BENIN, West Africa (BP)–Bob and Becky Couts have served as International Mission Board missionaries in Benin for 33 years. They’ve experienced sickness, the joy of new believers and the sadness of seeing people reject Christ, but the night of June 25 they were confronted with a situation like no other they had experienced -– home invasion.
Bob was looking up news on the Internet and Becky was washing dinner dishes in their home in the Oueme Valley, two hours north of the capital city of Porto-Novo, when four young men forced their way inside the house.
They held the Couts, threatened them, tied them up and killed their dog.
“They had machetes and lead pipes,” Becky said. “They asked for our money, so I led them to the safe and gave them all the money.”
For 45 minutes, the men ransacked the Couts’ home, loading all the electronics devices –- TV, VCR, projector, laptop and camera –- into the Couts’ truck. They also took the couple’s residency papers, including their passports.
The men then locked the couple in their shower and drove away.
Bob, 62, took the shower rod and broke a hole in the ceiling of their shower. He climbed onto the shoulders of Becky, 63, and worked his way across the dividing wall to the toilet area. Bob broke another hole in the ceiling to climb back down into the house to let Becky out. Then they walked to a neighbor’s house to call the police.
When they returned the next day, they were met by pastors and evangelists from the Weme (way-may) people group, whom the Couts work among.
“[The pastors and evangelists] sang and thanked the Lord for our safety,” Becky said. “They told us the whole valley was upset, not just the church members. In the nine years we have lived here, we have never heard of a home invasion.”
Born in Altus, Okla., Becky grew up as a missionary kid in Hawaii. She uses her nursing skills as an RN to care for the neighboring village children and to help medical volunteers. She also continues to build relationships with the countless African women she has trained to lead Sunday School and women’s groups.
Bob, from Springfield, Tenn., is known for having a story for everything. With 33 years of experience in Africa, his stories center around his African friends, but often also include references to Tennessee football.
Despite the Couts’ friendly nature, it hasn’t been easy planting churches in Benin, the birthplace of Voodoo. For more than nine years, the Couts have worked to plant churches among the 163,000 Weme people.
Recently, they have seen their hard work pay off. In May, they baptized 16 new believers in the Oueme River to start the Kessounou (kayss-a-na) church. The new church already is going to two nearby villages to share Jesus.
Most of the other 11 churches they work with are so new that they need instruction on how to teach children Bible stories. In response, First Baptist Church in Springfield, Tenn., taught a group of believers how to hold Vacation Bible School this past summer.
The Couts watched as children sang Bible verses while kicking a soccer ball in front of ancient Voodoo idols in the area. More than 1,700 Weme children learned Bible stories, Scripture verses and Bible songs.
In addition to planting churches, the Couts train local believers to be pastors and evangelists. This was something they had done for 23 years in Porto-Novo before moving to the valley.
When the pastors in Porto-Novo found out about the robbery, they came to encourage the Couts.
“They came with a heavy heart and burden for us,” Bob said. “It was very moving and touching.”
Believing that God still has a purpose for them in Benin, the Couts plan to stay there until their scheduled retirement in about a year and a half.
“We have young churches to nourish,” Becky said. “We are doing a lot of leadership training. We don’t know why it [the robbery] has happened, but the Lord has purpose in it all….
“The Lord hasn’t called us away yet. There is still a lot for us to do.”