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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Spirits in the Schoolyard: The War for Togo's Mind and Soul

By Kristel Ortiz
Sept. 7, 2014

“There were evil spirits in the schoolyard,” says Christophe Dali as he points up at a massive tree. “From right up there they would tell children, ‘Go back home. Do not go to the classroom.’ The children would listen and go back home.”

Those who heard the voices and attempted to bypass them by proceeding to school died by accidents or other evil means. As a result, many children remained illiterate and bound by tradition.

“But I never heard those voices and neither did my 11 brothers and sisters, though our home was close to the school. Maybe it was the plan of God,” Christophe finishes.

His village, Fongbe, is deep in Togo’s bush country. At one time it was a prosperous village of farmers and winemakers. But when witchcraft prevailed in the village, 45-year-old Christophe shares, people no longer used their money to do good things.

“They became drunkards or had some sickness that made them use their money for useless things,” he says. The once-thriving village withered.

Christophe, who teaches high school English and is working on his doctorate in American literature, has always had a thirst for knowledge. He came to Jesus on May 7, 1995, during his second year at a university. He soon became involved with the evangelistic team from International Chapel AG, a church located on the West Africa Advanced School of Theology (WAAST) campus in Lomé, Togo, and has since become a true warrior for the souls and minds of Togo’s people.

In 2004 Christophe was appointed head of the evangelism team. With great boldness of spirit, he leads students into remote bush areas still openly ruled by demonic forces. Dark and blatant attacks by evil spirits are routine occurrences, but Christophe says confidently, “The name of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit protect our evangelistic opportunities.”

On one mission, Christophe was lying in bed when he heard “fairies” — what Togolese call evil spirits known for causing madness — coming into his room. He tried to rouse himself fully from sleep and pray, but it was as though he had been tied to the bed. He cried out to Jesus and began to sing praises to God. After about 10 minutes, when he was able to open his eyes, Christophe saw only a flash of light leaving the room.

“I continued to cry and pray until I knew I was free,” he concludes. “The battle that day was very rough.”

But the rewards are great. Seventeen churches now exist in that village area.

As resources become available, Christophe and his brother are building a brick church beside the existing grass one deep in the bush near their village. Of Christophe’s seven brothers and four sisters, four are teachers, one is a pastor, and another is training in evangelism.

“I tease them that I was the first and they are following me,” Christophe chuckles.

Christophe maintains a humble, realistic view of his experiences and achievements.

“The purpose of my dreams and visions is to make me invest myself in the work of the Lord,” he says.

 And whether in the church, the bush or the classroom, Christophe Dali is doing just that.


SAGBIEBOU BIBLE COLLEGE

In the far north of Togo, few things disturb the rugged, sunbaked African landscape. It is a no man’s land punctuated with scruffy shrubbery and the occasional forlorn (and often incomplete) building or mosque.

In the vast expanse of red dust, one particular cluster of small buildings looks unimpressive from the outside. But that little cluster of buildings is Sagbiebou Bible College, and even on a sweltering Saturday morning it is abuzz with industry. Students here have heard the call of God’s Spirit and are not willing to waste any time.

In a small shanty some students are grinding corn to make porridge, the staple of their diet. Around the corner others are using primitive hand tools to smooth boards that will be fashioned into beds.

Recently the Togo AG purchased 25 bicycles that will help the nonresident students get to and from campus and transport student teams who minister in surrounding villages.

The campus was built by a MAPS construction team in 2008 and has a solar panel that students reposition regularly in an attempt to provide enough electricity for their needs. The students, all 92 of them, will engage in seven months of study prior to graduation.

Some of the students come from Islamic villages and families.

One young man has been rejected by all but one member of his family. Another student, who is from an unreached village called Pajuda, grieves that his people are not open to Christ. He is praying that others will share his burden and join him in finding a way to reach his isolated village and others like it.

“We are thankful that Western churches brought us the gospel,” one man says shyly. “And now we are working hard to take it to other countries. But we are also praying that technology and the other things you have will not block God from your hearts.”

Another student agrees. “Don’t hide your lights. We are praying that the Western churches will stand strong.”


WEST AFRICA ADVANCED SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY

Togo, a nation of less than 7 million people, is home to an estimated 1,360 AG churches. Many of these churches are pastored by men who lack any kind of training, and some pastors serve multiple congregations simultaneously.

While individuals like Christophe Dali and Bible schools like the one in Sagbiebou are breaking ground and moving forward, the need for biblical training in Togo is still tremendous.

Missionary Mary Ballenger, president of WAAST in Lomé, the nation’s capital, is committed to addressing this pressing need for pastors and church leaders. Originally from Montana, she spent 25 years in Senegal before coming to WAAST in 1995. In 2010 she was asked by African church leadership to serve as president of the school — an unprecedented offer. Her years of experience in education and her knowledge of the African culture make her uniquely qualified to lead the seminary capably.

WAAST, which was established in 1971, serves as a regional training center for 20 nations in West and Central Africa. Total enrollment at the main campus is just over 300 students per year, while more than 600 more study at eight extension centers. All the students are active pastors who begin their studies at home and then move to the WAAST campus to finish their coursework.

“WAAST gives Africans needed education while allowing them to stay in touch with African realities,” says missionary Mark Alexander. “They could go to another seminary somewhere else in the world, but education out of context is not as effective.”

Mark’s wife, Vickie, adds, “WAAST truly is a leader across the continent in education and accreditation.”


SHINING A GREAT LIGHT

Despite the explosive growth of Christianity, several cultural groups are still unreached. Untold numbers of people still wait for the message of Christ to deliver them from witchcraft, animism and Islam. And of those who are being provided with biblical education, many more still thirst for the teaching that can equip them to move forward in bold preparedness.

As the Holy Spirit sweeps the region, stirring hunger for deliverance and knowledge, He is expelling all other spirits lingering in Africa’s schoolyards. Those in darkness are seeing a great light, and Christian educators are helping to shine it.


Kristel Ortiz is a staff writer with AGWM.

 

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