by Willard & Yvonne Wagner
Every year our church in Togo, the Eglise de Pentecote du Togo, has their Easter Convention that attracts some 100,000 worshipers. This year they held thirteen massive meetings with each one having from 3,500 to 18,000 attendees. The worship, excitement, and joy in each service is beyond one’s ability to explain, or even understand. You would have to be right there to experience such an incredible move of God among these wonderful Togolese. We were honored to have with us during the convention Bishop Talmadge Gardner, director of IPHC World Missions, and Bishop Joel Dibetsoe, of IPHC South Africa. They are both powerful preachers and with 13 meetings held for four days, they had the opportunity to share the Easter message with thousands for our risen Lord. While Bishop Gardner and I accompanied the leaders to the famous German Restaurant, Le Munchen, Yvonne hosted the wives of these brethren to a luncheon in the hotel where we had registered. These are annual events, and our dear friends so enjoyed the meals and the fellowship. Some business was conducted after the meal, as time was precious and we were meeting flight deadlines for our visitors. We appreciate the wood carvings the leaders of Togo presented to Bishop Gardner and me, even though we had to purchase a much larger suitcase to get them to the States. They have found their place in our home. We had invited the leadership from the Republic of Benin to visit with us in Lome, which gave Bishop Gardner an opportunity to interact with these fine people. They now report that there are 51 well established churches and some 3,500 in membership. We will visit with them in Easter of 2018.
Somehow the dates on our return tickets were changed and we were forced to stay in Lome one week longer than planned. But realizing our disappointments are sometimes God’s appointments, we just rested, read, and enjoyed this unscheduled change. We were glad to spend some time with Pastor and Mrs. Mampe Mawunya, a recently retired minister and one of the founders of the church. Our private interpreter was always on hand to help us communicate with these Franco-phone brethren and through him, we were able to share so many experiences in the ministry. My interpreter appreciated the Scofield Study Bible I presented to him for his labor. Many of the leaders of Eglise de Pentecote were not aware of our extended stay, so when we showed up at their Sunday morning service after Easter, they were pleasantly surprised. Bishop Adedje invited us to the platform, and before we had entered into the praise of the service, he asked me if I was ready to preach the Word this morning. Of course I responded in the affirmative. And after participating in glorious and intense praise, hearing both of their anointed choirs, and enjoying the talent of their church orchestra, I was ready to preach. Fortunately one of my favorite interpreters was in the service and, through his brilliant interpretation, he greatly enhanced my message. I have found that if one cannot preach in Africa with a good interpreter, one cannot preach anywhere, as a good interpreter will literally bring a special anointing and a contextualized understanding to your message. The church was having their second service, and had more than 500 people seated in this large and beautiful headquarters sanctuary. Many more were standing outside, eager to worship and hear the Word of God. What an honor it has been to serve as the Regional Director to West Africa for the past 25 years, which has included ministry among these remarkable Togolese. They are so receptive to the Gospel and appreciate the preaching of the Word immensely. Can you believe they now have 1,642 thriving churches throughout Togo which, when their people are combined, make up a total of 150,000 members? Over the past 25 years they have been with us, this church has increased from 15,000 to its present contingency. To me, that is church planting and church growth at its finest. I have learned some valuable principles on how to grow a church from following their example.
The rest of this year will be spent at the 28th General Conference in Orlando, and then to Ghana in September where I will meet with our Presiding Bishop and Rev. Ernest Turner to accompany them to our IPHC churches in Kumasi. When we return to Accra, Dr. Beacham will attend an international meeting, and I will visit our industrial school in the Volta region under the direction of Alberta Smith. I also look forward to networking with a sister Bible College located in that area of Ghana.
We always look forward to our annual graduation at West Africa Bible College, in Lagos, Nigeria. We have been sharing ministry there for the past 28 years and through the national leadership, they have shown significant growth and have become one of the most outstanding Bible Colleges in all of Nigeria. From the 2,500 graduates over the past 20 years, 80% have gone into full-time ministry, either in Nigeria or elsewhere around the world. We will have Rev. Stanley Reynolds from North California making a second visit to the college, as our people in Nigeria love him and his ministry. Coming to WABC for the first time will be Pastor and Mrs. Harrison Lampley, of the Franklin Springs IPHC Church. That will be a very busy week for Nigeria, and we will write about the results of this graduation and subsequent meetings in our next prayer letter.
We are making plans to visit our other countries: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Republic of Benin, when time and finances allow. They are doing quite well, and are becoming more solidified in the faith and growth of their ministry. We long to be with them and encourage them in the work. Be assured of our continued love and prayers for your faithfulness to our ministry in West Africa. We know full well that without your contributions and prayer, none of this would be possible, so we say thank you from the bottom of our heart for helping us continue our work in West Africa.