by Willard & Yvonne Wagner
Every Easter Yvonne and I go to Togo, West Africa for their annual convention. There are eleven districts; each has their meeting under their own tents with 10,000 chairs rented for this celebration. (Attendance is limited to 10,000 to meet the government regulations for public gatherings). Services start on Friday evening and conclude on Easter Sunday Morning. Collectively they minister to more than 110,000 worshippers for this very sacred weekend. In my 60 years of ministry, our forty-four years together on the mission field, and 58 years of marriage, there is nothing more awesome than to see so many Christians fervently worshipping the Lord in one place, at one time, and in one accord. (The total membership for the Eglise de Pentecote du Togo, our partnership Church, is now 135,000.)
Our hopes were dashed when we got up Tuesday morning to hear that the airport in Brussels had just been bombed a few hours ago. We had to praise the Lord for His protection, as had we have flown to Togo as formerly scheduled; our flight would have taken us through Brussels and we would have been there at the very center of this destruction. We thank the Lord we are safe, but so missed the blessing of the Eglise de Pentecote du Togo’s Easter Convention. The College Biblique du Togo had also asked me to give the address in their fifth graduation from this relatively new Bible College of just fifteen years. (This college operates differently than most, as they accept students only from our denomination – who are either presently pastoring a church or most definitely want to enter the ministry full-time.) By blocking out a chosen number, the qualified professors teach them for three months, let them return to their churches for three months, and bring them back to the college for another session, etc. They then have graduation every three years and this serves them well as they must keep the students in ministry and further train them at the same time. This group has many young men to equip for their own pastors as they now have more than 950 churches, and many of these call upon their elders and deacons to give care to the members in the absence of a pastor. The President, past President, Secretary General, and Treasurer of Eglise de Pentecote du Togo are all graduates of the Bible College, and some of these are also pastoring thriving and successful congregations.
When we asked them to give us the secrets of success in church planting at a West Africa Conference for our leaders in 2010, they said, “We are committed to the fulfillment of the great commission of planting new churches. Evangelism is a must in our ministry.” That year each pastor pledged to plant one new church within a quadrennial. Hence, their incredible growth from a starter church some 30 years ago to what they have today. How often does a church, or a whole denomination, get “high centered” in their ministry and do nothing but spin their wheels for years, or even generations. It was said by the leaders of Togo that when they came under the umbrella of IPHC in 1992, we gave them the impetus and thrust to evangelize and plant churches. Even though we do not claim credit for this phenomenal growth, we do like to think that the Pentecostal Holiness Church had a part in stimulating such progress. This was indeed the work of the Holy Spirit and the evangelistic fervor of the people of Togo that brought about this mighty church planting and growth. This success story could be repeated by churches in other countries if they would just catch the vision and the passion.
Our return to Togo will be Easter of 2017, at which time Bishop Talmadge Gardner, Rev. Ernest Turner, Yvonne Wagner, and I will be there to dedicate their first new building on the recently purchased (by the Togolese) beautiful acreage for the furtherance of the Eglise de Pentecote du Togo, and all of the Francophone Countries in West Africa. In the mean time we have scheduled trips to Turkey in April; School of Missions in Oklahoma in June; Liberia and Sierra Leone in July; Ghana and The Ivory Coast in September; Nigeria and The Republic of Benin in November. We do look forward to being with our people in these seven countries and just thank the Lord that He has given us excellent leadership and brilliant strategy for our ever increasing ministry in West Africa. We never get tired of the work, but at times get tired in the work, as both of us are approaching our blessed prime-time years. Please pray for a qualified, mature couple that will serve as missionaries in West Africa. Even though a great many of our churches are indigenous and autonomous, it would be helpful to have another missionary come along and assist us in this thriving part of the world.
Photo credit: Willard & Yvonne Wagner