Goats Galore–Breeding Hope for Children in Benin

By Monica Carr

Moïse Toumoudagou of Pendjari, Benin, in West Africa was only 7 when his father died. As part of a cultural tradition, his aunt gave him a hen to raise with the help of his mother. In a year, he had about 40 chickens. Many years later, this simple but life-changing gift gave Moïse an idea that he shared with his local church: What if we gave goats to children in need?

“We saw that there were a lot challenges in the community,” Moïse recalls. “In many families children didn’t go to school. Education was not sufficient. There were always requests for financial help.”

The church had a list of 200 children they wanted to help and asked for donations. In the end, church members gave enough money for 240 goats. They named the program Hands of Solidarity and chose five children from each village to receive a female goat. In three months, the number of goats had doubled. The new goats went to children in other villages, and the program continues to expand.

In villages where shepherding is part of the culture, children receive a sheep instead of a goat. Female animals provide milk, which offers nutrition and can also be sold for income. The program buys back male animals, providing income for educational needs.

The church seeks out the most vulnerable children in each village: those who have been orphaned by the loss of both parents and those who have lost one parent; children of polygamous marriage; and children whose parents have left the village in search of work in the city. They also try to help daughters whose mothers have divorced because those girls face cultural discrimination.

Norbert Touboudagou, who helps supervise the program, shares, “Many children come to know God, because they see compassion—those who have come with a kind hand to help them, who demonstrate God’s message of love.”

The success of Hands of Solidarity is astounding. Norbert recalls recently visiting a boy who had 11 female goats after starting with one three years earlier. He had also returned two males back to the program.

According to Moise, the program “gives the children value, teaches responsibility, and helps them stay in school. … They tend to be some of the best students in the school.”

To date 4,000 children have benefited from the program, experiencing a change in educational opportunity and in confidence. That’s 4,000 children who are better prepared to transform their society because the transforming love of Christ was shown to them.

What’s more, Moise says the program has created unity among the children who participate and their families. When the dry season started in Benin a couple of years ago, the community came together to create wells to provide water for the animals and families.

This experience embodied the concept of “hands of solidarity” literally, as they worked side by side to dig the wells by hand.

As one African proverb reminds us: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Empowering Women in Liberia

–Monica Carr

Visiting the Nazarene Women’s Project (NAWOP) in Ganta, Liberia, I was instantly impressed with the diligence of the girls who were busily stirring cornbread batter and who had already baked sumptuous potato bread muffins. They also had bread dough rising in pans ready to bake in the innovative round aluminium oven, heated with coals placed underneath and on top.
In partnership with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, this ministry has been in operation since 2001. Edith N’Boyou, a pastor’s wife and the founder of NAWOP, whose slogan is “Empowerment from Productivity”, explained that the aim of the project was, “…For the people to be empowered to help their families and community and to be a witness. . . to share their Christian faith with people in the area.” Not only do the girls learn to make baked goods during the nine month program, but they also learn the process of batik and soap making. The program also includes a spiritual element, as the girls study the Bible during daily devotions.
NAWOP has helped countless girls over the years. Grace Daniels, 24, a student and the current class president of the group shared that the program, “[Has been] a big help. It helps me learn how to manage and set-up a business.” Not only does the program benefit its students, but the baked goods that they make provide healthy snacks for the children of the adjoining church-run school, as well as providing goods (soap and batik) for the community.
When asked about her future goals for the program, Edith shared that she hopes to incorporate a showroom for her goods so that people in the community can more easily see and buy the products. I can personally vouch for the potato bread muffins, as the verse, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” comes to mind. (Psalm 34:8)

The Grand Feast

–Monica Carr

Today is Tabaski (in Senegal) otherwise know as Eid al-adha or Eid El Kebir (the grand feast). This morning, at 9:30 am, when I left for my walk in the park, live sheep were bleating in front of neighbor’s homes. When I arrived home, around 11:00 am, sacrificed sheep were being processed in courtyards, their meat laid over coals. In Muslim tradition, Tabaski signifies God’s faithfulness in providing the sacrificial lamb when Abraham took Ishmael (Isaac in the Biblical account) up the mountain. While, Christians don’t celebrate Tabaski, remembering this event is important for Christians as well. Abraham was stopped from sacrificing Isaac, but it is in this act that we see a foreshadowing of what God does for humanity when he later allows his own son (the sacrificial lamb) to be crucified as atonement for the sins of the world, restoring the personal relationship between God and man that was broken when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. When Jesus shares a final meal with his disciples (during Passover) before his death, we see a glimpse of the fellowship and feasting to come when He returns. Thankfully, because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, there is no longer need for animal sacrifice. Because of His sacrifice, believers have the promise of both eternal life and more abundant life here on earth. Christ’s love transforms us and gives us His love for others. We can look forward to one day feasting together with Him and our brothers and sisters around the world, and that is something to celebrate and share!

