|Bishop Boni calls families, church, to prayer|
Bishop Benjamin Boni offers thanks and a prayer for a delegation of Texas
United Methodists during worship at Jordan United Methodist Church in
Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, following a campaign to distribute mosquito nets.
UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
By Tim Tanton*
July 21, 2009 | ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS)
When God spoke to Bishop Benjamin Boni, the leader of the country’s United Methodists responded.
It was October 2000, and violence had convulsed the country following
public anger over a presidential election that was perceived to have
been rigged by the military ruler. Boni heard God telling him to rally
the country to prayer.
United Methodist Bishop Benjamin Boni (right) leads his family in prayer during
a daily devotional at home.
“One day, a voice clearly said to me, ‘Call on the churches, not
only the Methodists, but other churches, to join in prayer, and we did
that,” Boni says. “And for (a while) … we had peace.”
Boni’s ability to work with the other religious leaders of his
country and mount a national call to prayer reflects his stature as the
top Methodist leader in Côte d’Ivoire, and it shows the standing of the
denomination, now part of The United Methodist Church, in the life of
The incident also underscores the importance of prayer to the 57-year-old bishop.
Praying for the hopeless
It is about 6 o’clock on a Tuesday morning, and the Boni household
is getting ready for the day. For the parents, there is work. For the
young people, work or school.
First, the family has worship. Bishop and Madame Boni gather with
their five daughters and son, ranging from 20 to 32, plus two nieces.
They read from the Bible, sing songs, hear a message and pray.
“You have to be with God to learn from God.”
–Bishop Benjamin Boni
This morning, the bishop and his wife, N’Gbesso Berthe Boni, have
gathered their five daughters and son, along with other household
members, on the patio of their home. Today’s Scripture is Job 28.
Bishop Boni talks about wisdom, noting that we can find wisdom only
near God. In Christ, we have all the treasures, he says, so if we need
wisdom, we must go to Christ.
The bishop cites the proverb that says fear of the Lord is the
beginning of wisdom. Wisdom should bring a person to know and serve his
or her Creator, he says.
When the time comes to share prayer concerns, Madame Boni lifts up the country and people who are sick.
“Family worship is important because without prayer we cannot do
anything, as stated by the Apostle Paul,” she says later, in a followup
interview. “That is why we put Jesus in the beginning of everything. In
the morning, we, the parents, lead the family worship. At night, the
children will lead. Each has his turn. Everyone has his day. We pray
for all subjects.”
The image of United Methodist
Bishop Benjamin Boni (right, rear
on billboard) is featured on an advertisement encouraging care and compassion for people with AIDS.
Bishop Boni is writing a family prayer book in which he emphasizes the importance of worship time together.
“To be able to fight with victory in this world, we need God every
time,” he says. Children must be educated and shown the way of God, so
they will be close to Him when they grow up, he says.
That close relationship is central in his life, as well. “Being
bishop is not easy because you are responsible for a big congregation,
so you have to be with God to learn from God,” he says. In times of
trouble, he adds, God speaks to him.
A book for the soul
As at home, prayer and worship come first at work. Stepping out of
his car, the bishop enters the annual conference office, wearing a dark
suit despite the heat and carrying a brown leather briefcase with an
elephant sculpted into the side. He proceeds to a room where the staff
is seated in a circle for worship. Surrounded by his top clergy aides,
the bishop leads the service, and during the sermon elaborates on his
message from earlier in the morning about Job 28.
Prayer is the constant in a schedule that changes from day to day. One
morning, for example, he participates in the dedication ceremony of a
new Bible commentary at the Palace of Culture.
Members of the Boni family
worship together twice a day.
The bishop views the commentary as an important resource for the
faith life of the country. “Commentaire Biblique Contemporain” is the
first French-language Bible commentary written by African francophone
scholars – Methodist, Anglican, Baptist, evangelical – and has been
five years in production.
Being written in an African context makes it particularly important, says the bishop, who wrote the foreword.
His role in the dedication ceremony is to give the final prayer or
benediction. Speaking in French, he thanks God for the commentary,
which he says “will do good things for our souls.”
In the early evening hours, the bishop will gather again with his family. They will close the day as they began it, in prayer.
*Tanton is director of the Media Group at United Methodist
Communications. Thanks to Isaac Broune, Cote d’Ivoire Conference
communicator, for his help in obtaining the quote from Madame Boni.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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