By Blake Tommey
Twin brothers Assou and Sevi first met Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Mike Hutchinson on the day of their father’s funeral, just outside Lomé, Togo. Following the service, Mike visited the boys’ mother, who was overcome with grief. Life seemed anything but abundant. How would she support her family? What would happen to her two youngest sons? Through sobs, she pleaded with Hutchinson to become the boys’ new father.
“Not to have a father in a village is a terrible thing, because you have no voice,” Hutchinson explained of West African culture. “And if you’re given over to an uncle, many times, he will simply work you like a slave. It’s a dangerous predicament to be in.”
Mike and his wife, Lynn, were already forming together with their neighbors through Togo House, an asset-based community development ministry supported by the CBF Offering for Global Missions. But becoming new parents was out-of-bounds. Nevertheless, Mike agreed to get to know the boys. “That was good enough for her,” he said.
Assou and Sevi began visiting Togo House as well as the Hutchinsons home in Lomé. By that time, the boys had returned to school after four years of absence and needed money to pay tuition. The Hutchinsons couldn’t pay their tuition, Mike said, but they did need a weekend guard at Togo House as well as a helper around their own kitchen. So, the boys began part-time work the following week.
Assou started in the kitchen with Mike, who taught him how to make Italian specialties like pasta and pizza. Eventually, Assou began cooking for the Hutchinsons’ spaghetti lunch every Sunday, which the entire neighborhood attends. Friends even call him “Assoutini” for his unmatched cooking skills. Later, he learned recipes for papaya muffins and banana pancakes, both of which he taught to his middle-school peers. An entire group of boys now bake 50 or more muffins at a time from the Hutchinsons’ kitchen to bring to Togo House and other community events. Assou simply enjoys the craft, he said, not to mention the pay.
“I like cooking because I’m able to earn some money to feed my brother and my mother, and do something with my life,” Assou explained.
“I like to make spaghetti and pizzas. I even learned how to make a cake. Mr. Michael is the one who taught me. My friends asked if they can come here so that I can teach them. We had a lot of children who learned how to make spaghetti and tomato sauce and how to prepare pineapples and bananas. Many children came to participate. Now they say that my spaghetti and pizza is better than Mr. Michael’s!”
Sevi became the weekend guard at Togo House when the Hutchinsons were away visiting other villages; but his love for games soon drew him closer. He attended summer camp at Togo House, where he made crafts and played frisbee and water games. Sevi’s greatest passion, however, is soccer, and he says he wants to become a professional footballer. Until then, he serves as a leader in Togo House’s soccer camp, where he and Assou teach football fundamentals to middle-schoolers and also lead a Bible study.
Still, the twins spend the bulk of their time preparing for and attending school. Sevi’s favorite subjects are math and physics and he and his brother are slowly affording tuition, thanks to their new jobs. The boys’ long hiatus from school set them back to 8th grade level as 18-year-olds, but neither is discouraged. Since meeting the Hutchinsons and investing in their passions, Assou and Sevi have discovered a far more abundant life than they ever thought possible, Sevi said.
“I like school because schools educate us about many things in life—how to follow the rules, even how to educate a child at home,” he explained. “I’m learning a lot of lessons. I do exercises and my teachers are always happy with my work. Before Togo House, my life was a bit overwhelming, because my family suffered a lot. But now I am working to earn some money and to feed myself. My life has changed, by the grace of God. I’m very proud.”
Watch a video story about Assou and Sevi and the Hutchinsons’ ministry below:
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This article appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of fellowship! magazine, the quarterly publication of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Read online here and subscribe for free to fellowship! and CBF’s weekly e-newsletter, fellowship! weekly at www.cbf.net/subscribe.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is aChristian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission. Learn more at www.cbf.net.