A Well for Sissis

–by Brittany Kroeze

People often ask how we choose where to drill a well; the truth is every well is different. The story of this particular well starts back in 2008 when a young church leader from the neighboring village of Badd asked the chief of Sissis (a young man named Emmanuel) for permission to start meeting with the children. With the chief’s blessing, Aida and other leaders starting meeting with the children once a week. They sang, played games and told Bible stories. All the while, the adults where watching, taking note of the change they were seeing in their children, and wondering what made Aida and her friends so different. After six months of observing, the adults started coming, asking questions, wanting to know more of what it was that was being taught to their children. And so, through the children, parents were now coming to know Christ and eager to have their own time of learning.

A few years later, the Church of Badd was able to distribute shoeboxes filled with gifts at Christmas and further show the love of God to these children who have so little.

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But they wanted to do more for the adults. How could they show them that not only does Christ love and care about them, but so does His body, the church? There is something truly beautiful about seeing the church reach out and say, “We love you. We care about your needs and we want to do our part to help.” A very obvious need they saw was a lack of clean water. And so the idea of drilling a well for this village was brought to our attention.

Our local leaders began the process of preparing to drill a well. It takes some time, as we try to make sure, first and foremost, that we have the chief’s approval and that the entire community is in agreement on where the well should be drilled. We then have to assemble the team and service all the equipment. Once the prep work is done, the team determines a time when they can drill.

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We were blessed to have a group of young men here to help when we were drilling the well. Together with the young men from the US and our drilling team, we successfully drilled a well to 60 feet. Praise be to God! In just two days, the well was drilled and the hand pump installed. This is a true victory and the result of much prayer! We give God all the glory for the work being done in this village.

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As you have read, the work in Sissis did not just happen overnight. This has been a year’s worth of work and an investment by the local Church, West Africa field, and the global church. In the end, it is worth it all, and more. The village now has around 18 adult believers and many children seeking the Lord. The local leaders of Badd still visit Sissis and help with church services and Bible Studies. So, it is by the grace of God that this village now has not only clean water, but the Living water!

There is not yet an established church in the village, but we pray that through the contacts already made and the many developing relationships we will soon see a new church developed. It is also our hope and prayer to see more of our local leaders receive and accept the call to ministry that they might rise up and take more permanent roles in the church.

We are excited about our Joseph Project, the Church of the Nazarene’s very own five acre farm. The farm will not only serve in assisting our local leaders in developing new and better agricultural skills, but also serve as a ministry training center, a place for these leaders to receive the discipleship and training they need to effectively serve the church and also provide for their families. But that is another story for another time.

When you turn on your tap water, or are sitting in church, please remember the village of Sissis. Remember to pray for the people, that they will continue to seek out and drink of the Living water, that the church body will continue to grow, and leaders would, indeed, rise up and take on the task of establishing “Sissis Church of the Nazarene”.

 

 

Hope amidst Demise—a New Resource in Dan

–Monica Carr

Reverend Tee T. Latahn, Nazarene pastor, school director, and radio host lives in Karnplay, Liberia. He is from the Dan people group and speaks the Dan language. His congregation also speaks Dan, as do 5,000 Nazarenes on his district, an estimated 60-70,000 people in Liberia and an even greater number in Côte d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast). Historically known for their superior fighting skills, the Dan tribe in Liberia received from the Americo-Liberians the name “Gio” in the late 1800’s (the name of the sack in which they carried their arrows). Although Dan is spoken by many, written materials in Dan are scarce.  Tee laments. “Most of the Bibles that were printed in the early 1980’s are now disappearing.” (During the interview, I witness for myself the tattered and worn state of his Bible.)

