Flags waved, voices rang out in song, and national leaders from countries across West Africa and beyond danced down aisles in colorful traditional attire. In Grand Bassam, just outside of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire where deaths are still being mourned from terrorist attacks just two weeks prior, close to 500 representatives gathered from March 30 to April 3rd to celebrate the Africa Regional Conference for the International Church of the Nazarene. Dr. Filimao Chambo, director for the Africa Region, opened the conference with a stirring message on the conference theme “Prepare the Way” taken from Isaiah 57:14. After four days of inspiring worship, prayer, preaching, and workshops, the conference culminated in a ceremony in which 40 pastors from countries across West Africa were ordained. Holiness revival services were held each night led by three different African ministers. At the end of each service, over a hundred people responded to God’s call. Reverend Daniel Gomis, Field Strategy Coordinator for the West Field, describes the conference as “a demonstration of God’s faithfulness and love for His church.”
The conference was especially meaningful because it included Christian brothers and sisters from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone who earlier were restricted from traveling outside of their countries because of the Ebola epidemic. Reverend Daniel Johnson of Monrovia explains what the conference meant to him and his fellow Liberians. “Although we had many difficulties like bad roads (some traveled by bus for three to four days), and hassles at check points, the trip was well worth it. The morale of the church members was strengthened through fellowship with others from all over the region. For many, it was their first time out of Liberia and they got to see a broader perspective of the church. They are used to seeing the church from a local and district level but now see that our church is an international church and that we are one. Despite language barriers, we are unified . . . .We felt the joy of the Lord and hope to come again.”
Reverend Moise Toumoudagou of Benin describes a similar experience of unity. “For many, it was their first trip out of the country and it was a real joy to see so many different people worshipping the same God. We are not alone, but part of a large family. I am not alone in my country, but my country belongs to many countries.” He describes how many in his district are new in their Christian faith and that the week’s messages which challenged listeners to live Christ-like lives of loving service to God and others inspired his people to grow stronger in their faith, in fellowship and in their relationships. He said that the daily workshops were extremely helpful and observed, “The church did not invest in vain for a seed was planted in each of us.”
Reverend William Grant who is from South East Liberia shared that the message by General Superintendant, Dr. Eugenio Duarte “challenged us and opened our eyes on the subject of holiness.” Reverend Daniel Gomis said that he would “personally remember Dr. Duarte’s inspiring and prophetic words to the Church in Africa: ‘What are we supposed to do with His Truth? There is a lot of food on the roadside. But, there is no need for us (Nazarenes) to go after the roadside food, we have good food.’ May we continue to eat the good food and grow into Christ-likeness in such a time like this.”
Dr. Verne Ward, Director of Global Mission, reminded listeners that we are called and sent by a holy God, that we need to depend on Him who goes before us. He shared an inspiring story of mission, of reaching an unreached people group in Papua New Guinea. He challenged his audience not to ask “What is God preparing for me?” but “What is God preparing me for?” (a question that merits reflection).