Back from Vacation

Well we are back from vacation and into the day to day life here in Cotonou again. Vacation was in Burkina Faso for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s far from Cotonou and work related responsibilities. Second, Burkina Faso is one of the places that might be a future ministry site for us. So we figured it was best to at least make a visit to get a first impression feel.

One activity was a visit to the Ouagadougou International School with Jeremiah and Deborah. They liked what they saw, and Jeremiah was especially impressed that there seems to be a baseball team there. Here in Cotonou he does tennis, soccer, swimming, cricket and table tennis at school but would really like to try his hand at baseball. If at some point we ended up in Ouagadougou and they were to go to that school, they would be pleased.

We also were able to worship with congregations in Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso as well as touch base with a number of folks who are in ministry there, both expatriate missionaries and local leaders. It seems like there would be places for us to participate in the area of theological education, which is the area that interests us most. So that was good to see.

Since it was vacation we spent some time at the pool and ate pizza almost every day, those being among Jeremiah and Deborah’s favorite vacation activities. Mom and Dad also had time to read some detective novels and generally just relax a bit.

The entire drive to Ouagadougou from Cotonou takes about 14 hours, so we overnighted just south of the Burkina border at Tanguita. There we were just outside of the Penjari game park. It being the rainy season and not having a 4WD vehicle we didn’t go into the park to see the sites. We did, however, see monkeys and chimpanzees a number times crossing the road in front of us. So I guess that counts for something.

Continue to remember us in your prayers as we get back into the routine of Cotonou. Nancy will be back to work at IBB next week, and I am preparing to speak at the Mennonite Church Nigeria youth convention on the weekend of Sept. 12 – 14. Jeremiah and Deborah start back to school on Sept. 8.

Apostolic and Pentecostal

Between traveling and power outages that we are experiencing the new content here has been quite low. But today I’m at a cyber cafe so will share some reflections from a recent seminar with Mennonite Church Nigeria (MCN).

Most of the teaching that I have done with MCN has been part of a program that they call the Mennonite Bible College, an ongoing series of classes that meet a few times a week during the evening hours. However, because of the wide geographical area covered by the church, many congregations are too far from the Bible College site for their leaders to participate regularly in the classes. To remedy that situation the College has started to organize “Ministers’ Refresher” seminars. These are held over a three day period and classes go all day long. Many who can’t attend evening classes because of distance can manage to come and stay overnight for these intensive training opportunities.

While one of the advantages is that more people can attend, another plus is that it gives leaders from all over the church a chance to get together to discuss issues and exchange ideas about ministry. This past Ministers’ Refresher was attended by 60 pastors, evangelists, preachers, deacons, and other church leaders. One of the topics that was discussed in a plenary session was whether or not to join one of the federations of denominations that exist in Nigeria. One is called the “Christian Association of Nigeria,” (CAN) another is the “Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria,” (PFN) and there are others.

A number of the congregations and/or dioceses of the MCN have joined such groups and others are considering joining. The question that was raised was which group to join. A number of opinions and supporting reasons were shared, but participants finally arrived at a general consensus. It is best to join the PFN, but membership in other groups is also ok. Why? Because, they argued, MCN is “Apostolic and Pentecostal,” which means for them that MCN is modeled on the New Testament church. The things that happened in the church as told in the Acts of the Apostles should be part of what happens in the church today; healing, miracles, visions, and spiritual experiences of God’s presence. The presence of all that in the church shows that it is biblically faithful. Its absence suggests that things are not as they should be.

That corresponds with what Andrew Walls, an expert on the history of the church in Africa, writes about in an article that I recently read. He wrote about the challenge of understanding the witness of the early church and the documents that we have recovered from that period. His point was that the African and Asian churches can be an important resource for the rest of the Body of Christ because they are similar in many ways to the church of the first centuries.  He wrote,

“But we now have better resources for understanding the patchwork of fragments of Christian literature that survive from before the age of the great councils by examining the recent histories of the churches in Africa and Asia than the Bodleian or the Vatican libraries can yield.”

Hence understanding the African church can be a step towards better comprehending the New Testament witness. And furthermore, the African church likely understands better than we in the West the issues and context of the New Testament writers. In that sense they can help us towards a fuller appreciation of the biblical story. Certainly we have much to learn from our Apostolic and Pentecostal brothers and sisters!

Bishop Nsasak given an inspiring exhortation.

Bishop Nsasak giving an inspiring exhortation.

Lunchtime!

Lunchtime!

Participants

Participants

Following the seminar outline

Following the seminar outline