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AFRICA The Changing Face of Togo By Jeanette Alderman When our family first came to Togo in 1989, our oldest child was just learning to count. On the long trips to and from the capital to our home in Kara, we would suggest he pass the time by counting the trees. This quickly became an impossible task and he soon tired of it. On the other hand, mosques, both on the main road and throughout the country, were few and far between, and a manageable number. What great changes have come to our tiny country in the ensuing years! All of a sudden, overnight it seemed, new mosques were popping up everywhere. It was as if they were pushing up from the very soil where they now stood. At last count, there were 335 mosques in a span of 240 miles, just on the main road running up the country. Plaques on the front of these structures declare the donor. The majority are funded from sources outside of Africa. If it were only the increase in number, our concern would be minimal! Unfortunately, this massive growth also reflects some alarming changes in Togo. A new sect of Islam started creeping into Kara about eight years ago. Big teaching centers with strong indoctrination programs are now present in many cities. With increasing frequency, we see women who used to be viewed by all but have now “disappeared” behind black veils. On a Muslim boy’s twelfth birthday, he will no longer be allowed to gaze at his mother’s face, not even for an instant. Muslim leaders even offer large incentives to gain new converts. Togolese men are offered land, a cash gift, and a virgin wife for converting to Islam. When we came to the city of Kara, there were three mosques in our town of 60,000 people. We now awake at 4:30 a.m. to multiple “call to prayers” from the competing six mosques just in our immediate neighborhood! We look at countries surrounding us that have regions already engulfed by Sharia law and say, “It could never happen here in Togo.” After all, we can name pastors we work with who came out of the religion of Islam to accept Christ, and we appear to be among a benign, peaceful people. It is imperative that we not play the role of ostrich, hiding our heads in the sand, hoping things will return to “normal.” We must instead actively confront the real possibility that our open door for the Gospel here in Togo may slam shut in our faces without warning. Yet, in spite of this, God’s power shines bright in this darkness. We are seeing His power evidenced in the transformation of many lives, one of whom is a young man named Essognim. I first met Essognim in the village of Pagouda where I was teaching a ladies’ Bible class. The group met under a Baobab tree, and I often noticed a small boy of about 10 shyly sidling up to hear what I was saying, as if something 4 BIMI WORLD Number 3, 2016