|From left to right...John, Charles, Pastor Kossi, Deborah, Moses, and Dominick|
Saturday, March 4, 2017
Finishing Up in Togo...
It's Saturday morning here in Lome, Togo. I have a day off as Pastor Kossi and the others spend today making preparations for the worship service and graduation ceremony tomorrow. After I catch up on email, report writing, and my laundry, later this afternoon/evening I plan to take a taxi to the beach here in Lome to see the beach at sunset and see if I can pick up a few little gifts for my children.
It's been a very busy couple of weeks of teaching everyday since I got here. Eight days in a row! I'm pleased to see the dedication and desire to lean by Pastor Kossi and the those he has been training. This first trip provides a good overview of what this new Visiting Missionary call is all about. The CLC Board of Missions has made the training of pastors, teachers, and evangelists a priority in our overseas mission efforts. With established opportunities in fourteen different countries around the world and more that are developing, there is much work to be done. What I have been doing here in Togo, I will be doing in several different countries over the next several months and years...as the Lord wills!
During my two week stay here in Togo, I have had the opportunity to spend several days teaching and reviewing with the four men who will graduate on Sunday, March 5th. These men have been meeting for classes for two to three days each week for the past four and a half years. They have studied under Pastor Kossi and Pastor Matthew Ude during these years. Pastor Kossi has been with the CLC since 2000. Following more than five years of training with Missionary Koenig during his annual visits and also a visit and attending classes at the Bible school in Nigeria while Missionary was living and teaching there, Pastor Kossi was ordained a Luthetan pastor and soon after began establishing preaching stations outside of Lome where the Lord provided him opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. It became apparent to Pastor Kossi that he would not be able to keep up with all of this work on his own. At the time, he was working full-time as a teacher and school headmaster. A few years back Pastor Kossi decided it was time to dedicate himself fully to the Gospel ministry. So he quit his government teaching job and began training men to serve as pastors of the preaching stations that were growing under his care. Sunday brings te initial phase of this plan to fruition.
While I met Pastor Kossi and these men three and half years ago when I first visited Togo, I didn't really have the time or opportunity to get to know them. My first visit to Togo in 2013 was brief and the time was mostly spent visiting the preaching stations. This time around, during my current visit, my priority has been to work with these men as we have spent seven hours a day for eight days in intense study of God's word. We finished up the lessons that Matthew Ude had begun the last time he was able to visit in 2015 and then moved on to a thorough review of Christian doctrine and the six chief parts of the Lutheran Catechism in preparation for their graduation.
Here's a brief bio on each of these men:
Charles is 36 years old, married, and is a father to three children with one on the way. He works a secular job as a night security guard here in Lome to support himself, his family, and the congregation he serves. He has been studying with Pastor Kossi for the past three and half years. The congregation he serves has thirty adult members. Pastor Charles travels about three hours (one way) by motorcycle every Sunday and Wednesday to serve this fledgling congregation of believers.
John is 45 years old, married, and is a father to four children. John owns a water truck business that delivers water in and around Lome. He has been studying with Pastor Kossi for the past five years. He serves a congregation of about 40 adult members in a village that is three hours away from his home in Lome. He makes this trip each Sunday to lead the congregation in worship service and Bible study.
Dominick is 39 years old, married, and has four children. He owns a motorcycle transport business. Which means that gets paid to give peopke rides and to transport whatever he can carry on his motorcycle. He also rents his motorcycle to others to use while he is attending classes with Pastor Kossi. He has been studying with Pastor Kossi for seven years. Dominick has been making the four hour (one way) trip every Sunday to serve a small preaching station with 20 adult members.
Moses is 41 years old, married, and the father to four children. Moses is originally from Togo but now lives just over the border in Ghana where his wife was born and raised. He is a carpenter by trade and uses this God-given skill to support himself, his family, his extended family, and the congregation he started when he and his family moved there a few years back. This congregation is located about three hours from Lome. Moses has been making the trip to Lome to attend classes with Pastor Kossi for the past three years. The congregation he serves has sixteen adult members and several children from the village who attend the weekly children's Bible classes that the teaches.
The woman in the picture is Deborah. She is a member of the congregation where Kossi serves in Lome and lives very close by. She has been faithfully attending most of the classes that have been taught to the four men mentioned above. She told me that she has grown so much in her understanding of God's word through these classes and she is confident that the Lord will use what He has taught her as she teaches weekly Bible classes to children and proclaims the Gospel to those in her neighborhood. Pastor Kossi told me that many of the members of the congregation he serves have come to him for further instruction in the Word after first hearing the Gospel from Deborah. What a blessed privilege to know and work with someone who has been given a love for the Savior that just naturally overflows in her life.
These four men have been given the heavy responsibility of leading a congregation of God's blood bought children. They have recognized their need for further training in God's word to carry out the work they have been given. And by God's grace they have found the opportunity to gain this training through Pastor Kossi and the support provided by the CLC. It has been such a privilege to work with and get to know these dedicated men these past ten days. I am humbled by their dedication and the sacrifices they have made to further prepare themselves for the work that the Lord has given to each of them. While each of these men have been serving congregations for the past few years, they and those they serve have understood that they were not yet pastors. Following the graduation on Sunday, these men will be officially appointed as the pastor of the congregations they serve. They are expecting over three-hundred people in attendance as several members and the elders of these congregations will travel the three, and four hours to attend. It should be an exciting and joy filled day!