The following is a synopsis of reports from Rees Ellis following his visit to the Francophone (French speaking) countries in Africa, as well as Ghana and Ethiopia. Between June 12 and July 7, Mr. Ellis visited brethren and prospective members in Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burundi and Ethiopia. We thought our readers might enjoy this small glimpse into what it means to be a part of an international Work and a globe-spanning family! (Specific names have been removed from this report for privacy purposes.) —Editorial Staff
The first stop was Doula, the principal commercial city and point of entry for Cameroon, where several people had asked for a visit. After the disappointment of not being able to see those individuals, it was quite exciting in Yaoundé, the administrative capital. Three new people came for visits and counselling.
Two of them were young work colleagues, both pharmacists, who came with fundamental questions and finished up by asking, “What do we do next?” They seemed keen to keep the Sabbath and asked that we pray for them and help them to follow the Truth.
Another individual, an ex-preacher, had a strong feeling that the Holy Spirit was telling him to desire to preach again. He has a small following and is using our format, keeping Feast days, etc. His service is evangelical, incorporating his own ideas in what seems more like a simple prayer service with singing, praying and using our literature to teach from as it suits him. I explained that if he wants to work with us, he would have to follow our Church service format in a service that we organize. We’ll see if he will change his ways. I counselled him to channel his efforts in setting himself straight, submitting to God and finding stability in his family and professional life. If he does that, he’ll have focus and will be kept busy for quite some time.
I also had the honour to baptize a gentleman in Yaoundé. We had been counselling for quite some time and he had to wait a couple more years than originally planned, since we could not meet on my last visit. He has been an avid student of the truth since hearing Mr. Carion’s radio programme some years ago, and also reading Mr. Armstrong’s writings. He had conversed on a number of occasions with Mr. Apartian as well. It was a privilege to baptize him, and he hopes and plans to keep the Feast in Gabon.
I travelled to Bafia—a two-hour bus ride on Friday—coming back Saturday afternoon to Yaoundé. It was quite an interesting visit.
A couple in Bafia is most enthusiastic about the Gospel being preached. The husband was a deacon in the Adventist Church. He is the head of a God-fearing family, with a collection of lovely and well-behaved children. They will be challenged by the need to unlearn their Adventist (evangelical) background. They had made many preparations for my visit to ensure a large turnout to witness a great prayer and miracle event. The arrangements included, amongst others, an interview on the local Bafia radio station and distribution of leaflets. In typical African manner, they had hired a large “public address” system for my messages to be spread as far as possible to those who didn’t attend. So, I gently gave them some practical lessons on how we conduct ourselves as a Church and our policy regarding the preaching of the Gospel, to which they responded positively. For my study with the group, we looked at answered prayer—starting out with Isaiah 59:1–2 and finishing up with James 5:13–16, since there were a few people who had asked for an anointing. Before I left, I anointed seven people, including a couple of elderly Catholic ladies who obviously need God’s healing.
I spent a good part of an hour answering questions, but it just wasn’t long enough, so I promised to return and give more time to answer their questions. I had to leave by bus to be in time for the announced Bible Study in Yaoundé.
I called a Bible Study for Sabbath afternoon at 16:00, at the YaahoT Hotel, Yaoundé, after I returned from Bafia. All three of the people I met the first day in Yaoundé came, and we were joined by one of the hotel staff, who was most interested and seemed to follow with some understanding. Unfortunately, he had to go back to his duties, so I didn’t get a chance to find out his background.
My conclusion and hope is that we set up a regular service, the sooner the better.
Early on Sunday morning, June 18, I travelled to the adjacent country, Gabon where we have a small group.
The Sunday evening Bible Study was about Colossians 2, the question of law and what was and was not nailed to the cross. It was quite late when we finished looking at photos of members from other countries and hearing how they live and cope with trials and joys.
Marriages for people in some of these countries can be a problem, because of the government requirements and costs involved. While there, I was able to conduct a wedding for a young couple! The members of the little Libreville congregation are thrilled!
We also talked about the possibilities for the future (TV or radio broadcasts, getting official recognition for the Church, visiting programme with Cameroon, youth activities, etc.).
From Gabon, I had to fly across the Gulf of Guinea to the countries of Ghana, Togo and Benin. We have a small English-speaking group in Ghana. I was privileged to spend time with them, discussing plans for the Feast of Tabernacles and future opportunities in Ghana. We met with other people who had been part of Worldwide Church of God, and discussed news of others they had met over the years.
From Accra, a member drove me to the Togo border, giving us privileged time to fellowship, and I learned more of Ghana’s recent Church history. He is a dynamic young fellow with clear ideas.
