Stories from the Field: It Used to be Under a Tree!

We first met Pastor René AFANGBEDJI in 2007 when we came to Togo. He was pastoring a small church at the edges of Lomé, but he was also serving on the children’s ministry committee, which was the context in which we met him.

Pastor Rene with a Sunday school class, 2007

Pastor Rene with a Sunday school class, 2007

When he first graciously invited us to his church, it was under construction. It had half of a tin roof and a dusty dirt floor, but the service was vibrant and alive, resounding with worship and praise, and a sound system turned up “to the edge of disaster,” to quote a friend.

While Phil preached, the kids and I were given a seat of honor near the front of the church. Thanks to the tropical downpour, we happened to discover that the roof had a large gap directly over our seats. But the children’s ministries in Pastor René’s church did not have a building at all. They had been meeting under a mango tree in the back lot, but because of the rain, their service was cancelled altogether. Children were either brought into the main service or were obligated to wait the duration of the service outside.

2007: Sunday school under a tree

2007: Sunday school under a tree

This church was one of the first places in Togo where we built a Sunday school shelter. Donations from BGMC and from our supporters provided these two little wood structures with tarp roofs so that the children had a place to meet regardless of the weather. We also helped to train some of the children’s ministry workers and helped connect them with a curriculum.

2007: Sunday school shelter, built as a children's ministry space

2007: Sunday school shelter, built as a children’s ministry space

We built 2 shelters at Rene's church in 2007

We built 2 shelters at Rene’s church in 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We visited Pastor René’s church again this past Sunday, and since we last visited, God has been at work in this congregation and this community!
When we pulled up, we weren’t even sure we were in the right place. A two-story concrete block church was standing on the lot in place of the structure we remembered. The roof is complete, the floor is tiled, and the entire second floor is dedicated to children’s ministry! Where once a class of fifty or so children met under a tree, there are now six different age-graded classes, with about 300 children, meeting in a large multi-purpose room upstairs.
Joyous laughter bubbled up in me when we walked in to the room to hear the sound of children’s voices in typical call and response.

Teacher: “Jesus, . .“
Children” “Ami des enfants!” (Friend to children)
Teacher: “Jesus. . .”
Children” “Ami des enfants!” (Friend to children)

2015: Over 300 kids in the upstairs space of the new building!

2015: Over 300 kids in the upstairs space of the new building!

Dark eyes followed us all over the room. Older children greeted us “Bonjour Tantie!” with wide smiles. Younger children peeked at us from behind older siblings. All over the room, children wiggled and giggled, danced and sang. It was uproarious and alive, and so exciting to see!

2015: Not under a tree anymore!

2015: Not under a tree anymore!

You don’t have to spend more than a few minutes with Pastor René before you see his passion for children’s ministry. While he was walking us up to visit the children’s programs, he stopped to talk to a very small girl in the courtyard, bending down to meet her eye to eye. After service, a mother brought an older child into his office for prayer. He took time away from entertaining his guests (us) to pray fervently for this girl. His love for children’s ministry is infectious. You can see it in the eyes of the children’s ministry workers at his church and in the growth of the ministry itself.
Would you pray with us for children’s ministry in Togo? Would you pray for Pastor René, and for the other pastors who serve on the children’s ministry committee? Would you pray that their passion and their vision for leading children into the Kingdom of God influences the other pastors in their country? And would you pray that God gives us wisdom to know how to partner with them, for the sake of the children of Africa?

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