Report from Africa
I wanted to give some time before I made a report on my trip to Africa so I could decompress and let the fatigue of travel and the fog of the immediate fade. I arrived home after nearly 30 hours of travel and layover only to unpack and repack for a trip to San Antonio for a Memorial for Dad hosted by the people of Castle Hills First Baptist Church, where the revival took place. It was precious, and the testimonies honored Dad and blessed the family. I repeat the words of my father when it all began, “Lord, Do, it again!” We renewed acquaintances and reconnected with family and friends and committed that the next time we gather will not be because someone had died. I returned home on Sunday evening with piles of work and mail to dig through and catch up on. Thank you for your prayers while I was away. I was buoyed on your intercession.
The trip was nothing short of amazing! From the pleasant weather to the accommodations and hospitality to the raw and gracious display of the power of God, every time I go to Cote d’Ivoire, it is better than the time before. I see something new and learn something fresh every time. To them, it seems so natural, so commonplace, for God to deliver a person from demonic influence and set them free. They see it every day! We probably do too, but it is not so clearly manifest. We remarked more than once that the best thing the devil ever did in America was convince people he did not exist. We write manifestations of evil spirits off as mental disease. Our institutions are full of demonized people in bondage and without hope because we have disarmed ourselves of the faith and practices to set them free, not so in this land of people of great faith and passion.
I begin this report with these comments because second only to the sheer scale of everything I experienced in the Ivory Coast, the devil’s kingdom was plundered twice daily at the conference hosted by the Protestant Baptist Works and Missions Church International (EPBOMI). The enemy lost control of lives and territory. The predominantly Muslim region of Korhogo is now an established outpost of love and the Kingdom of God. Over 31,000 attended with 1155 professions of faith, countless delivered from demons, four lame people walked, two blind people now see, and tumors and cancers were healed, if you are counting. This program, called CIAMEL, is held annually somewhere in the country. The church sent over 1000 of Her members to be part of it with the expressed purpose of evangelizing the people of this northern part of Ivory Coast.
Pastor Dion Robert, or “Popi,” as most call him, is an unassuming man of short stature but huge influence and faith. The city of Korhogo assisted with the expenses of the event, and the mayor and businessmen attend every service. One family also underwrote the travel and lodging for the multitude that came to serve. The scale of this event was several magnitudes larger than most in America have faith for. It required over 1000 people to organize and execute it. Over 20 different departments, each in their own uniform, operated like an orchestra led by the humblest conductor. It was a choreographed event to revile any ballet or Broadway show. Translation was made into at least three languages so everyone could hear the Good News in their native tongue. I have included links to videos and some photos so you can get a taste of what I saw.
Enough descriptions of the event, I want to inspire you with impressions. There is no more organized church in the world than EPBOMI, yet it is a family like no other as well. Described by some as an army because of the precision with which the people are trained and served, but without the hard edge of authoritarian control. They have over 30 programs, but this is not a program-driven church. Because they are built on small groups that meet regularly in homes, there is an intimacy that invites people to participate. There is an expectation of compliance and ample equipping to take a person from wherever they are with God to a place of maturity and service. It is a well-oiled machine made of warm, loving flesh that makes room for anyone. Hospitality is a hallmark, as well as high-energy evangelism and discipleship. These people simply believe the Bible and do what it says to do.
What we call unusual miracles are commonplace to them. The supernature is part of their everyday lives. There is no pretense of sophistication that is too good to dirty one’s hands dealing with demons. There is no doubt that God wants and does heal the sick and the lame. When a demon manifests, they matter-of-factly deal with it. When the person is set free, they are put on a track to be supported and equipped to become mature and serve. They currently report a membership of over 305,000, with another 50,000 in the process of becoming members of the church. Membership in the church can require up to one year of training, culminating with baptism. Membership is not a casual thing; every member is a minister and assigned a place to serve. When the new member comes out of the water of baptism, they have been equipped and are put to work in an appropriate ministry of the church. There is a chart in the pastor’s office indicating that they expect to reach 700,000 members by 2025. I know they will achieve this goal. I plan to be there for their Jubilee celebration that year.
