French West Africa
I was recently in French West Africa. In Lomé, Togo, I had the joy of meeting Julien Naka, my Europresse (French EP Books) colleague. Paul N’Goran, from Ivory Coast, joined us the next day, along with Vincent Dua, a young preacher from his church. Vincent is quiet and shy – until he gets in the pulpit, opens the Bible and starts preaching. Then he is like a young lion for the Lord!
On Saturday, we preached at Lomé and found the people eager to learn about free grace. People continued asking searching questions for most of the afternoon. We spent the rest of the weekend with the church – started some years ago by Eric Affognitodé, a former student on the Europresse correspondence course. He has had to move to Ghana, but his church continues under the leadership of Jacob, another EP student.
Then we took the coastal road to Cotonou, Benin, where we picked up Pastor Stephen Bignall who had just arrived from England. After meeting with the two Grace churches in Cotonou, we drove to Agbédranfo in the Mono area, the birthplace of voodoo.
Although there is no electricity and you have to walk a short distance to get running water, this remote village has a gospel church. Simon, the pastor, heard the gospel on Europresse radio programmes a few years ago. The little bamboo hut was packed for the afternoon meeting, with many young people attentive to the message.
We then headed for Bohicon, where Europresse’s Bénin office is situated, arriving just in time for the church’s evening meeting. It was my first visit to the spacious building, only completed in the last few months. The brethren bought a plot of land and completed the project without help from outside Benin. They support one of their preachers two days a week to prepare for his ministry.
The 2009 West Africa conference for students on the Europresse preachers’ course started the next day, with 40 men from six different countries in attendance.
The quality of teaching was high. We repeated the theme used in Cameroon last November – ‘The pillars of the gospel’. Stephen Bignall spoke on ‘The will of God is free’ and ‘The will of man is bound’. These meshed well with the other messages. Matthias, a quiet and spiritual man from Bohicon, said that he would bless God till his dying day for what he had heard!
After the conference, Julien, Paul, Vincent and I drove north to meet other churches and brethren. We had planned to go to Banikoara, near the northern tip of Benin, but the road was in such a bad state that we had to abandon the trip halfway.
This enabled us to spend more time with the little church in Parakou. Our visit was a particular encouragement to Anselme, the student who leads this work, as he feels very isolated in the area.
We then drove 250 miles south, and then west to Pira, where we had the joy of bringing the Word to about twenty people, before returning to Bohicon. I travelled on to Cotonou and met with churches there before catching a plane back to Europe.
This gospel work in Benin and Togo is encouraging as we see men taking responsibility in leading the churches. Westerners often look with envy at Africa because people there are so willing to attend meetings. But the work is still not easy and Africa’s ‘church culture’ brings with it other challenges.
We need wisdom as we work towards the spiritual maturity and full independence of these churches.