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Blogging from Tchaada, Benin
I spent some time this morning with members of the Agun Christi Ton.
That’s “Church of Christ” in the language of Gun.
It’s not a particularly dangerous or violent-sounding language. (And the name itself doesn’t really sound like weaponry, either. Say the word “goon” as fast as you can and you’ll get an idea of how it’s pronounced.)
It’s a language spoken in Benin, one of the two slender, West African nations that separates the countries of Ghana and Nigeria. I’m here visiting a ministry training school.
U.S. President Barack Obama is visiting the region as well — in Senegal.
It’s a bit of coincidence. The last time I was in West Africa was 2009, when Bobby Ross and I visited Ghana. The trip coincided with President Obama’s visit there. We covered the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Abilene Christian University in Texas and Heritage Christian (University) College in Ghana’s capital, Accra, which happened just as President Obama was giving a speech about the U.S. working with Africa to build a better future. (That became the lead-in for Ross’ story about the occasion.)
Nearly three years later, I’m visiting the Benin Bible Training Center, a ministry training school in this French-speaking nation under the direction of a Ghanaian — George Akpabli. He moved here to spread the Gospel and plant churches. This weekend I’ll be attending a graduation ceremony for 12 of the school’s students.
The church in Tchaada, near Benin’s capital, Porto Novo, is a result of the school. A graduate taught Bible classes here and baptized new believers. That was less about 10 years ago. Now there are 10 congregations in the area, with about 35 members each. The churches are working to translate Bible lessons into Gun as they continue to teach.
Christian Todego, another graduate of the Bible Training Center, runs a training program in Tchaada now — the Centre de Formation Biblique, or Center for Bible Studies. He says they can’t produce new preachers fast enough to keep up with church growth.
The Christians in Tchaada talked about the challenges of transportation and infrastructure that they face. Some meet with churches in homes and long for buildings. One minister preaches for three congregations and could use a new motorbike.
(Having a conversation with the Gun-speakers was a bit tricky. Tedogo translated their words from Gun to French, and a teacher at the Bible Training Center, Adjayi Inoussa, translated the French into English.)
We prayed with them. Akpabli urged them to not rely on Americans, but God, in all things. “God can use Africans, or Americans or anybody else to help you, because it is his work that you are doing,” he said.
I asked them to sing a hymn in Gun (Well, OK, I asked Inoussa to ask Tedogo to ask the group if they’d sing a hymn. Like I said, it was tricky.) The preachers picked a hymn with the lyrics “Okpe mi do na do” (“We should thank God), “hye we eje” (“You are worthy”)
The entire Bible has been translated into Gun as well. I asked to see one that they use in the training program. I noticed that someone had circled Psalm 92: 12-15. (Luckily, the Gun word for “Psalm” is “Psalm.”) I looked up the passage on my phone:
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
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