As Samuel sits, shelling cashews alongside 600 fellow workers each day, he shares more than idle gossip or a good joke. He’s sharing the gospel. It’s something he’s wanted to do since the moment he received Christ, but he had no idea he’d be called to do so in his current surroundings. Yet a life spent serving the Lord is full of surprises.
Born into a Muslim family in Benin, Samuel heard the gospel on Christian radio and immediately surrendered his life to Christ. But that decision came with a cost. He was disowned by his family and had to relinquish his salaried teaching position to study for the pastorate. Money was always in short supply, and Samuel often struggled to pay for his education. Thankfully, he crossed paths with Jace Rabe, an American businessman who was so impressed by the young man’s desire to share the gospel that he and and his wife connected Samuel with their business partners, Richard and Vicki Barnhill, who paid for his theological education and living expenses. And as Samuel grew in the Lord, they knew they had to include him in their plans for the city of Parakou in central Benin.
In 2011 Rabe and Barnhill opened Tolaro Global, a cashew processing plant in Parakou. But unlike other factories operating in the country, theirs had a goal much grander than increased profits. Rabe and Barnhill are in business to help the people, and not just by providing jobs that bring economic growth and stability to a country in desperate need of it. They are also offering the gospel.
“We have a wonderful partnership with Samuel,” says Barnhill. “Friendship, too. He’s sacrificed everything to spread the message of Christ, and we simply can’t speak highly enough of him.” In addition to preaching in local churches and distributing French-language Messengers, Samuel labors and lives alongside his fellow countrymen as they roast, shell, and package the seeds that will travel all over the world.
“It is my goal to reach 1,000 people for Christ in two years,” Samuel says. “My plan is to contact 10 people a week, give them a Messenger, go to their homes to talk about what they heard from Dr. Charles Stanley, and help them to make a decision for Jesus.” And despite some stern opposition from practitioners of Islam and Voodoo, he is making headway on his audacious goal—one person at a time.
Photography by Tommy Walton