Tom and Barbara Needham were farmers, and they went to Cameroon, Africa, to teach the people better farming methods. There a missionary led them to Christ. They returned to Iowa, sold the farm, went back to Cameroon as missionaries in 1991. Their daughter Elizabeth, the fifth of seven children was two years old at the time. There she grew up and served the Lord with her family. She learned Pidgin English and Fulfulde, the language of the Fulani Muslim people, as well as sign language. Elizabeth was homeschooled and was saved at age six. At age twelve at summer camp, she was memorizing the words to the hymn their group was about to sing. “All to Jesus I surrender. All to him I freely give.” She realized that it was not true of her, but she immediately surrendered all! Suddenly she had a burden to reach the lost.
Cameroon is divided into two parts; one speaks English and the other French. The Needhams worked in the smaller English-speaking section until forced to move to the French side because of violence that arose in 2018. Elizabeth is currently learning both French and French Sign Language.
Elizabeth graduated from the Baptist College of Ministry in 2012 and then returned to Africa. She and three of her sisters attended BBTI from 2019 to 2020. She was an excellent student and a blessing to all each day. Elizabeth’s childhood friends named her Sangle which means “joy,” and to this day, she wears a perpetual smile. She returned as a missionary to Cameroon in January 2021.
Through her church, Elizabeth ministers to women and children, but God is especially blessing her outreach to the deaf. Here are a few testimonies:
“One deaf man who trusted in Christ last week said, ‘I want my wife and all my deaf friends to hear this same preaching.’ He invited us back the next Saturday to preach to all the deaf that he could gather but was disappointed that none of them came. We taught him how to share the Gospel with others and arranged to meet him again next Friday to meet his wife and other deaf friends. Another deaf man who was a Jehovah’s Witness also trusted in Christ two weeks ago after Synthia and I had witnessed to him multiple times. He came to church with two friends and really enjoyed it. He is still holding to his connection to the JWs, trying to decide which one he will follow. Another deaf woman told me, ‘I have gone to church many times, but I have never heard before what you have told me today about Jesus.’ She was so surprised and amazed to hear that Jesus died to take away her sins. Today I stopped by to give her a Bible. She was so happy! Charnelle, another deaf woman I have reached out to came to church last Sunday. She told me afterward, ‘I do not understand anything in the church that I have been attending. I just sit and stare at the pastor until he is done. But here you interpreted for me, and I could understand. I want to come back next week.’ Charnelle’s deaf husband came to me with one of the tracts I had given her. He told me he is a believer and said, ‘This paper is so true…I want to gather all my deaf friends in my house on Saturday and explain to them all what I read in this paper, and I am going to invite them all to church on Sunday.’ One very tall deaf man with large hands stood in front of the rice shop where he loads and unloads 50 kg bags of rice. He meekly listened to the Gospel and asked questions. Then he prayed a sweet, simple prayer, ‘Jesus forgive me. I believe in you.’”
We praise the Lord that He allowed us to have a small part in a great work in Africa. But what if Elizabeth had not surrendered all? Most missionary kids do not return to the mission field. Thank God Elizabeth did!