my people are so desperate for my presence — I need to go there and serve.”