God’s Story in Benin
God has been in this ministry outreach from the very beginning!
God called Josue Akowanou into ministry when he was just graduating from the university as a veterinarian student. He was ready to set up his practice, so he questioned, “Why, Lord, do you want me to go into ministry, if you have given me this education to care for animals?”
But God blessed him in the changes ahead. As he led youth to the Lord through Youth for Christ, and met Prisca, his wife-to-be, the reasons began to unfold. Josue planted his first church in Cotonou in 2002, his second in 2008 in Seme-Kpodji. At the end of 2020, he has 118 churches throughout Benin! This is due in part to his discipling of many youth to become the pastors of these churches; due to increased support from US churches, namely Grace Chapel in CO as well as the Gemach Project of microloans. Now Truth Unleashed Ministries is fully dedicated to supporting Josue in his ministry! Josue is also reaching out to pastors who have had a church but no umbrella of support: he has offered them training, Biblical teaching, encouragement and unity in sharing the Gospel through his Bethel network of churches.
In 2010, Josue established his Hope Agri Farm School, through his Hope for Youth Foundation. He has needed all of that vet training as he is the main teacher on the Farm! He began his first class of 10 students in July of 2011, on property near Toffo that his Hope for Youth Foundation owns. The program trains young people (ages from 15-40!) in agriculture—raising animals and crops, most of whom have had no formal education. But its main purpose is to continue discipling these students in their walk with the Lord, or to share the Gospel with them if they have not heard. As of March, 2020, he has graduated 8 classes, bringing 9 students to the Lord, and sending many out to become pastors in their villages as they go home to start their farms and share their education with others. He has rented a second piece of farm land along the beach to teach farming methods on sandy soil. As of Sept. 2016, he has purchased a new piece of land along the river to be the main location for his Missionary Training Center and animal home. Both the The Farm and the Beach Farm are providing income for the ministry by selling fish, rabbits, and vegetables. He has built guest houses on The Farm to rent for weekend getaways. He has turned the original piece of property in Toffo into a palm tree orchard, to produce palm oil desperately needed in the area.
Josue has accomplished all of this plus so much more! He has started a school for abused girls to learn culinary or sewing skills to support themselves as they have been outcast from society. He started a Christian Day Care in Cotonou in 2012. This has become his K-12 Christian School, God's Grace for Kids. 150 students now attend through the seventh grade. He owns the school building and also the property next door, so the school can expand into High School classes and eventually a technical school. Through prayer, deaf students have found their way to God's Grace, so all students are learning French, English and Sign Language. He prays regularly with government leaders and has brought several of them to Christ. He has been the national leader for YFC and now leads all 7 French-speaking nations of West Africa for YFC. Josue and some of his other pastors preach weekly on the radio, to draw people to the Lord. He has a large ministry team that works in unity to keep all of these projects going!
He has done all of this through prayer and fasting: Josue is in constant connection with our Lord, to pray expectantly for his needs and those of his country. His ultimate vision: to save Benin for the Lord, one life at a time, one village at a time! It may be a small country, about 12 million people, but it is in the heart of African slave trade heritage, that has stronghold traditions of witchcraft and idol worship that are very difficult to change. Benin also has a growing influx of Muslims from other African countries—families that are seeking a safe place to raise their children. Josue fully intends to share the Gospel with all of them through his team of pastors and churches and win them to Christ! He depends on the Lord fully to supply all of his needs: he knows it is only by God’s grace that any of this has occurred!
As a small church plant began in 2009 near Denver, CO a group of members began to pray for an area in the world to partner with in ministry. God placed on our hearts the desire to come behind a native pastor in the 10-40 Window, in one of the poorest areas of the world, who was at the “beginning” of his ministry. We prayed for about 9 months before we met Calvin Hemphill, who had founded the Gemach Project (link), a microloan organization that is meeting the economic needs of so many people. As of 2015, it has given out over 1600 loans, mostly for $100 each, to help a mother or widow start a business that will provide them enough income to feed their families, send their children to school and change them mentally and spiritually into leaders within their community. Calvin helped us connect into the countries of West Africa, to talk with several pastors there and find out about their ministries.
But Josue was the one at the beginning of his work, who had the smallest support base to accomplish his lofty goals. So our small group of believers stepped in to help meet this need, led by Dave and Pam Erwin.
Dave and Pam were joined by co-leaderJessica and daughter Cassidi to go on a mission trip, led by Calvin through Grace Chapel Church in August of 2010. We helped plant our first church in Banigbe, and just tried to acclimate to Africa (a place where none of us ever dreamed of traveling to!) We began to realize how difficult this outreach really is for Josue, but were blessed beyond measure to become a part of it all.
Dave and Pam returned in August of 2011 to plant the church in Ouidah, witchcraft capital of the world. Josue started the Farm school that summer and Dave was blessed to be able to attend the first graduation in April, 2012. (link to video of Dave’s graduation speech), All 10 of the students had successfully completed the program and were excited to begin their farms. It was a major accomplishment for everyone involved, on a piece of property that had rich clay soil but no water—thus the need for the other pieces of property!
Josue continued to plant churches and graduate students. Dave and Pam went in August of 2012 to plant the church in Dangbo. Dave attended the graduation of 6 students in April, 2013. Dave and Pam planned to attend the next church plant in August, 2013, but much difficulty arose. Family deaths caused Pam to stay home, while Dave persevered and went alone, to deliver medicine for the medical outreach.
He had a wonderful trip, helping to plant the churches in Cove, speaking in many venues, until he fell: he stepped onto concrete that gave way. He damaged his knee replacements and was in incredible pain. He had the best medical care possible but knew he needed to get home. His doctor here determined that Dave’s femur had shattered. A new knee replacement was recommended but during surgery, a blood clot dislodged and flowed into Dave’s heart, taking his life!
It was difficult in those next years for all of us, adjusting to so many changes. Josue and Dave had become so close, in just 4 short years! Dave is greatly missed by his American and African families! But God has been in this from the beginning, and remains faithful, helping each of us to continue in His plan for our lives and His plans to save this country!
2013 also included plans to plant the church in Adjarra: Josue did this in December, as it was delayed by services for Dave in America and Africa. Pam went to graduation in April, 2014, which was dedicated to Dave, and returned in August to plant the next church at Avronkou, traveling both times with companions. 2015 involved the church plants into Come. 2016 has brought the graduations of the first three students from the new Farm property! In the summer of 2016,a church was planted at Asroli,in the Allada area, the first time the Community Development plan, largely sponsored by Grace Chapel has gone into effect! By the end of 2016, 80 people are attending regularly and have started to bring their idols to burn, so that they can clearly walk with Jesus! From 2017 forward, churches have been planted in Azove, Bececou, Gladoto, Glazoue, and Ze. Unfortunately Covid restrictions prevented any churches being planted in 2020, but plans are going forward for 2021!
The non-profit that Dave had for his ministry at home, Truth Unleashed Ministries, has been re-purposed to receive funds to support Josue’s ministry. The support base for Josue’s ministry continues to grow, from a strong prayer group to families that support the Farm students to mission teams traveling to plant churches to US churches supporting this effort and much more!
As you read through the rest of the information on this website, listen to your heart. If God is calling you to be involved as He has called us, please step into what He is asking you to do! You will be serving our Lord mightily and changing eternity for the people of Benin!