For the past 13 years Tee and his wife Bouyanue have had a radio ministry with a listenership in the tens of thousands. He explains. “We usually give our message in English and then give a summary translation in the Dan language.  Unlike other radio producers who only use English, our radio has caught the attention of many Dan listeners.  Many listeners want to get a copy of the Dan language Bible.  Sometimes in the past, we have translated parts of the church’s Articles of Faith and also had a mini-conference with pastors for three days [to discuss them] and later took copies to their churches.  At the National Conference in Ganta, we shared our work on the Articles of Faith with the other zonal leaders and pastors.”

Recently, Tee and his wife had the opportunity to attend a translation summit in Abidjan in which they finished the translation of the Articles of Faith in the Dan language. They emphasized the conference meant a great deal to them. Having all of the Articles in Dan provides a great discipleship resource for those in the church, and also helps those who listen to their radio program. Tee said that he originally started his church by teaching about the church and sharing the Articles of Faith on the radio.  He explains, “Many have called the radio station to ask for a written copy.  Some have walked long distances to the church after hearing the Articles of Faith on the radio.  One such listener who walked to the church and asked for a copy gave $50 as a contribution toward their new church building.” (This is a very generous gift considering that some workers, especially in farming communities make as little as a dollar a day.) Tee explained that even “those who opposed the church’s holiness message in the beginning are now embracing the message.  We used to worship in a school.  The man who was trying to force us out of the school, the head master, heard the radio program and is now a good friend and supporter.”

 

In addition to pastoring a church and running a radio ministry, Tee is also the director of the school he started. His wife, Bouyanue, teaches there.  He started the school during the civil war when many of the government schools were closed down. He wanted to keep children from becoming child soldiers, which was very common in his area. He shares that before the war they used to have limited materials to teach the Dan language but do not have any now.  He said he would love to get materials to teach literacy of the Dan language in the school.

Although they don’t teach Dan literacy in the school, they currently offer some literacy classes in his church.  While the Gio people are hungry for Christian resources, Tee said they have not been able to find any in the Dan language. “The people are happy to get books but they are not available.” Other than the Bible, (which is scarce) the Articles of Faith that they translated is the only available Christian resource in Dan.  Better resources would help Tee accomplish his dream, which is “to work with the Dan people in Liberia and those across the border in a larger way.”

In a country plagued with a history of civil war and more recently Ebola, the translation of Christian materials, like the Articles of Faith into Dan offers hope to many in the church and beyond.

*Authors Note:  On April 9th, (a week after I interviewed Tee) Tee’s 10 year old son, Emmanuel, died when he fell from a tree while trying to pick a mango. A few days later, I received the following message from Tee:

“The death of Emman was a sad event . . . but by the help of our Lord, we are being consoled. Emman’s death brought together thousands of friends, relatives and sympathizers of different backgrounds for one week. More than 10 got converted only because of our testimonies and devotional messages. Our God provided the means to feed all the people during the one week. We bless our Lord and thank all of you for praying.”

Please continue to pray for Tee, Bouyanue, and the Latahn family.

la valeur de l’authenticité

Bien aimés saints et fidèles frères et sœurs en Christ, que la grâce et la paix vous soient multipliées.

« Ne pensez plus aux évènements passés, et ne considérez plus ce qui est ancien.  Voici je vais faire une chose nouvelle, sur le point d’arriver : Ne la connaîtrez-vous pas ? Je mettrai un chemin dans le désert, et des fleuves dans la solitude. » Ésaïe 43.18-19.

Que l’événement soit heureux ou malheureux, l’Éternel nous invite à ne plus y penser et à ne plus le considérer.« Je vais faire une chose nouvelle. » Cette chose nouvelle a commencé à croître sans qu’on s’en rende compte et elle se manifestera clairement par la grâce de Dieu et la puissance de son Esprit.

En effet, la version Darby ressort clairement le sens de ce verset : « Voici, je fais une chose nouvelle ; maintenant elle va germer : ne la connaîtrez-vous pas ? » Ce qui était en germination va à présent se manifester et se développer : Dieu nous donne une année de confirmation de ce qu’il a commencé à faire.

