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Benin and Togo train leaders, celebrate 380 new churches

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Editor's note: Missionary Tim Eby tells about what God is doing through the Nazarene church in the West African nations of Benin and Togo, as he chronicles his visit to a district assembly. (A district assembly is the annual gathering of delegates elected by each local church in the district to conduct church business and to celebrate reports of God's work.)

My visit in the northern town of Parakou, Benin, and the southern city of Lome, Togo, was an experience I will cherish for some time.  I landed in Cotonou the economic capitol of Benin, then I traveled north with the leaders of our churches in Benin and Togo, only to have our vehicle break down only one hour into the journey.  To assure our arrival in time for the assembly, some of us pressed on with local transportation.

With our boxes of training materials and bags we jumped on the “sept place” which means a station wagon with seven to 10 people squeezed in and the roof rack loaded up to 10 feet above the roof.  From town to town we made our connections, arriving 12 hours after the start of our journey but glad to be with our local pastors and leaders for the celebration.


I continue to be amazed by the dedication and development of the leaders in the Sahel corridor.  Rev. Friday Ganda, visiting from Burkina Faso, chaired our district assembly in the north.  The district rented a local movie theatre for the assembly of more than a 1,000 reported churches. 

Many of the people coming for the assembly ride long distances in trucks or buses to reach the annual event.  Unfortunately one of the largest delegations from the northeast of Benin did not make it because their truck broke down on the road.


Despite the challenges there was still a spirit of hope and challenge from our leaders.  Rev. Moise Toumoudagou gave his report indicating that across the five zones and more than nine section leaders they planted 380 new churches in 2009. Also, 205 churches officially organized this year, and 120 new students were added to the Nazarene Theological Institute training in this region. What an awesome testimony to the vision and development of the church.

After the assembly I spent three days participating in training for discipleship and leadership with these key leaders.  As the church grows in number, it requires that our leaders mature and develop with that growth. Our commitment in West Africa is to raise up a strong and healthy church with national leaders that have the skills, the character and the vision to move the church forward.

This training, both in the north and the south of Togo, involved more than 50 leaders, including pastors, Nazarene Missions International (NMI) presidents, Nazarene Youth International (NYI) presidents, and leaders of zones. (A zone is a collection of several districts, and allows for zone leadership to administer and provide resources to those districts; a district is a collection of local churches within a certain geographical area, allowing district leaders to govern and resource those churches.)

The leaders left with a spirit of unity and purpose to go and make disciples in their nation and even to the rest of the world.  Our work in both Niger and Mali has come from local leaders crossing borders and planting churches where God’s Spirit is moving.  We have seen miracles of saved lives, village chiefs coming to Christ who were formerly from other religions, and amazing stories of God’s healing power.

The last day in Benin I walked with leaders to the land where the site of the zonal training center will be built.  In three strategic areas in the north of Benin and Togo we have plans to build centers for training and administration.  These centers will be the first permanent buildings for a church that already has more than a 1,000 churches across the district.  Alabaster, a global church offering for buildings and property, helped us to buy the land and begin the foundations of these training centers. We are in desperate need of Work & Witness teams to come in and help us get the projects completed.  We are praying that in 2010 and 2011 God will send us teams to help complete these centers.

As I walked through the village just outside of Parakou, I saw the testimony of the Nazarene church. As we walked past house after house, hut after hut, the leaders would simply say “this is a Nazarene home as well.”  The local pastor, Pastor Gideon started a literacy program in the small, mud-walled, thatched church.  Each day after the normal working hours he teaches into the evening so that the children and youth in his village will learn to read and write in their own language as well as French.

The Church of the Nazarene is busy planting the testimony of the light of the world across a vast and hopeless corridor of deceit, despair and darkness. The work is difficult with many challenges, and yet I see our faithful leaders pressing on despite lack of training, resources and man power.  Let us join in prayer and support of this team that has their eyes on planting churches across the nations of Benin, Togo, Niger, Mali, Ghana, and Bukina Faso.

-- Tim Eby is a missionary in the Africa West Field. Reprinted from the West Africa Nazarene newsletter. For more information on the Africa West Field, visit www.awfcon.org.

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