I met with a Protestant pastor and director of “Promesses” magazine. He obviously hadn’t seen our article with Luther in the spotlight. He was in agreement with our doctrines on full immersion baptism, laying on of hands, clean and unclean meats, salvation by grace and keeping the law, so I scratched a little deeper with the litmus test—the Sabbath and the Holy Days. That didn’t ring a bell, so after a little study on the first and seventh days of the week and Jesus’ three days and three nights in the tomb… in a nutshell, he was agreeing profusely. My counsel for him was to finish the Bible Study Course and give priority to reading the Holy Day booklet. He left without making indication of any forthcoming change, just happy to have spent time discussing the Bible and finding some common ground. It seems that the African Protestants/evangelicals accept or tolerate each other with various “higher levels of understanding,” no matter what they do or do not believe in common.
Our Togolese member and leader met me in Lomé with our faithful taxi man, and off we went to Afagnan and the Millennium “Chic” Hotel. I had a choice of rooms: with or without running water! I dropped my bags and spent the evening with the member and his family.
I counselled a woman for baptism and also had an opportunity to counsel with the wife of another member. She is following the example and instruction of her husband.
Sabbath was as exciting as ever, with 22 of us. Some people were missing: children grown up and now living in Lomé, the capital city, and others not able to attend because this is the rainy season and travelling in some areas becomes problematic.
The day began before 9:00 a.m. with fellowship and we started on time, despite some few straggling in later because of the rain. People walk to services, so they have to take detours to avoid the flooded routes. I gave a sermonette on Colossians 2:14, 20–23, followed by a sermon on answered prayer. We ate a simple rice meal that my host’s wife had prepared for everyone. I did a study on tithing in the afternoon, followed by Q&A until after sunset.
Sunday was a work day with our trusted translator. We went over a programme on studying the Bible that we aired live at Mokpokpo, the local radio station, for exactly half an hour. It turns out the Ewe language is understood by Ghanaians in the south. It might be a way of preaching the Gospel to those people as well, so I’ve been exchanging emails with the Ghanaian brethren who have already gathered information on radio stations.
A member met me at the border of Togo and Benin and, after formalities and some negotiating, we headed out for Cotonou, two hours away.
Monday was a work day. We met with some mutual friends in Benin for early morning coffee. The rest of the morning I was busy with LYC preparation, including a four-hour conference call with my wife, Fanny, in Belgium, and John Meakin and Simon Roberts in the UK, as we refined our planning for this year’s camp in Belgium.
I was then whisked away by the member on motor-bike to the home of another member for a Bible Study with our tiny Cotonou group. We were eight adults and four kids. I did the study on Colossians 2:14, 20–23, showed camp videos and answered questions till the rain stopped, then hopped through puddles to the main road to find a ride back to the hotel.
Before leaving Benin, I met with a representative of a radio station. As usual, they are most interested, so now I am waiting for an offer for Charlotte to evaluate.
From Benin, it was back into the air to fly to Central Africa and the nation of Burundi, arriving in the capital, Bujumbura.
We have a few members in this country who I was eager to see again. In addition, we had some interested people desiring a visit, individuals who were currently ministers in COG 7th Day–Jerusalem conference. We recommended that these men travel to Tanzania for the Feast of Tabernacles, so that they can have contact with the ministry and the church in order to chart a way forward. The other brethren in Burundi will be traveling across the border into neighbouring Tanzania for the Feast as well.
I’m rather concerned for our members in Uvira, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC, as it is commonly known, lies to the south of Burundi. This has been a very troubled area of Africa. Travel there is not advised and communications are difficult at best. Despite many attempts to contact them, by both myself and the brethren in Burundi, we have no news of them. Your prayers on their behalf would be welcomed.
Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
In Addis Ababa, I met with a member as I flew in from Burundi. He was prospecting for a new job in Addis. By the time I returned to Addis, he had secured a new job and was obviously happy to have done so.
We have some prospectives in Hawassa, south of Addis. There I met with one individual, who is enjoying life as an engineer and was happy to link up with others in the Church. Two individuals invited me over for lunch. All should be baptised on my next visit to Ethiopia.
These people are eager to see the Gospel being preached in their own language. They have translated the booklet Is This the Only Day of Salvation? in Amharic, one of the local languages of Ethiopia. A member in Ethiopia will do the appropriate proofreading as he is an experienced proofreader from his university days.
Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
Later in the evening, before catching my plane home, I met with the youngest brother of one of our prospectives. He has good academic questions so we’ll see how he deals with the truth as time goes on.
I met Mario Hernandez at Brussels International Airport on Friday morning as I returned. We enjoyed having him at services, then had a Tomorrow’s World Presentation on Sunday with four visitors and a picnic at our place afterwards with Church members.
I wish that many of you could have been there to share these awesome moments with our lovely, committed and faithful brethren, and with the excited people who have come in contact with us via the Internet. It is so obvious that God’s Work isn’t finished and the responses prove that we must continue, with all our means, to preach the Gospel!