Our churches in in Africa are alive with excitement. We follow Jesus so he can make us fishers of people in his time and at his pleasure.
We are learning to take the opportunities that God places before us. Stepping out in faith is becoming part of our Christ-nature. It is amazing to see how unexpected opportunities come our way, and that we can use such occasions in his service.
An example of this took place in the nation of Benin. Atsu Dravie, area pastor for Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso, told me of a challenge God presented to our congregation in Cotonou. “A group of Christians had become disenchanted with their local pastors’ alleged immoral activities, and they contacted our church to ask if we would pastor them. Now some of them are attending our weekly Saturday services and in addition we have provided weekly Sunday services to meet their needs.” Our group in Cotonou is pastored by an unordained pastoral team. God was opening a door, and without any qualms they walked through it.
Also from Benin, Arthur Adjibodou, pastor in Porto Novo, sent me this report of an evangelistic effort: “In December we declared an open day and encouraged members to invite guests. The theme was Christ Is the Answer. Eighteen new people turned up, and have continued to attend with us ever since.”
In remote parts of Zambia, groups and individuals have sought contact with us, but our funds are limited. Out of the blue, an Australian member offered to sponsor a pastoral tour of the area. Kalengule Kaoma, who was then regional pastor for Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe, accepted the offer. Midway through his trip, he informed me that during the first three weeks of May he baptized 47 people. Thanks be to God!
Similar stories abound. In Zimbabwe, despite tensions, God is working with our fellowship. Pastor Ken Clark and his wife, Jeanette, began a Bible study five months ago in the farming community of Marondera. In South Africa, church planting opportunities have opened to us, and we have begun new services in various locations.
In western Kenya more new groups have contacted our national leader. That area seems to be growing, and we don’t have the resources, yet still God brings people to us, and we just can’t turn God’s loved ones away. The leaders step out in faith time after time.
We need to let God prepare us for the harvest. Our leaders need to learn how to evaluate opportunities, to operate within the freedom of accountability, to be well-versed in sound doctrine, to be filled with wisdom so they can help feed the flock: to be prepared to become fishers of people.
With the growth God is giving us, the recognition and training of leaders becomes a vital focus. Our church needs to be equipped with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and to be given resources through teaching and information. At our regional conferences we address such issues. We also stress the need to make sure that a leader’s relationship with Jesus is where it should be, as only then can we begin to be effectively used by him.
For example, about 40 leading men and women from Ghana assembled in Accra for a three-day workshop on the theme of Preparing to be Fishers of People. Discussions revolved around the importance of understanding and following Jesus. Similar workshops either are planned or have already taken place in other parts of Africa.
Many of the national leadership teams run their own local conferences. The Cameroon ministers, led by Jean-Jacques Ndoudoumou, organized their first national congress, with a concentration primarily on evangelism. They organized and funded the event by themselves. This shows the kind of confidence that is beginning to be felt in many places.
One of our strengths is the ongoing training of our ordained and nonordained leaders through mentoring and conferences. This is a resource we can share, so we have opened our ministerial conferences to ministers and leaders of other fellowships and non-affiliated groups.
Whenever a group expresses interest in us, we invite the leaders of that group whether or not we have visited the group. This approach has begun to bear fruit. I addressed the Hour of Revival Gospel Church near Johannesburg. Their pastor, David Mathebula, decided to attend our conference in June.
The leader of our group in Burundi wrote that most of the members are in government-controlled regroupment camps. Conditions are deplorable, with much hunger, malnutrition and disease. The leader’s daughter-in-law died in one of the camps, leaving three young children for the extended family to take care of. Please pray that God will comfort not only our friends but also all who are trapped in these unbearable conditions. We also have contacts in similar situations in other parts of Africa.
There have been many areas of concern all over the continent, and the members appreciate the prayers of our worldwide fellowship, especially for Christians in the Congo, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Sudan, Uganda, Nigeria and for other countries where either political strife or environmental disasters dominate the news headlines.
Another prayer request concerns communication. Mail is generally unreliable, but in most countries we have established at least one e-mail connection, thus allowing vital flock feeding and leadership mentoring material to get through. We lack connections in a few areas, and I would appreciate your prayers that a connection can be established.
Please also pray that we will be bold enough to go through the doors God opens to us. It is clear that God is giving our fellowship many opportunities in Africa, and often we lack the personnel, physical and financial resources to respond in a timely way. Nevertheless it is amazing what God can accomplish with what we have. So we walk in faith, always.
It is difficult to know where to stop when writing about how God is using our fellowship in Africa. Jesus is making us into Fishers of People. Thank you for your intercession for and support of all of us in this area of the world. It is clear that often we get by “on the wings of a prayer”! Above all, thanks be to God for the wonderful opportunities he provides for us in the service of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
James and Shirley Henderson
updated in 2016
Ghanaian fishermen [Photos by James Henderson]
Emmanuel and Monica Sobgo take notes at April conference
Atsu Dravie (front) and Arthur Adjibodou sing praises.
Author: James and Shirley Henderson