God's Call Moves Man Around Africa

Erik Segalini

The thumping of stamps by customs officers echoes through the humid airport of Douala, Cameroon. Rev. Kamate Basolene and his wife, Kavira, wait in line while their Cameroonian friends zip through a much shorter line.

After nine years of living in Cameroon, Kamate and Kavira, of Democratic Republic of the Congo, must still wait with foreigners at customs.

"We are strangers here," Kamate says with a playful smile. "They don't have the United States of Africa, you know!"

But these African missionaries are used to serving beyond the walls of home. Since 1978, when they joined the staff of Cru, they have worked in their native DRC, Kenya, Central African Republic, the United States, Cameroon and now Cote d'Ivoire.

Kamate and his wife started Cru in Cameroon from scratch in 1992 on a university campus. He served as national director until last summer. Christians and non-Christians alike respect Kamate, who speaks four languages.

"When we were in Cameroon for a national-directors conference last year, the police stopped us," recalls Jacob Agbaleti, the 71-year-old former national director of Togo. "When we mentioned Kamate's name, they let us go."

Staff members around the world agree. "Campus ministry in Cameroon is certainly among the best in Africa," says Cru international representative Dave Trotter, "and I would put most of the responsibility on Kamate for recruiting the right people and supporting the campus ministry."

Within a worn, three-ring binder, Kamate carries a photocopy of an old map of his home country to remind him of the importance of strategic ministry.

Pinpointing Christian mission presence decades ago (when DRC was known as Zaire), the page is splattered with dots. Yet Kamate explains that Zaire experienced insignificant change countrywide. Since the majority of missionaries did not focus on reaching people of influence, the country did not experience change as a whole - only on individual levels.

Regularly, Kamate flips through his binder to remember.

When Kamate joined the staff of Cru, he was an influencer himself. As general secretary of the Conservative Baptists, Kamate was responsible for more than 150 local congregations.

"Then I began to think beyond my denomination, beyond even my country and then to the whole world," Kamate says. "Cru helped me put together the Great Commission and a strategy for the Great Commission."

The hardest part of serving as a missionary has been the challenges associated with parenting.

Together the couple has raised five children, the youngest two now teenagers. "Whenever we changed we did fine, but it was usually a problem for the children," says Kavira. "They say, 'We are not Congolese, we are not American, we are not Cameroonian.'"

The family's latest assignment started a few months ago in yet another country - to create a theological institution in Cote d'Ivoire for French-speaking Cru staff members in Africa. Kamate's Ph.D. in education and his master's degree in theology marked him as perfect for the job.

Kamate keeps his eye on that Great Day when he will claim his citizenship in heaven. But for now, the African missionary will just keep waiting in line with the rest of the foreigners.

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