Rev. David Yunwun Nyanganji was born in Rom, which is now in Nwa Subdivision, in the North-West Region of Cameroon. David is his baptismal name and Nyanganji his foster father’s name. His mother named him Yunwun “somebody’s belonging” in remembrance of her resistance to temptation from men: she told them that she belonged to her husband. Her name was Ma Njinsah and she was from the Foumban royal family. She was married to the fon (traditional ruler) of Sehn and had a child who died. She was then accused of being a witch and exiled from the village. She took refuge in Rom and was given shelter by Nyanganji, who arranged for her to be married to Mr. Chumjet.
Ma Njinsah and Chumjet had four children including David, who was their third child. Chumjet died before David was old enough to remember what he looked like. His mother cared for the four children through very difficult circumstances. Before he was six months old, David stopped taking his mother’s milk and was fed with garden eggs for two weeks. Soothsayers said his mother had transgressed the law of the gods and that a goat was required as propitiation. His mother went around the village wailing that her son’s mouth had been closed by witches and wizards. When the goat was given to the priests of the gods they ate it, uttered some incantations and David began to take milk again. One night, while lying in bed with her four children, Ma Njinsah died. The children were put into the care of relatives but David’s guardian ill-treated him so badly that he escaped to Nyanganji, his foster father.
In 1936 an evangelist called Abraham Ngeh Nsom came from Kom to Rom and hired David as a houseboy. During a church service, he announced the founding of a new mission school. Those interested in becoming students were asked to raise their hand. David had wanted to go to school for a long time so he put his hand up and was selected to be one of the pioneer pupils. Abraham approached David’s foster father and secured his consent to send David to school. He provided him with some money and clothing then left David with his foster father, who ensured that he was among the first twenty-five pupils of the Baptist Mission School in Mbem. This was in 1937. The pupils lived in dormitories and Nyanganji was loved by the teachers for his cleanliness and academic excellence.
He accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior in 1936 and was baptized on November 6 of the same year. He became truly convinced that he was saved in 1942, when he and a friend went to complete their studies in a public school in Ndop. While there they came face to face with immorality among the non-Christian teachers and pupils but they resisted the temptation to follow the crowd. Nyanganji completed his standard six with a pass and was employed by Miss Ada Forsch, a North American Missionary, to be a teacher in his alma mater, Cameroon Baptist Mission School, Mbem. He did very well and progressed in his profession: he was granted a category “C” teacher status from Lagos, Nigeria in 1947. Unfortunately, in December of that year he took the wife of another man to live with him. This lasted one week but he only separated from the woman after Miss Forsch, the station manager, and Miss Reddig, the missionary station manager, confronted him. He acknowledged his wrong-doing and was disciplined by the church. Five shillings were deducted from his monthly salary and he was transferred to another school in a faraway village called Lus. While in Lus, a rumor was spread about him falsely accusing him of living immorally. The missionaries dismissed him from service on July 6, 1947 without any investigation. Now, out of fellowship with the church and God, he sought satisfaction in drinking alcohol and smoking but he did not find it.
In 1948 he was employed at Bamenda station as a cattle control clerk. The missionaries in Mbem wrote him letters to encourage him and assure him they were praying for him. Miss Reddig visited him in his new office to tell him they hoped that one day he would come back to the mission. Nyanganji’s response was that it was impossible.
Not long after, he lost the job in Bamenda and moved southwest to what was then Victoria. He became very ill and his memories of those days were mostly of unhappiness. He underwent a surgical operation but his health did not fully improve. He travelled back to Bamenda and while in the hospital there he prayed and promised God that he would serve him all his life if he were healed. He ran out of supplies, sold all his belongings and began to share meals with prisoners.
When treatment in the Bamenda African Hospital seemed ineffective, he moved to the Cameroon Baptist Mission Hospital in Banso. Here he came into contact with the missionaries again and he applied to serve as a church teacher. He stated his preference to work at his home church because they had no teacher at that time. He was also looking forward to getting married and his future bride was there.
