Hello my name is Shirley Masongezi. I was born and raised in Rockford, IL to Christian parents. I spent the majority of our Sundays at the Baptist church where my uncle pastored for 40 years. There was no option for attending Sunday school, church service, Baptist Youth Fellowship, then evening vespers. I remember the first time I complained to my parents about spending eight hours at church, my dad responded by letting me know that he would help me pack my suitcase if I wanted to move. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the fun things and great fellowship as an adolescent but my heart was empty. I was baptized at twelve years of age, but did not understand the plan of salvation at all. My perspective was that of joining an organization. During the sermon times I was either designing basketball plays or secretly finishing my math homework. One of the most enjoyable activities during my teen years was participating in the Guild Girls, a group with an emphasis on global work. We studied global work as well as preparing bandages of muslin sheets for the Baptist Hospital in Kimpese, Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, where my husband was born and raised. I finally became a Christian at 30 years of age through Christian television.
I was first called into ministry in 1981 while I was working on my PhD at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University better known as Virginia Tech. Before going to Virginia Tech, I taught math for 12 years in middle, high school, then at Northern Illinois University while working on my masters in educational administration. I left the United States in 1983 and spent five years in Nigeria working with Cru as I began teaching math at Baptist High School in Jos. Before moving to Jos, I taught math and science at a new government science school in Lafia, Nigeria for only one year, while discipling women in my local church and learning the Hausa language. After that rich global work experience, I returned to the States in 1987 to continue working with Cru in Atlanta, where my focus was office administration and discipling professional women.
In 1990 the Lord called me to work with Converge Worldwide/Baptist General Conference in Cameroon, West Africa reaching out to Muslim women and a discipleship ministry among women at my local church in Yaoundé. During our Easter Jesus Film campaign, I met Rev. Wilondja Masongezi, a widower, and we were married in September of 1998. It was a bit shocking to suddenly become a wife, mother, and grandmother at the same time.
Three years after our marriage, we went as church planters to Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) in 2001 and planted Goshen Church in 2004, despite several interruptions because of the civil war. This church plant was launched relatively fast because there was a small group of 26 willing and open Ivoirians who wanted to reach out to their own people. Our core leadership group was chosen from the 26 who began growing spiritually, at an incredibly fast rate. Upon our departure in 2005, we left an interim pastor in place who returned to seminary. However, he was replaced by a full-time pastor who has inspired the church to plant two daughter churches. The church called us in 2006, while we were in the States raising support, to continue church planting in Quebec, and asked if we would return for the dedication service for Goshen Church. We were honored that they insisted we be in attendance.
My husband and I are currently in the beginning stages of church planting a pure French speaking church in Bafoussam, Cameroon, since 2013 when we first arrived. After surveying three key cities in Cameroon, we decided that this city in the western region of Cameroon had very few church plants within the past twenty-five years. The ministry has had its difficulties since the French speaking Cameroonians are seriously involved in African Traditional Religion and they are not discouraged or rebuked by the churches where they attend to stop their syncretism. Perhaps, it’s more of a matter of evangelism and discipleship. The majority of these ethnic groups have not yet heard the gospel since many of them are Catholic or attend a Cameroonian Evangelical Church that is very liberal.
Pray for the three couples and a single woman coming from the French speaking ethnic group we have targeted in the western region. We would like God to touch the heart of these seven people to consider joining our leadership core group this year that will eventually lead to us planting the church by 2020.
At the end of June, we started a church planting training center that currently has three students. Two native French speakers and my husband’s secretary who is bilingual. The center has classes all day Mondays and Thursdays, located in our offices just adjacent to our home. Pray that these students will catch a vision for church planting before this first session ends. Pray also for that my husband maintains good health and has stamina as he is the only professor. He has invited another church planter from another organization to teach two days and he also uses DVDs by church planting specialists.
Finally, pray for God to raise up another global worker couple already fluent in French to work with us as we move closer to 2020. Then pray for God to have gifted French speaking Cameroonians with the skill set to lead the ministries we would like to put in place when we launch the church.