United Church of God

Mark Mickelson’s Adventures in West and Central Africa

You are here

Mark Mickelson’s Adventures in West and Central Africa

In 2010, UCG was left without a French-speaking senior pastor to serve in Africa and only minimal contacts with the brethren who were there. It was a challenge that appeared, to some, to be insurmountable. But God allowed for better things.

The first visit to the area was in 2011 during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Melvin Rhodes, along with Jack Scruggs, a French-speaking member from Oregon, visited Cameroon. They found that Moise Mabout, a deacon, and the brethren there, had remained solid. It was an encouraging start. Melvin, Jack, and Mabout then went together to greet the brethren in Benin and Togo. Melvin assured the congregations there that other pastors would follow. The expense of traveling with an interpreter and a local leader was considerable, but something had to be done. The members would not be abandoned.

In June, Gabriel Vatour, a French-speaking member from Canada, and I returned to Cameroon to pick up Mabout and go on to the Congo. It was exciting to be able to greet the congregation, but things were not well. The money being sent to assist them could not be accounted for. In fact, the leader had to be removed. We eventually learned that many of those attending had no background in the Church while others who did, were staying away. It took time to reach out to the scattered members and build trust, but eventually we were able to add a second congregation. There were 52 in attendance last fall at the Feast. On our recent trip, we were able to go a step further and ordain a deacon in each congregation.

The main barrier we had in working throughout the region was simply communication. I spoke no French and most of the French-speaking brethren spoke no English. On my first trip to Cameroon I needed an interpreter to even be able to talk to Mabout. By my next trip though, Mabout had learned enough English that I was able to go by myself. Progress was being made.

Our English-speaking pastor in Nigeria, Oludare Akinbo, was the closest elder to the congregation in Benin. He lived only an hour and a half away. He had joined Melvin, Jack, and Mabout when they visited and found he could converse with the members in their native tongue. It was the same form of Yoruba that his father had required him to learn as a child. As a result, Oludare and his family are able to visit and assist throughout the year and another member who gives sermons is able to visit as well.

The story of Togo is similar. Kossi Fiaboe, an elder, takes care of both congregations. He speaks some English and is taking classes and continues to improve. With access to English, he has a direct line of communication to the home office and will never again be dependent on information or instructions being filtered to him. An additional blessing was when one of the leaders in Ghana visited with Fred and Lucretia Kellers and found that he knew the local language. That would never have been known apart from the desire of the Ghanaian and Togolese members to be together.

Over the past two years, Fred and Lucretia have visited Togo twice, and I have been with Dare to Benin. Dare and Mabout have also made trips throughout West and Central Africa and our leaders in Ghana have assisted as well. There is a youth camp in Cameroon and youth and young adults from Togo and Benin are included in camps in Ghana and Nigeria. In July we will establish the first United Youth Camp in Congo. We have built church halls and purchased chairs for use in services and we will continue to assist the congregations to be able to assemble for local services and for the Feast.

The one place that remained to be visited was Ivory Coast. The members there had been told that UCG’s operations in French-speaking Africa had ceased and that no one from United would be coming. That began to be called into question as French-speaking countries were added as contacts in Bonnes Nouvelles,the French language edition of The Good News.Felix Tia, the leader of the Lame congregation, made contact last fall, but it took us until the Days of Unleavened Bread to be able to fully respond. Mabout and I had tried to come from Ghana in January, but I got sick and had to return home. Mabout then went on alone and told the members that I would follow. Since they had been told that UCG would not come (which ultimately means someone from the home office) Mabout told them they would now see who was telling the truth. Our recent visit assured them that they were not cut off from UCG. There has been wonderful joy and rejoicing as a result.

Over the years, the French-speaking brethren in West and Central Africa have shown a desire to be together in unity and as friends and God has blessed them. Jesus Christ said His sheep hear His voice, and the French-speaking brethren are listening.


  • Tammy Vaught
    Our brethren in the West and Central Africa, you speak French but I hope someone can read and share this for you; The God of Israel has blessed you and would not be outdone in caring for you by His UCG ministers. Let's be as close to God as we can and keep the prayers flowing up to God on behalf of the Work and each other. Let's ask God to make us brethren and those He is calling out from all around the world a living prayer.. I'm so thankful for the Work of God in our UCG for our brethren in Africa and for our other brethren all around the world and for those being called here and from all around the world. I hope to read more good news about you all :)your sister in Christ, Tammy Vaught