Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sent to Nigeria...Nov. 2018

I have been in Nigeria since leaving Togo a couple of weeks ago. Togo and Nigeria do not share a border, but almost. The country of Benin stands between them. Benin is only 75 miles wide at the coastline but in some areas it's around 200 miles wide. 

I traveled to Nigeria to host and attend the 2018 West Africa CLC Pastoral Conference to be held in Apa, Nigeria where Grace Lutheran Church of the NCLC is located. This town is located very near the Nigeria/Benin border in the extreme south-west corner of Nigeria.
Pastors in attendance at the West Africa CLC Pastoral Conference
The conference had pastors, evangelists, and visitors from Liberia, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and the U.S. in attendance. Our theme for the Conference was "The One Thing Needed" in reference to Jesus and His word taken from Luke 10:42.
Pastor Joseph Kwiwalazu from Liberia delivering an essay titled: God's Word is Sufficient for Evangelism
Following the pastoral conference I traveled to Akwa Ibom State which is located in the Niger Delta area in the South-Central part of Nigeria. Efa is a village in Akwa Ibom where the Nigeria-CLC is headquartered and where the NCLC Luther Bible Institute is located. While in Efa I had meetings with several NCLC Boards and Committees to discuss their work, challenges, and future plans.
NCLC Luther Bible Institute Classroom, Library, and Study Hall Building near Efa, Nigeria
NCLC Luther Bible Institute Classroom
There are two individuals who are scheduled to graduate from the five year seminary course of the Bible Institute. On December 15th they will receive their diplomas, be ordained, and will be assigned to the congregation they will serve. God willing, there will be six new students enrolled and beginning the five year course in January.

I will be heading home soon just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Teaching, La Grace Foundation, Land, Worship, and Goodbye Togo...

It's Sunday evening here in Lome, Togo and the wifi seems to be fairly strong and reliable so I will try to get in one last blog post before I head to Nigeria tomorrow for a couple of weeks. 

The last few days have been a flurry of activity. On Thursday and Friday I had on-going Bible training classes with Pastor Kossi along with three of the the four pastors who graduated from the Mt. Horeb Lutheran Bible Institute of the MELC and were ordained back in March of 2016, and Deborah, the woman who teaches the children and trains Sunday School teachers in the MELC congregations. We reviewed the proper method of Bible interpretation and then applied those tools specifically to the study, explanation, and teaching of the parables from the earthly ministry of Jesus. It was a good couple of days.
My view from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm while teaching at the Mt. Horeb Lutheran Bible Institute in Lone, Togo
On Saturday we got up early to drive a couple of hours north of Lome, past the area where Pastor Kossi grew up, to see the six hectares of land (a little less than fifteen acres) that was recently purchased with a MDF (Mission Development Fund) grant that was approved by the CLC Board of Missions

This land is part of not-for-profit humanitarian foundation that Pastor Kossi and the MELC filed with the Togo government a few years ago. It has been approved by the Togo government and is called the La Grace Foundation of the MELC. Now that they have land they are also eligible to apply for development grants from the Togo government. The initial plan is to use this land to grow cash crops and to provide food to help support the Bible Institute students and MELC Orphans and Children In Need. The Chief of the near by village has given his necessary approval and is excited for this project as it will also provide jobs for area workers. The long range plan includes an elementary school. The initial plan and first priority is to build a chapel and begin evangelism in the area. There is only one other church (pentecostal) in area and it is currently not be served with any kind of regularity. Pray that the Lord will bless their every effort to proclaim the Good News of His saving Word to this area of the Togo and that He would bless their efforts to support the work that He has given them to do!
Agbadgi,Togo...the village near the MELC La Grace Foundation Land Project


Through the Togolese bush to see the land that the Lord has provided

Here and the pictures below show the plot markers on the three of the four corners of the six hectare plot of land. The fourth plot marker was visible from a distance but it was deep in the bush and on the other side of the marshy area near the stream where they plan to develop rice paddy land.


This morning we traveled to an area on the outskirts of Lome where door to door evangelism over the past several years has led to the beginnings of a new MELC congregation. Pastor John, one of the men who graduated and was ordained about 18 months ago, has a brother who lives in this area of Lome. He invited his John and Pastor Kossi to do evangelism work near his home. Today members from three MELC congregations, including Pastor Moses and a car load of members all the way from Ghana, attended the combined service in their newly dedicated chapel. I was given the privilege of preaching the sermon. I preached on John 14...Let not your heart be troubled...Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! There was much singing and dancing on this joy-filled day of worship.

I wanted to upload some of the singing and dancing but I just don't have the internet bandwidth to get it done. Here's a few pictures of everyone getting ready to head home after the three hour worship service...
MELC members from Ghana begin the long ride home

Benches, chairs, lectern, and drums were brought from the main MELC church

Newly constructed MELC chapel building on the outskirts of Lome, Togo
MELC Grace Chapel sign hangs above the door
Tomorrow I head to the airport for a quick one hour flight from Lome, Togo to Lagos, Nigeria. Depending on how long it takes to get through immigration and customs, I will either spend the night in Lagos and then head out early Tuesday morning by car with Pastor Mike Essien with the hopes of arriving at Badagry, Nigeria by 10:00 am for the start of the 2018 West Africa CLC Pastoral Conference. Or, we will go directly from the airport tomorrow evening and arrive in Badagry late in the evening. 

We are expecting nearly forty pastors, students, and evangelists in attendance from Ghana, Liberia, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and me from the U.S.A. Your prayers for safe travels for all of these men and for the conference itself are requested and much appreciated. 

