Monday, April 17, 2006

The Church in Gogo

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Gogo, Easter Sunday, 2006

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter in Ivory Coast

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Baptising Loron believers.

What a great day!

As millions of Christians worldwide celebrated the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, Marina and I travelled from Burkina Faso into northeast Ivory Coast to spend the day with the Loron tribal believers. This was our first trip back to the village since the outbreak of the civil war in September, 2002. We had a great day.

We left our home in Gaoua shortly after sunrise, and 45 minutes later we arrived at the Burkina Faso/Ivory Coast border. After getting our passports checked and logged, a process which took another 45 minutes, we left behind the hardtop roads of Burkina and crossed the border into Ivory Coast.

The dirt roads in Ivory Coast have really deteriorated. They never were very good, even at the best of times, but now, in places, they are virtually none-existent. As we cautiously followed the winding bicycle tracks on our little motorcycle, avoiding potholes, ruts and sand holes, we quickly realised that it was going to be a long day! We ended up spending about six hours bumping and sliding over rocks and sand. Altogether we travelled about 80 miles on the dirt roads.

On our way to Gogo we had to pass through a number of rebel positions. At each stop we explained who we were, and we were able to obtain a travel pass from the rebel commander which enabled us to go to Gogo without any problems. The rebels were guarded although courteous.

The bad roads and army checkpoints had held us back quite a bit, so we didn’t arrive at the church in Gogo until about 10.30am. The believers were already assembled, and had been waiting for us. The church was packed with almost 200 people. As we walked in, they all stood up. We took our seats, and they started to sing a couple of welcome songs to us. It was quite emotional. We had not seen most of these folks for nearly four years. It was hard to keep the tears back when we thought of how it had all started many years ago with about six people meeting for Bible teaching under a mango tree!

After a prayer they asked me to speak to them. I had struggled to know what I should say to encourage them. Using Romans 8.28, Genesis 50.20 and Ephesians 1.11, I brought a message that focused on the fact that God is in control of every situation, no matter what the circumstances are.

When the service finished, we greeted everyone and then travelled another 10 miles to where they planned to hold the baptism. The local swamps and water reservoirs had all dried up. Altogether, eighteen new believers were baptised. It was a real joy to be able to participate with the Loron Bible teachers in baptising these new Loron Christians.

Once the baptism ended, just after 2.30pm, we started on the long journey back to the border. We had not anticipated just how hot and dusty it was going to be, and our water supply started to run low. After about two hours we arrived back at the Ivorian border town and we were able to buy some bottled water and warm Coca Cola.

Refreshed, we continued on, and just a few minutes before the sun dropped behind the mountains in the west, we crossed back into Burkina Faso. We were exhausted, but absolutely thrilled at what the Lord is continuing to do among the Loron people.