He began his services as church teacher in Mbem on August 22, 1949 and got married to Miss Elizabeth Ruseche that same year. In 1950 he went to the Baptist Bible Training Center which had just been relocated from Belo to Mbem. After studying there for one year he was sent to the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso for further studies. He studied there for one year and returned to serve as pastor. In 1954, when the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) was given autonomy by the Cameroon Baptist Mission, he became the first recording secretary. Many leadership responsibilities were placed on his shoulders. In 1955, while studying, he became a tutor at the Baptist Bible Training Center, Ndu. The same year he served as Cameroon Baptist Convention president. When the missionaries were handing over responsibility for the mission stations to nationals, he became Mbem field pastor. He was among the first nationals to be ordained under the Cameroon Baptist Convention in 1955. At that time, field pastors were still paid with funds from the North American Baptist Conference. In 1956, he refused to be paid with funds from overseas thereby empowering and challenging the nationals to take on the financial responsibility that comes with autonomy. In 1959 to 1961 he served as parliamentarian in the Southern Cameroon House of Assembly. He was the first Cameroonian to translate a whole book of the Bible (the gospel according to Mark) into Pidgin English, which he did in 1962. After serving in parliament, he moved on to pastoring different congregations and worked as a tutor at the Baptist Bible Training Center in Ndu from 1965 to 1978. During that time he was honored as campus chief in 1974 and as senior first African tutor in 1977.
In 1973 he contested for the position of Executive Secretary of the CBC but his opponent was declared winner. However, Ndu and Nso fields (administrative units of the CBC), which were the areas from which much of his following came, protested that the elections were rigged. He attested to this fact, even going so far as to publicize the name of the returning officer who had come to him in secret and apologized for having exchanged unlabeled boxes in order to give victory to his opponent. After this, before he arrived at his station, people had already written a protest to the CBC head office and saved him a copy. This marked the beginning of a rift which lasted until 1986. Negotiations went on up to 1978 but came to nothing. The churches in Ndu and Nso, which supported him, no longer adhered to the CBC but seceded to become an independent body called the Revival Baptist Church, of which he was executive secretary from 1983 to 1984. Before that, in 1978, the church doors were closed by the civil administration: Nyanganji was arrested, tried and jailed for six months. In 1984 further negotiations yielded fruit and in 1986 there was a celebration of thanksgiving and reconciliation. Genuine healing took place and Nyanganji continued his ministry with the CBC and was greatly respected.
He went on to serve as pastor of Nsam Baptist Church from 1985 to 1992; pastor of Mulip Baptist church in 1994 and pastor of Rom (where he was born) from 1995 to 2000 when, at the age of 80, he retired from active service. His health began to deteriorate and he sought treatment in the USA. He returned and spent the rest of his life with his daughter Becky Nyanganji who worked at Baptist Hospital, Mutengene. He was well taken care of and close to medical attention until January 18, 2012 when he died after giving I Kings 2:14 as a charge to his descendants. In his will, the concluding statement to his family was, “Goodbye, we meet in eternity.”
He was honored for meritorious services by the traditional rulers of Ndu and Rom. In June 2004 he was awarded an honorary Bachelor of Theology degree by the Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary (formerly, Baptist Bible Training Center). He was a statesman, pastor, teacher and administrator. His favorite Bible verse was Philippians 1:21. He was forceful about what he deemed right and ready to submit to what would glorify God even if it hurt him. He had a stable family life and brought up his children in the fear of God. He affirmed the joy he felt in the honor they gave him in his old age. With his wife, Elizabeth Ruseche Nyanganji, he had seven children, and when he died at the age of 92 he had thirty-one grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
Ambola David Njong
Nyanganji David Yunwun, Autobiography, an unpublished manuscript in possession of the author. (2010).
Ferim Abraham, CBC/Ndu and Nso Field Crisis, interview by the Rev David Y. Nyanganji, Mutengene, Cameroon, October 5, 2007.
Nyanganji, Job, son of David Yunwun Nyanganji, interview by author, Nairobi, May 2013.
Nyanganji, Job, Excerpts from David Nyanganji’s Will and Obituary dictated to author, June 2013.
Ngeh Nsom, Abraham, informal interview by author, Cameroon, June 2012.
Author’s personal knowledge of Rev. D. Y. Nyanganji especially while serving as Ministers Fellowship President of the Cameroon Baptist Convention 2008 to 2012.
This article, received in July 2013, was written by Ambola David Njong, a Pastor, serving with the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC), Cameroon while a Master of Divinity student in the department of Biblical Studies at Africa International University, Nairobi, Kenya. Ambola David served as Church Pastor, Ministers Fellowship President and secretary of the Ministerial Council in the same Church organization (CBC) where the subject served.