Forty-five years ago, on Christmas Eve 1977, the camion that I was traveling in broke down outside of Fada N’gourma, Burkina Faso, in the West African Sahel. In the picture on the right (not included), I am waiting in Fada to resume my journey to Niamey, Niger. The children in the picture would now be in their 50s or 60s, and it is possible that they are part of the New Church congregation that was being started there by Samuel Lompo, pastor in Ouagadougou. He was in Bryn Athyn this past week for the clergy meetings and is quite excited about this group. He is on the right in the picture below, taken recently in Fada.
Last Monday evening, there was a program in Heilman Hall about the church in Asia and West Africa. Here are some interesting facts that John Jin, Kodjo Ayi, Joel Kouame and others shared with us.
ASIA -- In Japan there are two pastors and one candidate serving one congregation, five groups and one internet meeting. In Korea, there are nine pastors in three congregations and five smaller groups. There is also a theological school with four students. In China there is one minister serving one congregation and four internet groups every week, as well as a school of theology with six students. There are also many New Church members and readers spread throughout Malaysia, Nepal, Taiwan and other countries in Asia.
WEST AFRICA: In Ghana there are ten pastors and eight congregations. In Cote d’Ivoire there are 14 pastors and 15 groups. In Burkina Faso there is one pastor and 2 groups. Togo has two pastors and two groups. Benin has two pastors and one group, and Nigeria has two groups. Ekow Eshun supervises.
In Ghana there is a theological school with ten students in Accra led by George Dziekpor with Jacob Borkety as Dean. There are also two schools in Tema and Asakraka, with about 600 students between them. In Cote d’Ivoire there is one full time theological school with four students in Divo, and two part-time schools in Yopougan and Bassam under the leadership of Sylvain Agnes in the south and Doukourou Moise in the north.
The outlook for the New Church in Africa and Asia is good. When I lived and traveled around in West Africa in the 1970s, I had no doubt that the church would grow there once it got started, and this is what has happened. But I never expected that it would reach all the way to Fada, where I spent that enjoyable Christmas Eve before heading to the magical ancient city of Niamey, Niger, in the Sahara Desert, for one of the most memorable Christmases of my life.