Edmond was a well-educated, up-and-coming pastor in his denomination. But when he was selected to serve in Nassian, a village in the north of Ivory Coast, he felt discouraged. The church building where he was sent was dilapidated and small; the congregation was smaller still.
Talking about change
Edmond pictured himself stuck for a long stretch of time in this backwater and was totally disheartened. At about the same time, he was chosen to become a facilitator of the church and community mobilisation process (CCMP) for his denomination and attended the first training event. What he learnt about God’s plan for his church and for his own life struck a chord. He went back to his church with a new vision and with the basic Bible studies that form the foundation for whole-life transformation, which CCMP brings.
Soon the whole village was talking about this new approach. The Bible studies were interactive and dealt with real-life issues such as healthy living and God’s view of the way poor people should be valued and cared for. As a result, even though 60 per cent of the church members were illiterate, everyone became animated and engaged with the questions. Church members were challenged to take on a biblical way of thinking and to reach their God-given potential. Several of them built better housing for their families. The women talked of husbands who now included them in decision-making, and, with big smiles, they spoke of decreasing quarrels in their marriages.
The women talked of husbands who now included them in decision-making
Watch a video of Pastor Edmond explaining how the church managed to raise money to complete its building.
Called to build a church
Pastor Edmond himself felt called to build a church, but the region was poor and the cost was clearly too much for his small congregation. On the other hand, Edmond’s training had taught him that you can start a project with just a ‘handful of rice’. So he started to talk in terms that his villagers could understand, of building the church ‘one kilo of cement’ at a time. One member of the church suggested holding a lucky dip at church. So they wrote out the different elements that were needed: 1 light bulb, 20 cement bricks, 5 metres of electric cable, 1 plank of wood etc. Everyone had to pick out a piece of paper and provide what was written on it.
Today the church stands almost complete and a new sign has been put up next to it. It reads, ‘Changed people bring about change’ and bears witness to the building being accomplished with the help of CCMP.
Pastor Edmond ran out of time to tell us about all the changes going on in both the church and community. The church has built two rooms for literacy classes. They have started some improved agriculture trial plots. The youth are working together to serve their community, even building a little hostel for visitors passing through. All the activity has prompted local people to come to see what is happening and to ask advice on how to bring development.
Pastor Edmond did, however, have just enough time to share the story of another lucky dip held at the church. It featured Dieudonné (Illio in the local language), a local farmer, who pulled out a piece of paper that requested ‘this year’s crop of cashew nuts from three trees’.
A generous harvest
When the harvest came and church members went to find the three trees on Dieudonné’s land, he said, ‘I’m going to give the cashews of 21 trees, not three. In addition, I want the pastor to have a portion of my land as he is a stranger here without land to plant on.’ This past year Dieudonné has again offered the nuts from 21 trees to support the church in its projects for the community.
Pastor Edmond says that CCMP does not always start something new, but it takes what is there and enables people to go far further than they ever would have gone without it. He is now teaching CCMP to the students at a local Bible college whose director has seen the amazing impact it has had in Edmond’s rural congregation and community.
For more information: read Learning Together, which highlights some of the key lessons learnt with CCM over the past 20 years, and Church and Community Mobilisation in Africa
You may also be interested to read these blogs about Church and Community Transformation: Reaping the rewards of community film-making and Are young people the key to community transformation?