During my recent trip to the Upper East Region I was able to meet with the TIBS graduates that work in Bawku and the surrounding areas. It is always encouraging to see those who were formerly students now in the role of teacher within their communities. There is a great deal of work being done that is resulting in both spiritual and physical growth for the church.
2013 graduate Molsak Joseph is working with the Bawku church and has recently began a campus ministry at the local senior high school. The school’s headmaster had stopped allowing students to leave the campus (most senior high schools here are boarding schools) on Sundays because many students who said they were going to a church were abusing the privilege. Unfortunately this meant that a number of our members could no longer attend, so Molsak started going to them. They now meet on Sunday afternoon for worship, Tuesday evening for Bible study and Friday evening for prayers. The small number of students who used to attend the Bawku church has now grown to 25 to 30 for every meeting. Joseph also continues his work with the Bawku church which has just completed construction of their own building. We joined with them to finish the last portion of the building, putting in a cement floor.
Fellow 2103 graduate Nichema Jacob continues his work with the Kuka church of Christ, the Garu church of Christ, the Pialogo church of Christ and with Kingdom of Hope Orphan’s School. Over the past two years the Kuka church has grown from 30 members to over 80 members with a weekly attendance of over 130. Much of this growth can be attributed to Kingdom of Hope’s outreach program which allows any child to attend the school regardless of age, sex, religion, or ability to pay the nominal school fees of 2 Cedis per month (about 75 cents at the current exchange rate). Most of the converts over the past year are parents or family members of the school’s students. Look for more information about Kingdom of Hope in next month’s report. The Garu church, which was restored during a campaign last year now has an average weekly attendance of 40, and the Piargo church reported 6 baptisms last year. Nichema keeps himself and his congregation busy spreading the good news!
2011 TIBS graduate Stephen Abugbilla is also keeping busy, taking on the responsibility for restoring the church in Kaadi. Stephen preaches each week for the Atuba church of Christ which reported 7 baptisms last year, growing the congregation to 86 members. Last fall Stephen reached out to former members in the neighboring village of Kaadi about beginning services there, something that had not happened since 2009 when their former evangelist left. In February we helped Stephen put a roof on the new mud brick meeting building that he and the congregation had constructed, and where 36 adults and 11 children are now worshiping.
One area of difficulty stands out among the many good things happening in the Upper East Region. The church at Kulungungu continues to suffer difficulties with the majority Muslim population of the village. The church, which began meeting in 2013, had originally met in a local community building in Kulungungu. This past fall they were informed that they were no longer welcome to meet there, and no other building owner was willing to provide them a space. Kulungungu’s preacher, 2011 graduate Avoca John Mbilla, eventually found a place for the church to meet to the north of the village, which meant the church technically moved from Ghana to Burkina Faso! Unfortunately in January of this year the same group of people from Kulungungu found the new meeting place and began harassing the church when they met. Due to the harassment four of the fourteen members stopped attending, worship services and the church decided they needed to once again move. They have been meeting at their current location, which is back in Ghana but outside of the village, since the end of January. I will be making a trip to the area in April or May to do a follow up campaign designed to encourage the Kulungungu church and assure them that they are not suffering these difficulties alone. In addition to preaching at Kulungungu Avoca continues to serve as the preacher for his home village of Poyamire which consists of 30 members and has an average weekly attendance of over 50.
If the work in the Upper East was not exciting enough there is great news coming out of Burkina Faso as well. In the capital city of Ouagadougou, a city of 1.5 million people, there are only two churches of Christ with a total of 42 members. During a campaign that was held last year contact was made with a number of individuals who wanted a more in depth opportunity to study what the Bible taught about salvation and the church. Unfortunately attempts to find a location to meet had met with resistance as the schools that were near where the potential students lived refused to allow us to use their facilities. Not to be deterred we were able to complete the necessary arrangements to transport and feed the six men who are interested in studying the Bible to the Eglise De Christ De Patte Doie building every Saturday for the next 3 months. The students will take 6 hours of classes each Saturday which will be taught by local church leaders. After 3 months we will evaluate the program and what additional interest the local church is able to generate and add additional evening classes as appropriate. It is our hope that this will be the first step in establishing a full time school in Burkina Faso in the near future.
There is a lot of good news being spread in Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso, and I know that I could not do anything without your prayers and financial support. Last month I mentioned some of the congregations that support this work, so this month I want to mention a few of the individuals who make this work possible. I know that I will undoubtedly miss some, so please forgive any oversight on my part. I want to begin with the entire congregation at Greenbrier who has shown me more love than I can possibly explain. There are so many who anonymously give me money for the work every time I come that it is overwhelming. Others provide Bibles for the students, water purification bottles, etc. that make the work here easier. Thanks to all of you for the confidence you have placed in me. I love you all. A special thank you to Sue Shumate who has always been my biggest supporter, both emotionally and financially. Also a special thanks to those who have supported me since I began this adventure with monthly support and one time gifts to take care of specific needs: Glen and Colleen Elliott, Connie Barden, Chris and Shirley Brill, Linda Ray, Bobby and Jackie Sims, Mildred Pierce, Del and Love Hines, Aubrey and Donna Allensworth, Ron and JoAnn Boatwright, Edie Singleton, Jim and Martha Bell, Judy Moody, Mary Mix, Jackie and Lynda Horton, Rod and Cindy Wilson,Tom and Stephanie Barkley, Gene and Sandra Blair, Linda and Sammy Sinor, Travis White, Holly Locke, Rachel Wilkie, Brian and Deann Wilkie, Jack Wilkie, Joe Wilkie, Anna Dodgen, Mike and Anna Wolfe, Susan Mullen, Gary and Elaine Heath, Janet Banks, David and Beverly Woody, Bailey and Marilyn Watson, Verple Baker, Phillip and Dana Short, and William and Francine Carlin. And last, but certainly not least, a very special thank you to my mother Virginia Hielen who has not only supported the work I do, but remains the example I follow. This work belongs to all of you.
I have posted a number of pictures to go along with this report on the Tamale Institute of Biblical Studies Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TamaleChristians. For those without Facebook, or if you want to see even more pictures, you can also visit the School’s new blog page at http://tamalechristians.wordpress.com/.
Next month I will report on the work being done at the Kingdom of Hope Orphan’s School. Until then, “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26).
Tony ‘Wintima’ Johnson