It followed the annual youth camp conducted this year in the city of Man. The conference was held July 24 through August 1.
This was our first-ever, pan-West African Leadership Conference that allowed leaders from both English-speaking and French-speaking countries to come together for four days to hear lectures. One speaker was Darris McNeely, who coordinates international training for Ministerial and Member Services. A tailored curriculum was prepared based on classes presented at Ambassador Bible College and other training conferences.
Twenty-four participants from six West African countries stretching from Côte d’Ivoire to Cameroon and including Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria had the chance to meet for the first time and exchange ideas and share thoughts on supporting brethren in West Africa. Two Good Works-sponsored volunteers, Werner Solorzano from Guatemala and Suzanne Lavaty from the United States, as well as French Communications Analyst Jessica Hendrickson and Senior Pastor for French-speaking Europe and West/Central Africa, Tim Pebworth, provided simultaneous translation for the conference using an FM emitter and FM radios. Suzanne and Werner had just finished serving in the week-long Youth Camp in northwest Côte d’Ivoire where they introduced English-language, computer and swimming classes into the curriculum.
Key topics covered in the leadership conference included understanding our role as disciples, marriage and family relations including navigating complex dowry and other local customs, sermon topic planning, as well as a review of several fundamental beliefs. Participants related how much they appreciated the discussion of roles within the Church versus ranks and hierarchy.
The opening session dealt with the important key of leaders first being disciples. Biblical teaching on being a disciple is critical to dealing with common problems arising in the church context. Comments from the final feedback session included how much they appreciated learning what it meant to serve as a disciple and thinking about how they contribute to the Body of Christ consistent with the vision and mission of the Church.
We sought to supplement study time together with team-building activities including an afternoon at the Abidjan Zoo, a structured group dinner with designated translators at each table and an evening of song including a song written specifically for the event by a leader from Cameroon that we learned and sang together in French, English and Spanish (singing in Spanish was in honor of Werner Solorzano from Guatemala).
International conferences such as these are important ways of tying together UCG congregations around the world. Despite the language and cultural differences, we could see the group coming together and everyone prays we can meet again in the future.