Introduction / History
The Kwakum people (or Bakoum as they are known indigenously) dwell in the east region of Cameroon, Africa, southwest of the region's capital city Bertoua, in Douma and Dimako. The land of the east region consists of a complex topography that includes a wide variety of environments, such as forests, savannas, mangroves, valleys, and plains. Because these environments can be found all over Cameroon in different locations, one could say that the east region is a sort of "Cameroon in miniature." The Bakoum people group, which consists of approximately 13,000 members, are part of the Bantu, a Central-Congo people cluster. They cannot be found in any other countries of the world besides Cameroon. They are a warm and inviting people who are proud, quick to smile, outspoken, and fun-loving.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Bakoum struggle to survive by living off of the land and the dense rainforest (where both legal and illegal logging is a problem) as subsistence farmers, producing mostly fruits and vegetables such as corn and mangoes. The Bakoum use a "slash-and-burn" technique for farming, meaning they will clear areas of forest in which to grow crops using machetes and fire. This method yields high amounts of crops quickly, but also quickly drains the soil of its nutrients, making it necessary for the Bakoum to move their farms every three to five years (excluding banana and plantain farms). Along with farming the Bakoum also hunt with shotguns and trap animals for food.
Indigenous resources are used to build their houses; the lower class Bakoum people live outside of local towns and use dried mud brick, wooden posts, and thatch roofing made from Rafia leaves, while the upper-class live in town and use cement blocks and metal roofing for their houses. They are also starting to use wooden planks for the walls of their houses.
Some Bakoum also work as shopkeepers in local markets, selling items ranging from meats and vegetables to clothing and cellular telephone service.
The dress of the Bakoum is a mixture of western and Cameroonian style. On any given day, one may encounter a Bakoum dressed in long pants and a t-shirt or collared shirt, and then another dressed in brightly colored, loose-fitting traditional garb that may or may not have patterns. It is common for the Bakoum to dress their best for church, with preachers often wearing suits.
Bakoum children are typically educated in public schools, and many have access to a complete education. Many Bakoum live in close proximity to the Baka people, often setting up camps literally right next to their Baka neighbors and right next to rural roadways. Thus, the lives of the two peoples are often intertwined.
They may even use the Baka Language to communicate with the Baka people, otherwise they will use French, which they also use to communicate with other peoples. Traditionally the Bakoum have spoken their own language (Kwakum) to their kinsmen, but many young Bakoum have started speaking together in Camfranglais, a mixture of Douala, Ewondo, French Pidgin and English.
Due to the dense forests and warm climate, the east region is home to many tropical diseases including malaria (predominant), dengue fever, typhoid fever, and tuberculosis. There are also poor sanitation practices which cause even more deadly illnesses and diseases such as hepatitis A and bacterial dysentery. These difficult and underdeveloped conditions cause many deaths among people in the east region, including the Bakoum. Sadly, their infant mortality rate is about 5% and the normal life expectancy is only 52 years.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Several different religions can be found among the Bakoum people, including Christianity, Islam, and Animism. There have been reports of witchcraft taking place throughout the east region. While Christianity boasts a very high percentage among the Bakoum people (70%), evangelicalism is of a much lower percentage (2.5%). Christian churches (loosely defined) present among the Bakoum include the Catholic, Presbyterian, Full Gospel, Seventh Day Adventist, Apostolic, and Christian Assembly churches.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of a Bible translation in the Bakoum language and a lack of discipleship, the Bakoum Church is very immature. Evangelicals worship in the trade language (French) instead of their heart language, resulting in a more shallow level of biblical knowledge and understanding. This in turn leads to syncretism in the church, as well as a lack of holiness among its members. However, survey workers have observed a hunger for more of God and his Word among the Bakoum, even resulting in the formation of an indigenous Bible translation committee and an inter-church language committee.
What Are Their Needs?
The east region needs help in developing their sanitation, health care, and water systems. The people also need help in learning more efficient farming techniques. International pressure needs to be put on the Cameroonian government to stop illegal logging. The Bakoum church needs to grow up into maturity and remove all aspects of syncretism and shallow theology. For this to happen, God's Word needs to permeate the Bakoum people. Oral stories, gospel recordings, the Jesus film, and ultimately a Bible translation could all be employed in this effort. The Bakoum church needs disciple-makers. Foreign Christian workers, well versed in the Scriptures, could have a major impact on the maturing of the Bakoum Church.
American Christian workers have begun the initial steps to provide a Bible translation in the Kwakum language and discipleship for the Bakoum church.
* Pray for long and fruitful ministry and for more workers.
* Pray that the Bakoum church would be submissive to God's Word and willing to make the necessary changes to their faith and practice as they grow in the knowledge of God.
* Pray for biblically qualified, indigenous leadership to be raised up in the Bakoum church (1 Tim 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9).
* Pray that the Bakoum people would be transformed into a people mature in Christ who love God's Word.
* Pray that literacy would become widespread among the Bakoum so that each individual can experience the full blessing of God's written Word.
* Pray for a viable, indigenous church planting movement to sweep over the Bakoum people.
* Pray for sanitation, water, and health care development in the east region of Cameroon.
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