Cette confirmation de l’oeuvre de Dieu en Afrique de l’Ouest reposera sur les six racines de nos valeurs :

  • Authenticité
  • Chrétien
  • Sainteté
  • Hospitalité
  • Interdépendance
  • Missionnaire.

J’aimerai parler ici de la valeur de l’authenticité. L’authenticité est le début et la base de toutes les autres valeurs. Elle se résume en ces paroles de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ en Jean 12.24 : « En vérité, en vérité, je vous le dis, si le grain de blé qui est tombé en terre ne meurt, il reste seul ; mais, s’il meurt, il porte beaucoup de fruit. »

En Wolof (ma langue maternelle), « il reste seul » est traduit « il ne peut aller au-delà de ce qu’il est » en d’autres termes, il ne changera pas, il n’y aura pas de transformation. Le grain qui meurt, subi une transformation intérieure instantanée (la nouvelle naissance) et progressive (l’oeuvre de sanctification). Le grain devient ce que Dieu l’a appelé à être :

– un enfant de Dieu,

– une semence qui porte du fruit,

– un agent de transformation de sa nation,

-un ambassadeur de la réconciliation des communautés,

– Un disciple authentique.

Le disciple authentique puise la source de son être en Jésus-Christ. Je citerai ici mon frère, le révérend Moïse qui a bien communiqué la notion d’authenticité en ces termes:

« C’est seulement en étant authentiques que nous serons nous-même. Et étant nous même, nous retrouverons naturellement nos valeurs et notre potentiel. Perdre son authenticité, c’est faire taire à jamais notre propre impulsion humaine, l’aspiration de notre âme. Perdre notre authenticité, c’est enfin vider notre identité de toute substance et la rhabiller avec des accoutrements inadaptés. »

En d’autres termes : On doit garder son soi intact quand nous prenons chez autrui.

Faisons nôtre la promesse de Dieu de « Faire une chose nouvelle » à travers de disciples authentiques. Ainsi, ce sera à travers eux que Dieu mettra un chemin dans le désert : Il ouvrira des portes dans les coins reculés du Sahel et de nos villages et Il mettra des fleuves dans la solitude : Il ouvrira des brèches dans la solitude de nos villes d’Afrique de l’Ouest.

Ma prière pour chacun de nos responsables, pasteurs, laïcs et enfants est : Que chacun vive sa foi de manière authentique, en n’imitant que Jésus Christ seul, et en prenant des modèles qui inspirent une marche dans la sainteté.

L’Église en Afrique de l’Ouest a plus que jamais besoin d’hommes et de femmes qui craignent Dieu et qui pratiquent chaque jour le conseil de l’apôtre Paul à Archippe : « Prends garde au ministère que tu as reçu dans le Seigneur, afin de le bien remplir. » Colossiens 4.17.

Oui, Dieu fera une chose nouvelle à travers des disciples authentiques !

Que la grâce et la paix vous soient données de la part de Dieu notre Père !

Soyez bénis.

Votre frère, Pst Daniel Gomis

 

Empowering Women in Liberia

–Monica Carr

Visiting the Nazarene Women’s Project (NAWOP) in Ganta Liberia last week, I was instantly impressed with the diligence of the girls who were busily stirring cornbread batter and who had already baked sumptuous potato bread muffins (which I happily sampled). They also had bread dough rising in pans ready to bake in the innovative round aluminum oven, heated with coals (placed underneath and on top.) In partnership with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, this ministry has been in operation since 2001. Edith N’Boyou, a pastor’s wife and the founder of NAWOP, whose slogan is “Empowerment from productivity” explained that the aim of the project was “for the people to be empowered to help their families and community and to be a witness. . . to share their Christian faith with people in the area.” Not only do the girls learn to make baked goods during the nine month program but they also learn the process of batik and soap making. The program also includes a spiritual element, as the girls study the Bible during daily devotions. NAWOP has helped countless girls over the years. Grace Daniels, 24, a student and the current class president of the group shared that the program personally was “A big help. It helps me learn how to manage and set up a business.” Not only does the program benefit its students, but the baked goods that they make provide healthy snacks for the children of the adjoining church run school as well as providing goods (soap and batik) for the community. When asked about her future goals for the program Edith shared that she hopes to incorporate a showroom for her goods so that people in the community can more easily see and buy the products. I can definitely vouch for the potato bread muffins, and for the project as a whole the verse “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” comes to mind. (Psalm 34:8)

Nazarenes “Prepare the Way,” Africa Regional Conference, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

 –Monica Carr

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).