Please forgive any typos you find...the wifi was not as strong and reliable as I had first thought so I'm not going to go through the frustration of an edit.


Friday, November 2, 2018

Children of Togo...

When visiting our sister church bodies around the world I have the privilege of getting to know some of the children that receive support through the CLC Project Kinship. I can't share personal information about the children but I can share a few pictures and stories to give you a better idea of the challenges they face and how we are given the privilege and opportunity to help. 

Deborah singing with the children while waiting for more to arrive
The MELC has been assisting the children in the area of Lome where the church is located since it first began. Through the families they have met through door-to-door evangelism efforts they became aware of several children in this impoverished part of the city who didn't know about their Savior, were not attending school, and were not receiving proper nutrition. So a woman in the congregation began inviting them to church one afternoon each week for a Bible lesson. When the CLC Board of Missions and Project Kinship became aware of this opportunity in March of 2016, annual funding was soon approved to begin assisting these "Children In Need" with school fees, note books, Bible Lessons, and weekly nutrition. Between 35-40 children come to the church on Sunday mornings for Sunday School and Worship and again one day during the week for a Bible lesson and nutrition. This effort is supported through general offerings to Project Kinship.


Deborah and some of the children at the MELC in Lome, Togo
Project Kinship has also found monthly sponsors for seven children who have lost one or both of their parents. These children live with the families of the MELC pastors. One of the young boys I met was abandoned by his parents and was discovered when they were doing door-to-door evangelism. With all of the sin in this world, it's hard to think about about what might have become of him if he had not been taken in by Pastor Kossi and his family. A little girl who doesn't know her father and and her mother is too sick with aids to work or take care of her is also living with Pastor Kossi's family. Please pray for these children and for Pastor Kossi's wife who has chosen to love and care for these children in addition to the seven children they have on their own.


Mission Evangelique Lutherienne de Confession du Togo where the children meet each week forSunday School, Bible Lessons, and weekly nutrition

The woman you see in the pictures has been a member of the MELC congregation since the beginning. She is the one who took it upon herself to begin loving and caring for these children in the areas around the church. She has a family of four children of her own and she runs a small business where she buys and sells items for the home. She doesn't receive any pay and many weeks she is on her own to serve and teach the 35-40 children who show up for the Bible lesson and nutrition. She also took it upon herself to attend classes for several years with Pastor Kossi and the Bible Institute students who were preparing to be ordained as pastors so she would be better equipped to teach these children the truths of God's saving word. Her name is Deborah...keep her and the children she cares so much about in your prayers!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Seven Days with Six Students in Togo

Today (31 OCT 2018) I finished up classes with the six students of the Mt. Horeb Lutheran Bible Institute here in Lome, Togo. These men took more than a week off from their secular jobs to attend classes while I was here. We've met for four hours of classes each day for seven days over the last week and a half. These men have been studying with Pastor Kossi since April of 2017. They are scheduled to complete their formal classroom instruction in October of 2020 when they will graduate, be ordained, and be formally assigned to a congregation or preaching station that they have been working with. They will continue to meet monthly for on-going training for years to come. Since each of these men work full-time to support their families they are not able to attend classes five days a week, so they meet for two days a week for classes and they preach and teach at a preaching station on Sunday mornings and do evangelism work on Sunday afternoons.

Mt. Horeb Bible Institute Students in Class (Oct. 2018)
Classes meet at the church building of the CLC affiliated Mission Evangelique Lutherienne Confession du Togo (MELC). This building serves as the worship sanctuary, Bible institute classroom, and weekly meeting room for the 30+ children in need from the surrounding community who come twice a week for Bible Study, Sunday School/Worship, Academic Study Hall, and to receive much needed nutrition. 
Mission Evangelique Luthereinne Confession du Togo (MELC) Church Building in Lome, Togo



We covered several topics that relate directly to serving in the Gospel ministry as we turned to God's word for direction and encouragement. We read, considered, and discussed what God's word reveals to us concerning the truth of the following topics: Preach the Word, Administer the Sacraments (Baptism and Lord's Supper), The Ministry of the Keys and Confession, Pray for God's People, Visit the Sick, Comfort those Who are Grieving the Loss of a Loved One, Call Sinners to Repentance (Church Discipline), Encourage Those Who are Weak in Faith, Guard and Cherish the Truth (Church Fellowship), Set an Example, and Evangelism. Our final day (October 31) of classes we had a review of Lutheran Reformation History with a focus on the importance of God's Grace in our lives and the lives of all sinners.

At the end of our studies each student was given the opportunity to give an oral summary presentation of one topic we discussed. Pastor Kossi translated from Ewe and French so that I was able to benefit as well. It was encouraging to hear these men give their presentations. They all demonstrated a good understanding of what we studied and a sincere desire to serve the Lord. It is clear that these men are "in it" for the all the right reasons. 
Mt. Horeb Bible Institute student giving oral presentation
Mt. Horeb Bible Institute student giving oral presentation
Mt. Horeb Bible Institute student giving oral presentation
Mt. Horeb Bible Institute student giving oral presentation
Students and teacher of the Mt. Horeb Bible Institute of the MELC in Lome, Togo
Pastor Kossi
They convinced me to do a selfie
These men range in age from 38 to 57 and they have been learning from Pastor Kossi from 4 to 10 years. They work as carpenters, ship port workers, electricians, handy men, well diggers, masons, and teachers. Some of them have been brought up as Christians while others were converted as adults. Each one has a unique story as to how the Lord brought them into contact with Pastor Kossi and why they are now eager to serve the Lord in the Gospel ministry. Please pray for these men, their families, their training, and the Good News they proclaim!