Friday, January 28, 2011

Conference goes international


Flag raising ceremony
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18

After months of intense praying, planning, and laboring…it is hard to believe that our annual conference has come and gone, but not without leaving a powerful impression on many lives! Starting on Monday, December 27, groups of excited conference attendees gathered at the Bible Way Mission School in Monrovia (this year’s conference site) from locations across Liberia, the bordering nations of Sierre Leone and Guinea, and even as far as Austria, Belarus, the USA, and representation from India; it truly was an international conference! 

Conference cow -- good eating!
As guests registered and found their lodging places (ranging from dorm facilities to floor space on classroom floors), brothers and sisters were eager to meet and fellowship with one another, this big family of God from across the country and even the globe! The big cow that was purchased from Guinea for delicious conference food had been butchered and the cassava leaf with beef soup and rice were cooking. 

The Christian flag was proudly lifted in front and above, and the nations’ flags fell in line behind. Prayers of thanksgiving and commitment were offered, hearts prepared, and anticipation overflowing. 

Building the thatch awning
The growing group settled into benches set up under a thatch awning, with God’s own canopy of stars not seemingly far above that, as they were drawn into the theme for the conference. Pastor Rob Prokop, the senior pastor of C.I.G. (church) in Vienna, Austria and our conference keynote speaker gave a beautiful opening message on the theme “It Shall Be Well”, taken from Scripture text in Romans 8:18 and 2 Corinthians 4:7:18.

The daily activities were back to back, to be sure, so as not to miss out on a moment of our precious time together! 

Rika Grier leading worship
Mornings were devoted to worshipping this amazing God who loves us with such unquenchable love and who has filled us with hope beyond explanation. Our sister and new friend, Rika Grier, a worship leader at her home church in California, joined us, and led us to praise our Jesus with joy! Singers and dancers from different Liberian tribal dialects led us according to their own styles and traditions, as well as some beautiful harmonic contributions from our friends from Guinea & Sierre Leone, and even a surprise song in Russian from our new Belarusian friends! 

Austrian Pastor Rob Prokop
Pastor Rob taught us of the love and example of the perfect “big brother” Jesus, who even met his own death in His willingness to search out and see his younger brothers and sisters come back to the Father. Small groups met discussing each lesson in various dialects allowing each person to understand and process deeply, fully open to the movement and changing power of the Holy Spirit. The children also had their small groups; playing games, doing projects, singing songs, and learning about Our Hero Jesus and His Eternal Kingdom.

Cara Schukoske leads teachers session
Each afternoon, a dozen “special interest sessions” met in different locations for special training. Sister Cara Schukoske led a much anticipated session for our CRCA school teachers on curriculum development and being a role model for students. 

Our partners and siblings in Christ from Sierre Leone, Pastor Alphonso & Nana Barry, captured the attention of those interested in evangelism as they shared Jesus’ heart for the lost and their own personal dramatic conversions from Islam. 

Small group discussion
Our partners in the Gospel, Don & Lois Sobkoviak, with S.A.N.D. International shared on Physical and Spiritual fruitfulness while their daughter Rudina joined our own CRCA speakers to teach our young adults and youth about true love God’s way. 

Other groups converged on themes like “Leading in Love”, “Shepherding the Hearts of Children”, “The Heart of Worship”, “A Servant Heart” (for Deacons), and “Powerful Prayer.”

After some intense discussion, personal application questions, and prayer for growth, minds rested and the playing fields and courts heated up with some competitive matches of kickball, volleyball, basketball, and soccer.


Topping the highlights for evening festivities was the CRCA Vision Casting Campfire. CRCA Mission Director Dennis Aggrey shared the heart of CRCA and the vision for the future, re-kindling the fire for knowing Christ and making Him known across the world. 

We were challenged with the effectiveness of spiritual multiplication over spiritual addition…sharing Jesus should be a way of life for every Christian, and at that, our joy to do so! 

Baptism in Atlantic Ocean
Cheers of rejoicing were heard across the camp as we celebrated our Christ inspired vision for the pre-reached (by God’s grace, for many salvation is impending!) and the fruit that God has been bringing in difficult frontiers (like Guinea and the Buluyema Forest).

The grand finale of this surreal conference was the Baptism of 21 believers (20 Liberian and 1 American)  in the Atlantic Ocean on the final day of 2010; we can think of no better way to thank God for the hope that we have then to witness such a resurrection-picture! Jesus is alive and so are we! 

The battle is won, the victory is sure; we are FREE…free to give, free to forgive, free to serve, free to live basking in God’s rich love for us and loving others with a supernatural love…free to believe that no present suffering is worthy of comparison to all that God has freely given us in Christ Jesus and all that awaits us for all of eternity…such freedom!
 
CRCA Prayer Requests

Kpelle Worship
1)     Praise God for the fruit of the conference and ask that its impact would be further reaching than we can imagine! Ask that the word of God would continue to encourage us, dwelling richly and deeply in us. Ask that our love for Jesus and others would grow.

2)      Our Regional Coordinator in the Yangayah Region died just before the conference. Please pray for his family; the church family; the strengthening and encouragement of the church in that region; the leadership, direction, and growth of the ministry in Yangayah.

3)      Pray with us in the vision that God has given CRCA to continue into 2011…to strengthen our existing ministry and to continue to expand the ministry by the power and work of the Holy Spirit. Continue to lift up our new frontiers: Guinea, the Buluyema Forest, and Cape Mount. Also pray for the strengthening and stability of our current churches. Ask God for the salvation of many, for discipleship and growth, and for leaders to be raised up. Pray for our pastors and evangelists. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Please ask for more laborers! Also pray for more new frontiers!

