4 Dec 2008
There are many institutions in rural Cameroon that were conceived and built decades ago by a hand full of committed people that never feared challenges. Some did not really take off the ground but an overwhelming majority survived and matured into cherished places that today’s generation are benefiting from.
It is my intention to use the story of one of such institutions to show how it has evolved and also highlight the effort of today’s generation to improve on what they inherited from their parents.
The Presbyterian Church Wumugi is a small congregation located in Batibo Sub Division in the North West Region of Cameroon
People that are familiar with Batibo will readily understand why neighboring Presbyterian churches to Wumugi have the following names; Bengang, Kuneck and Kujei. These are names of quarters in Batibo village. Wumugi, on the other hand is unique because it was not a name of any place in Batibo before the creation of the church in the mid sixties.
The pioneers that created this church were previously worshiping at the Presbyterian Church Bengang. When the population of Bengang congregation was growing, it was decided that a new church be built to ease the overpopulation of the small Bengang church and to reduce the distance covered by worshipers that came from present day Wumugi vicinity.
Foundation of new church (above) and old Wumugi Church (below) 'small and dilapidated' (photo: Njei M.T)
A piece of land was offered to the church on a small hillside beside a stream near the defunct Tad market along the Bamenda-Mamfe highway. Now that they were ready to start building their church, what name will they give it? The people who broke away from the Bengang church mostly came from Kokum, Kozoh, Tad and other places in that neighborhood and the pioneers of Wumugi church did not want their new church name to reflect only one of the above places. After brainstorming they came out with the name Wumgi. In the Moghamo language (spoken in this area), ‘wum’ or ‘iwum’ means hill and ‘gi’ or ‘igi’ means stream. So the church real estate became known as ‘Wumigi’ or ‘Hill stream’. In writing it, an error was introduced in the spelling. Today, the church is called Wumugi which in Moghamo language sounds like ‘Termite Hill’.
The church project two years after commencing the foundation in the previous photo
The congregation started holding church services in someone’s house before setting up a temporary structure with a thatched roof on their new plot. A more permanent structure was put in place in the seventies. Today, Wumugi congregation has expanded and has become the Parish headquarters of four congregations and serves as an alternate congregation for the Presbyterian High School workers during holidays. After years of maintenance, that structure (built in 1973) is now small, old and dilapidated. The brownish roof cover is supported by crumbling wood that cannot longer withstand the weight of any carpenter trying to make repairs on it. Whenever there is any occasion that brings people from outside to the congregation, church service takes place outside the church for want of space.
During occasions church service at Wumugi takes place outside (photo: Njei M.T)
Work on the new foundation of the church started in 2008 and various strategies were adopted to raise funds to see the project through. Various fund raising events were organized and money realized was used to commence work. Work progressed in installments under the able leadership of the project committee chairperson Mr Ndango Martin. When the raising of the church walls was completed in 2011, it was clear that the roofing will require money that could not be easily raised through fund raising.
Some elites of Wumugi church catchment area decided to make a census of potential contributors (mostly children from the church catchment area living elsewhere). A census was taken and people were levied to pay money according to income. The money realized from this exercise was used to roof the church house in 2012.
The church house in 2013 was already being put into use without a floor, doors and windows. The building project continued in installments as funds came in.
This is the state of the church building (below) in March 2016...barely seven years after the project started. The story of this church teaches us what human determination coupled with prudent management of resources can produce. Thanks to the able leadership of the project committee chairman (Mr Ndango Martin) and those Wumugi parish pastors who cooperated with him, this edifice has seen the light at the end of the tunnel.
People always ask how a small congregation of poor villagers managed to accomplish such a project in a short time? The answer is simple. The congregation was lucky to have one person willing to provide selfless leadership and donors had confidence in the integrity of that person. The PCC and the larger community has a lot to learn from this obscure small congregation in Batibo Presbytery.
Njei Moses Timah