Successful Ministry in Liberia and Nigeria
By Willard & Yvonne Wagner
Recently, Phillip Gschwend (a missionary and church builder for the IPHC) and I went to Liberia to visit our existing churches and the brethren who are now carrying on the work so very well. We were able to provide them with a conference during those five days, but along with that, Phillip laid out the plans for their new church building. When we were making this trip, we missed the first connection of our flight through Dulles due to high winds, and had to return to Greenville and wait for two days until another connecting flight was available to Monrovia. On the second trip, we noticed a rather huskily built man on the same row, sound asleep. Jokingly we suggested to one another that someone take his vital signs to see if he was still alive. He stirred, we introduced ourselves and found out he was the CEO of a well digging and church building ministry in Liberia. Upon his invitation, we visited his compound near Monrovia, and he introduced us to his Master Builder, who eventually would oversee our project at a reasonable rate. This is exactly what we were looking for as neither Phillip nor I could stay a lengthy time. We discussed the plans for the church, deposited funds in our bank there, and left for the States. We have heard from them numerous times with great reports of their progress. Just the other day, they were given all of the government permits to start building and continue this project to completion. We look forward to visiting them again for the dedication of this Central IPHC church in Monrovia. During this construction, the congregation and the primary school are meeting in a rented make-shift building near by.
In spite of 14 years of war, Ebola virus, corrupt politics, and extreme poverty, the International Pentecostal Holiness Church of Liberia is well, alive, and still kicking. With all due respect to missionaries stationed in Monrovia in the early 1900s, IPHC Liberia was officially established after the drafting of the Constitution on Dec. 16, 1998. Our church was soon registered with the government to preach the gospel, establish congregations, purchase land, build churches, operate schools or orphanages, and host resident missionaries. As impoverished as they were, somehow they managed to do all of the above. During this time, some mistakes were made, there were misunderstandings, miscalculations, and various obstacles that hindered the work in Liberia. But Jesus said, “Upon this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Surely Liberia was included in “My Church” and therefore is still in existence. We pause to thank all those concerned who prayed, gave of their resources, spent time in ministry, and showed an interest in Liberia to make this happen.
I never cease to be amazed at the leadership potential the Nationals have in each of our countries in West Africa. When I explain to them that: “This is their country, these are your people, this is your church, and the ministry must go on without the constant presence of the missionary,” they accept this responsibility and can often do a much better job than we could have. I knew very well that there would not be too many volunteers who would want to join our ranks in West Africa (referred to as the graveyard of missionaries), so from day one, I insisted that the responsibility of the ministry belong to the Nationals in that country. We are proud of what the Lord is doing for the brethren in Liberia and know that they will continue to develop a substantial work.
Yvonne and I then flew to our annual West Africa Bible College graduation in Lagos, Nigeria. After thirty-three years, they have thoroughly trained up to 3,000 pastors, evangelists, missionaries, or Christian laypeople of which 80% of these graduates have gone into full time ministry. We only had 68 graduates this year, as the road to the college was not as easily passable and this cut our enrollment. Before our graduation, the IPHC of Nigeria held a seminar for the students, and then a convention for all of our pastors who have churches in Nigeria. We were highly blessed to have Rev. and Mrs. Steve Dow, from The Christian Heritage Worship Center in Tallahassee, Florida. This pastor and his wife were so very effective in their preaching and ministry, that we altered the program to give a great deal of time to this anointed and powerful couple.
In January, I am visiting our churches in Kumasi, Ghana. Our relatively new Bishop, John Botwe, has succeeded Rev. Isaac Boyke-Yiadom in this position, and is doing an outstanding job as the leader of the work in Ghana. We look forward to meeting with him and having ministry among our brethren in this very peaceful country. It appears that Yvonne and I will be traveling throughout West Africa very extensively in 2017, as there are many churches to visit and much work yet to be done. Before we send out another prayer letter, we will also visit our ministry in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and look forward to witnessing the progress they have made in that country, often called, “The Little Paris of Africa.” We are particularly anxious to speak in their Bible College that we planted 10 years ago. We eagerly seek the opportunity to visit all our churches in West Africa and be with our people. They are so very enlightening and it is a great challenge to continue on as missionaries and as the Regional Director of West Africa. We covet your prayers and trust you will have had a very Merry Christmas and will have a prosperous and blessed New Year.