It is easy to dismiss what is going on in Cote d’Ivoire as a third-world, foreign anomaly. It may be, but not because it can’t be. It is uncommon because of the worldly restrictions we have bound ourselves with. I am not
prepared to reject my creature comforts in the US and move to Africa, but I better be willing to. One word best describes the difference between what God is doing in Ivory Coast and most churches in the US. It is the word desperation. These people have so little but believe so much. They are unencumbered by the cares of this world. They enjoy nice things and would love the conveniences of the American Dream, but they do not let it interfere with their devotion to Jesus. We have so much and often only give lip service to our Lord.
I am humbled and somewhat shamed by these people of nowhere West Africa. Isn’t it just like God to use a backwater place, like Nazareth, to reveal Himself most complete? These people are special, but not because God treats them special. They are extraordinary for their child-like faith. I believe we could experience the same thing they do if we would believe. If we would open our eyes to the enemy’s lies and infiltration of our lives and activities. Many things we call good old American things keep us back from experiencing all that God has for us. Who does not want to see God move on the grand scale I experienced this past two weeks? I do, and I am determined not to fall back into my safe patterns of comfort and convenience.
Discipleship is supposed to be difficult. It requires discipline. It means we do certain things and don’t do other things for the glory of God. I am assessing my life after being with these precious people. I am asking God to show me areas not pleasing to Him. From one of my father’s signature messages, I have heard the Lord ask, “What is that in your hand?” For Moses, it was a rod. When he threw it down, it became a snake, reveal its true nature as a tool of man. When he picked it up, it was the Rod of God. By it, Moses released water from the rock and parted the Red Sea. Psalm 139:23–24 reveals the heart of the repentant.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there is any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
This was the best possible trip it could have been. I have not even shared with you the best part, but the time is not yet for that. Just know that I was able to accomplish all that I went to Africa to do. I am praying about how to proceed and how to share with you the project that we are partnering with the church to complete and how it will keep us connected for the rest of our lives. Sorry to be so cryptic, but I am following the leading of the Lord. Stay tuned for more details, and continue to pray God’s will be done. There is still much to be worked out.
Thank you for your prayers for me, the team, and the church. These are life-altering days in my life. I told the people at the three Memorials we have held for Dad that soon after his passing, God took me to Isaiah 6. In this passage, Isaiah is grieving for the loss of his friend and spiritual leader. At his lowest point, He sees the Lord, high and lifted up, seated on His throne in heaven. It was an incredible sight, and one I am sure inspired him to carry on during the mourning process. I, too, saw the Lord in the year of my father’s death, but I do not see Him as He is in heaven. I have the privilege to see Him in the faces and lives of His people. When I think of you, I see Him. During this time of grief, I have been buoyed by the prayers and concerns of people like you, who loved my dad and love my family and me. I will always miss him, but he is here with us as we carry on his legacy of seeking the Kingdom first.
Thank you for sending me with your support and prayers. Continue to pray as I have been invited to a conference in Orlando, Florida, in September. I must complete some books for my authors in the next months, and God continues to surprise me with more opportunities. Remember the Sons Gathering, October 26-29. Space is limited, and this will prove to be a very special time as we meet for the first time without our spiritual father. Join us to see what God has in store for us together.
Since I returned from Africa, we have learned that revival has broken out in the city of Korhogo and the surrounded villages. As the multitude of people returned to their homes following the CIAMEL conference, their newfound freedom in Christ has had a profound impact on their communities. The leaders of the towns are begging for the Yopougon Church to send people to help them. They have responded by mobilizing their forces. They are sending pastors to plant churches and people to help with the spontaneous move of God that is now happening in the north part of Cote d’Ivoire. Pray for the people! Pray for the pastors and servants that are going! Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the fields white for harvest. God is on the move, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Kingdom of God. Pray for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to fill and cover Pastor Dion as he leads these precious people. Pray for us as we seek how to assist and fan the flames of revival. Pray that the Lord would “Do, it again!” Here in our hearts and communities in the US. Lord knows we need it! Look for the next blog as we add videos and photos, as well as more reports of what God is doing in West Africa.
Thanks again for your prayers and for caring for my family and me.