4)      Pray for our partners and the mission teams that will be coming to Liberia in 2011; specifically 3 teams coming in February: a team from CIG Vienna, Austria to work on agricultural projects in Kpondeh Town; a team coming from SP UK to work with the Operation Christmas Child project; and our new partners, Nurses for the Nations coming to do medical mission and to discuss how God might use our ministries as a team in the future for His purposes. 

Yay for Jesus!
5)      Pray for our sister Audrey who has come from Virginia to work with us for the next four months; she requests prayer for God’s will and guidance for her time in Liberia; wisdom in decision making while in this different culture; and her work with CRCA (specifically website design). 

6)      Pray for Dennis and a team that left for Lofa County yesterday. They will be working on the foundational construction for the additional classrooms and auditorium space being added to Konia Christian Revival School and doing support ministry with our churches.

7)      Pray for funding needed for a shipment of some useful materials being sent to CRCA Liberia through Service to Servants.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Badezu, Buluyema Forest & Guinea


News from the follow-up trip on the frontier of Badezu deep in the Buluyema Forest of Liberia, West Africa…

After God blessed our team (Liberians, Austrians, Americans, and Belarusians) with the opportunity to fly into Badezu by chopper on a one day trip, Pastor Willie Johnson was able to lead a team of 5 back on the long hike to the Buluyema Forest for a week long follow-up ministry there. We received a call upon Pastor Willie’s return that the trip was blessed and productive. The team was able to visit homes from village to village and host daily morning devotions and daily evening worship services. During their time there, 28 people prayed to receive Christ and the Sunday morning worship service had 68 adults in attendance from Badezu alone. There is one brother in position to continue some discipleship and teaching while he is in Buluyema.

Work on a water-well for the community has been started, and also eager hands are joining together to make blocks to be used in the construction of a building for worship and guest lodging! Please continue to praise God for His heart that all might know Him and belong to Him and pray for the discipleship and growth and encouragement for our new brothers and sisters!

After our fruitful visit to Guinea just about a week ago, Pastor Harris (our pastor in Kpassagizia) has been able to cross the border for Bible study in the biggest town across the Guinea/Liberia border! The few believers there have planned with Pastor Harris to have a weekly Bible study on Wednesday evenings in their town. The Gospel attack across the border that we have been praying about for so long now is really coming to life—please pray for continued laborers in the field…the harvest is ripe indeed!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Luyema & Borkeza


The Scripture says in 2 Corinthian 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

A recent CRCA church plant in northern Liberia is in a little town called Luyema. Brother Philip is our evangelist who visits this town. He is diligently teaching the word of God and demonstrating God’s love through his life style. He has seen the power of The Truth that sets people free. The current response to what God is doing there could easily be pulled straight from the Book of Acts. In those days a young slave girl was stopped from making money for her owners through predicting the future and fortune telling when Paul cast an evil spirit from her. Because of that the owners of the slave girl “seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities” (Acts 16:16-21).

On the second Sunday in December of 2010, Dennis visited with this new church for worship. He was greeted happily by many (about 78 adults in attendance) of the new believers in Christ. Dennis tells of the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in this new congregation. With all the excitement of changed lives, there were also some who were angry, including the town chief and his elders. After the worship service, the chief wanted to bring his complaint about the church. Dennis met with him to hear what he had to say. He explained that there was a man named Flomo Zayzay in the village that had always been getting drunk and creating disturbances in the community. The protocol for handling his misbehavior was to fine him. Since he rarely had the cash, the leaders would fine him for his possessions instead, one time even confiscating the tin sheets he was given by a relief organization to roof his house. Other times he would work on the chief and elders farms as a payment for his debts. After Brother Philip came to Luyema and this notorious troublemaker gave his life to Christ Jesus, he became a new creation in Christ and his mischief in the town stopped. Dennis was a bit puzzled…asking, “So aren’t you happy that this man is no longer causing you trouble by doing evil in the town?” To which, the elder replied that he wasn’t happy because he was losing money from the fines that Mr. Zayzay’s conduct brought to him in the past. May God continue to change the means of income in this place and transform the precious people there with His glorious Gospel!

While the Kingdom of God is advancing, Satan continues to attack. Many of you have been praying for Pastor Samson Jones and our brothers and sisters in Borkeza; thank you! Pastor Samson, his wife Alice, and their small daughter, Rebecca Weedor, were able to join us for a great time of encouragement during our annual conference. While at the conference, Samson got news from Borkeza that the town elders decided to take a strong and more official stand against his “rebellion”. (For those who aren’t aware, a few months back Pastor Samson respectfully refused to pay a “tax” that was placed on all Borkeza residents to fund the visit of a “witch doctor” to the town.) The day after Samson returned from the conference, they made proclamation through the masked devil that anyone who talked to Samson and his family, sold goods to them, or bought goods from them would be fined. Samson and his family are suffering to buy what they need and his family business (a small drug store) is now providing next to nothing for the family to live on. However, amazingly, God continues to provide and attendance at their daily Bible studies continues to increase! Samson remains hopeful, trusting in God, and rejoicing over how God is using this struggle to bring others into the church to hear God’s Word. Dennis just returned from Lofa; while in Borkeza he was able to meet with the chiefs to schedule a more formal meeting to take place in a few weeks between our church leadership and the town elders. Please pray for this upcoming meeting and pray for the Jones’ family and for the trial before them; ask for encouragement, strength, wisdom, love, and spiritual fruit!