IN THIS ISSUE
Adventures in Discipleship
First Glimpse Delve into the mystery of the mysterious, moving Bible
The Fourth Man
Converted at age seven, Tom Malone spent the next 11 years trying to avoid embarrassing...
IN THE FACE OF CIVIL WAR, IVORIANS ASSUME LEADERSHIP OF THE BIBLE INSTITUTE IN BOUNA, COTE D'IVOIRE.
by Clint Morgan
Photo: Students from the Institute relaxe
for the camera.
HOW CAN I SIMPLY LET GO OF SOMETHING I have poured 17 years of my life into? I was there at conception. I helped give it flesh and bones. I dedicated countless hours to nurturing, molding, and encouraging growth. Can I really trust this part of my life—of me—to someone else?
The questions raced through my mind. I had reached the point of no return. The time to answer the questions had arrived. I let my mind wander back to the beginning, to the events leading up to this moment.
In November 1984, FWB missionaries in Cote d’Ivoire met for our annual field council meeting. As we assessed the leadership needs in our churches, we were struck by the harsh reality that, after 26 years of mission work, we had only ordained two Ivorian pastors. Although the churches had several lay pastors, they needed more training to be qualified, ordained leaders. Before leaving the meeting, we committed ourselves to opening a Bible institute to train pastors and leaders. Those of us charged with developing the program did a massive amount of research and consulted with personnel from 13 Bible institutes and colleges.
Several practical and missiological factors drove us to launch this program. First, we believed one of our major tasks was to train Ivorians to take full responsibility for their church and its programs. Second, we knew for the church to become truly indigenous it must have national leadership. We learned the third compelling reason from our mission work in Cuba: if our missionaries were expelled or chose to leave, the church must have strong, qualified pastors to carry on the work. We pressed forward to turn this vision into a reality. When we opened the doors of the Bible institute in Bouna three years later (1987) we believed we had a quality program with quality students. I will never forget the first day my colleague Mike Cousineau and I walked up the steps, looked into the classroom, and saw 10 anxious faces staring back at us. I turned to Mike and said, “There sit our best friends or our greatest enemies.”
During the last 18 years, 24 students have graduated from the three-year program. Of these, 22 are faithfully serving the Lord in various leadership roles. Praise the Lord I can say these men can be counted among our best friends.
While committed to teaching and training all whom God sent, we never lost sight of our goal of turning the institute over to the national church. We believed this could be accomplished in 15 years. Of course, we could not know about all the trials and troubles we would encounter along the way. However, God kept us strong and focused, and we pressed forward with our ultimate objective always in view.
In 2000, after 10 years in the pastorate, two of the 1990 graduates, Paul Amiezi, and Robert Houessou, were chosen by the national church to attend seminary. After obtaining their masters degrees, they became the director (Paul) and assistant director (Robert) of the Free Will Baptist Bible Institute of Cote d’Ivoire. Saved under the ministry of Archie and Sarah Mayhew, Paul proved to be a man of conviction and wisdom.
Although the Cuban story did not repeat itself in Cote d’Ivoire, it did seem very similar. In September 2002, an attempted military coup made it necessary to evacuate all missionary personnel from Cote d’Ivoire. In the last two years other strategic withdrawals have taken place. Yet, we rejoice. The churches have remained strong through danger and difficulty. In the absence of missionaries, souls continue to be saved, and new churches are being planted. Why? We are fully convinced this has been possible because we have qualified men in leadership. We are eternally grateful that God allowed us to train most of these leaders at the Free Will Baptist Bible Institute. No, in 1984 we did not see this national upheaval coming, but God did, and He guided our preparation.
A sigh of relief escapes my lips as I jerk back to reality of the time and place.
Sitting on the stage at the annual National Association of Free Will Baptists in Goumere, Cote d’Ivoire, the time had come and I could truthfully say, “Yes, I can let go, for it was never mine in the first place. It was for the glory of God from the beginning and under national leadership it will stay the course.”
Minutes later, on August 19, 2005, Paul Amiezi, the new director of the Free Will Baptist Bible Institute, stepped to the podium and said, “I have three sentiments that weigh heavy on my heart today. Desire—the desire to see this Bible institute continue to train pastors and leaders for our churches. Conviction—that this is what God wants me to do. Fear—fear that I cannot live up to the standards that our American missionaries set for us at the institute….”
Photo: Director Paul Amiezi holds the key to the Institute in Bouna.
Officially inaugurated as the first African director of the Bible institute minutes before, Paul was overwhelmed by the task before him. I am sure he was the only one who entertained doubt. He has proven himself time and again as a man of impeccable character with the gift of administration and unquestionable commitment to training leaders for our churches. Both the missionaries and the national church were experiencing a dream come true.
I felt a sense of contentment and completion because I knew I had fully given myself to the task and finished well. I praise God He allowed me the privilege of experiencing the pain and joy that comes with letting go.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Clint Morgan joined the FWB International
Mission team in 1976. He currently
serves as regional director for Europe,
Russia, and Africa.