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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pastors Conference

The location is Kara, a city 7 hours drive away from the capital, where the percentage of  Muslims and Animists is considerably higher than Christians. This is the place where Mercy Ships organized a Leadership Conference with the objective of impacting the local community.
Over 300 invitations were sent out ahead of time and 350 notebooks were printed for the future participants. On Monday morning (March 5) we started to set up one of the main auditoriums in the Palace of Congress building. Soon participants started to arrive and the slow, but steady flow of people didn’t stop until 10 am. The conference hall was filled with people eager to hear what Dr. Chris Ampadu, a Ghanaian Director of Samaritan Strategy in West Africa had to say. He has been a main speaker for years in conferences organized by Mercy Ships.

The conference was opened by the Mayor of Kara who came to share a short message. Mr Bakali-Hemou Badibawu thanked Mercy Ships for organizing the conference and thanked the pastors for taking their role in developing their communities seriously. He reminded everybody of President Gnassingbé’s objectives which includes all the different communities around the nation to be initiators of their own development. Mr. Badibawu applauded Mercy Ships for coming alongside this initiative in such a powerful and inclusive way.
Franck Gouhizoun, Off Ship Projects Manager, a native Benoise spoke briefly about Mercy Ships. The medical aspect of our work is well known to the Togolese people, however they applauded loudly to the non-medical work that Franck was speaking of – this conference being one of the many ways Mercy Ships seeks to assist the nation’s capacity building efforts.

Dr Ampadu started his presentation with a question:
Is Africa cursed?
That got everybody’s attention since this is a common misconception among West African people regardless of their country, tribal background or even religion. The answer to his question is an obvious no. As Dr Ampadu introduced himself he explainedwhy a Ghanaian was chosen to speak. He emphasized the fact that "we, West Africans have to work together. What happens in Nigeria or Liberia affects us in Togo, Benin or Ghana, whether we like it or not. It’s time to look beyond the tribal or language barriers and learn new ways of working together."
When the first break came more chairs were needed as people kept on pouring into the room.  In an effort to facilitate as many participants as possible chairs were put on stage as well behind and around the speaker. All around the hall animated discussions took place and participants had a chance to comment or ask questions from Dr Ampadu.

After a traditional African lunch the conference continued with Pastor Happy Aziadekey’s presentation, who is a senior pastor at M.E.S.A. in Lomé.  He spoke about God and the four areas of development according to Luke 2:52 (wisdom, physical, spiritual and social).  When his session was over to our delight one of the imams, who was eagerly taking notes in the first row, encouraged pastor Happy firmly to continue speaking. Although the Head Imam didn’t come, he sent many imams to attend the conference.  At the end of the first day we registered exactly 350 participants.

The second day started with Dr. Ampadu explaining the different world views that African Christians, Muslims and Animist have, how that influences people’s everyday life and how that can often be the obstacle of development. His words left a huge impact on people’s hearts, far greater than any Western speaker could have had. Pastor Happy took over after the break and he talked about the lies we hold true in our cultures and how to transform them into godly truth in order to break the cycle and start a change. His accurate examples from everyday life brought smiles to everybody’s faces as he challenged participants to identify the false beliefs in their own lives.

On the second day we registered 376 participants. The number is increasing due to the fact that the word was getting out that Mercy Ships is organizing a Leadership Conference. Over the day people became more active, eagerly participating in the teaching sessions, thus turning the conference into an interactive platform of exchanging ideas. Both days Dr. Ampadu spoke for 3 hours, while Pastor Happy was teaching for 1,5 hours, each session was followed by a Question-Answer segment.

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