NEWSLETTER AFRICA (AUGUST 2016)
Jean-Claude SOUILLOT - 31, rue du chêne - 71370 Ouroux-sur-Saône - France - +33 (0)3.854.854.09 - firstname.lastname@example.org
France, August 2016
Dear Friends in the Lord,
Once again, I spent most of August in Africa, one week in each of Ivory Coast and Benin, then just over a week in Brazzaville, Congo. This was a very busy time, but greatly blessed.
I was invited by the Gagnoa Grace Church to their Bible camp. My former colleague in the book distribution, Paul NGoran, is the pastor in Gagnoa (north-west of Abidjan, the capital). There were about 90 people present at the camp. The teaching and preaching were good, and there was much fellowship among the attenders. As I have been several times to Ivory Coast recently, people were quicker to come to me and chat.
Paul asked me to lead a meeting with the men, then with the ladies, and several sessions of teaching and discussion with the young adults. These times were very profitable, I felt, and enabled us to look at the life of Christ for the believer – very challenging. It is so easy just to fill one’s head with knowledge about the Saviour!
On the Sunday before the camp, Paul had arranged for me to preach in a large church in Abidjan. It was a good opportunity to declare the free grace of God in Christ alone. It was obvious that this was an unusual message for the congregation, but most people listened attentively. After the camp, I preached in the small Grace Church in Yopougon, an area of Abidjan. This was a blessed time for me. A session of discussion and questions followed the worship service. This lasted until I had to go to the airport to catch my plane to go to Benin.
The Lord was good in allowing me to travel to Gagnoa in a comfortable car with A/C, as well as to stay in a clean and very quiet compound in Abidjan. I find now that I need to save my strength for such times as the camp.
During the week of the camp, I had to do a last check on 10 manuscripts ready to print, 5 of which were for Africa. This follows the fact that from June onwards we have found ways to ship books to Africa (12 reprints and 1 new title). We also have openings now for sales in several new countries. A similar number of reprints will soon be ready to go (besides several which are ready to ship right now) and we will have them printed before the end of the year if finances allow.
Once again, I was in Benin, a small country I particularly love in West Africa. Here again, the Lord gave me a much quieter and more comfortable lodging place than the former one.
The occasion for the trip was the Bohicon Bible camp, organized since 1999 by the Grace Church in that city where my colleague Julien Naka is the pastor. There were over 400 adults and more than 100 (lively) children, meeting in a huge marquee. Most of the 4 and half days were taken up by preaching and other meetings. The preaching was good in the main, as was the fellowship.
Every evening was devoted to a discussion meeting with the young adults. These times were especially precious. One young man shared some of his deep seated problems (very common to young people, but often kept secret), and that was like opening a floodgate. Questions and sharing inundated us! Many adults and parents were curious and came to observe, staying at the back. The next day, everybody was talking about the evening. The meetings often lasted until well after midnight. Many of the young people walked with me to my hotel, several hundred yards away from the camp compound, talking on the way there, in front of the hotel, and among themselves on their way back to the camp!
I preached in the Bohicon Church on Sunday morning, then went to Cotonou on the newly repaired road – this took 2 hours instead of the 4 to 5 hours it took last year. I then preached in the Cadjéhoun Grace Church in Cotonou.
My flight to Brazzaville had been rescheduled from Monday to Wednesday, a common practice there, and the travel agent had failed to inform me – also a common practice!
That gave me an extra 2 days in Cotonou, which was a welcome rest as the 2 weeks in West Africa had been rather full and intense. On my last afternoon, 8 young adults from the camp came to see me at the Guest-House, and we spent the rest of the day talking about the Gospel and the Christian life. I feel that the Lord has used this visit to do something in some young hearts. Following that, I plan to spend time with the leaders of the churches next time to help them deal with these young people. The traditional African model is breaking down and is being replaced by a new one, not better, not worse, just different. Many of the church leaders are not prepared for that. It is important that we understand how to connect with this, in order to continue to declare the message of salvation in a way which will impact on young people.
My time in Brazzaville was strange. Gildas, who has been helping me with the book distribution over the past few years, has stopped doing this and started a job with an American agency. The main problem was that he had failed to inform me of this clearly. So, there was virtually no schedule of meetings put together. This was quite a blow, especially as I had had 2 sleepless nights just before.
In the end, I was able to contact a number of friends and we managed to organize several meetings. I also spent much time with individuals. It seems that the Lord has touched some hearts with the knowledge and experience of His grace in the past years. I also had several manuscripts to revise, so that I was not too idle.
I am sorry that Gildas has been led to stop, but in the event, we have found a distributor who is ready to take over. This will set the work on a better long term footing as well as opening several doors in other cities in the country. I still hope that in the future, Gildas will be able to do some colporteur work, as he is gifted for that. It seems that his attachment to the message of free Grace is still alive. We need to pray that he finds his way through the busyness of his new job.
Over the past 15 to 18 months, we have been able once again to publish and reprint several titles (27, and 3 of these twice – we do small runs now in order to keep the stock to a minimum). We have also done several titles for Africa, and 5 reprints are ready to go out any time now. This is due to the new arrangement we have with an organization which also distributes all over Africa. I find great encouragement in that the 10 titles which have just been reprinted have been financed by gifts coming from France. This is quite new and a cause for thankfulness.
For many years, I have asked you, dear friends, to pray that the Lord would send someone to join me and, eventually, replace me. It looks as though He is answering that prayer. It is still too early to give details as we are looking into this, but I am very hopeful that a new chapter will open soon. More info in future letters! Please, continue to pray for this and that we will be sensitive to the Lord’s leading and bold enough to follow Him. I am so thankful already that the whole work will become less dependent on me.
Once again, I want to thank you all for standing with us so faithfully in prayer and support for this work. Some of you were already standing firm with us at the time when Brother Bill Clark was involved before his passing away, 18 years ago. And you have been a rock since I was called to follow him (still miss him some mornings!). May the Lord continue to make the sound of His great grace in Christ sound out in French for many years, to the saving and strengthening of His people for His glory!