 

Message de fin d’année

Chers leaders et vos familles respectives,

Recevez nos salutations fraternelles et amicales au nom de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ. Pour cette fête de nouvel an, nous vous adressons nos vœux les meilleurs. Que l’Année 2016 soit pour chacun, une année de Paix profonde, de joie grandiose et de bonheur intense. Que notre seigneur Jésus Christ de Nazareth puisse vous combler de beaucoup de grâces : Santé, Succès, Prospérité et Développement. Ce message de vœux que nous vous adressons ici même vous prépare à accueillir le traditionnel message de fin d’année du Rév. Daniel GOMIS, Directeur du Champ de l’Afrique de l’Ouest.

En effet, dans le souci de pérenniser la culture de la communion fraternelle autour des fêtes du nouvel an, le Champ à travers son premier responsable se propose de nous livrer un message de vœux, d’encouragement et de bénédictions !

Par ailleurs, nous vous encourageons à relayer ce message dans toutes nos assemblées afin de renforcer les liens de la sainte famille que nous constituons désormais.

En attendant la délivrance de ce message, nous vous en souhaitons une bonne réception.

Bonne fête du Nouvel an 2016 !!!

Vos frères :

Djedje et Moïse.

Feasting with Orphans

–by Vidal Cole

Background

As a result of the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, twenty-two children in the Wellington and Sima Town area, situated in the east end part of Freetown, were left helpless and homeless as they lost their parents and relatives to the virus. The children are presently cared for by Joshua Sandy, a Christian brother. Through the help of friends and loved ones he has been able to rent a house where all of them are now staying together as one big family.

According to Joshua, the Ebola outbreak shattered the dreams of these young children; thus he named the house “Dream Again Home”. His desire was that through the help of God these children, whose dreams had died, would be given the opportunity to Dream Again.

We first encountered these children during the rice distribution program the church embarked on in June this year. As we spent time with them during the distribution process, we sensed a special bonding with them; it was evident that the Lord was giving us a passion/burden for them. Our time with them was very emotional as we listened to them narrate their stories. Since then, we have continued praying with and for them and we have supported them from time to time.

Christmas Party

As we approached Christmas, we went on a visit to the home and the children spoke about organizing a Christmas party for them and they asked us whether we could help them. We thought about it and concluded that it was the least we could do to put a smile on their faces. Last year, there was no Christmas celebration in Sierra Leone because the virus was spreading rapidly by then. This year was indeed the right time to give these children a special treat so they could feel loved and accepted, and so they would know that they are not alone. We wanted to extend the love of God to them by sharing food and drinks with them during this festive season.

We decided on the date for the party (28th December 2015) and we worked on the necessary preparation to ensure the children had a great day of celebration. It involved getting them some new clothes and shoes to put on and the girls getting their hair nicely plaited and decorated with colorful hair accessories. We also arranged for a variety of special meals, drinks, and snacks to be prepared. In addition, we got a sound system for the children to enjoy gospel music as they ate their food.

The program started with an opening prayer from one of the secondary school children after which various speeches were made from the children. One of the kids made a “Thank You” speech to the Sierra Leone District Church of the Nazarene and it was very touching. I was also asked to make a statement and to respond to the speech. It was an evening of fun, laughter, dancing and celebration. The children danced in groups of threes and fours and they did some drama too. The food was very delicious and the children enjoyed it very much. All of them ate and drank to their satisfaction. The little girls displayed their walking styles in “cat walk” fashion and it was very interesting; it was much fun to be with them. We took photos together and they displayed “Thank You” messages in various languages. It was indeed a great time and the children expressed much appreciation to the church.

As we were getting ready to go home, one of the little girls named Philo held on very closely to my wife and I as we took some snap shots and she did not want us to go. We had to spend some time talking to her; reassuring her that we would be back before she finally let go.

We give God all the glory for making it possible for us to be a blessing to the children. We went home with a great sense of fulfillment, knowing that we had been channels in the hand of God to bring joy to the kids. We seem to have become the family that they lost to the Ebola virus. We look forward to continuing to minister to them in the coming year.