|Congregations step out in faith, despite financial straits|
account for nearly half of the 150 members at Nazareth United Methodist
Church in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
By Tim Tanton*
July 24, 2009 | YAMOUSSOUKRO, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS)
About a dozen church members are siftting in a semicircle in the
unfinished sanctuary of Nazareth United Methodist Church, discussing
their ministries and diverting a few squirming children eager for
Children account for more than a third of Nazareth’s 150 members. “We
have a future full of hope because we are sure we are going to get
people who will replace us,” says Otofa Hypolithe, lay leader.
Church members file into Nazareth
United Methodist Church. Construction began in 2004 and halted when the
church ran out of money.
Nazareth Church symbolizes two characteristics of The United Methodist
Church in Côte d’Ivoire: It is vital and growing, yet financially
“We need 50 million cfa (central African francs) to finance the church,” Hypolithe says. That is about US$100,000.
Started in a living room
Sitting in their building, Nazareth members recall the church’s growing
pains. The congregation’s first service was held in 1996 in someone’s
living room, and that’s where the members worshipped until two years
Many of the members had originally attended Jerusalem United Methodist
Church, several miles away. The distance and transportation costs
prompted them to form a congregation closer to their part of town.
Students pray in their Sunday
school classroom at Nazareth.
Construction began in 2004 and halted when the church ran out of money.
As the heat begins to build on this Saturday morning, the only air
conditioning is the breeze that wafts through the building’s frame.
Nazareth’s 12.4-acre site is a gift from the state, which drew up a
development plan for the entire city and designated an area for a new
Methodist church. The new church will have a capacity for at least 500
That allows plenty of room for growth. Today, Sunday worship draws an average 120 people.
Thirty-one of the members are 16-35 years old, and 59 are age 15 or
younger. The children’s service “is very animated,” notes Edith Bony,
who directs the service.
Ministry during crisis
Since a 2002 rebellion plunged Côte d’Ivoire into its current national
crisis, more people have been coming to church, says Jean Adjobi, a lay
preacher and class leader at Jerusalem United Methodist Church, a
24-year-old congregation in Yamoussoukro. Peace has been maintained
since mid-2007 through agreements between the government and the Forces
Nouvelles rebels who hold the north.
“People are more interested in the gospel,” Adjobi says. “People think
that they can have peace because in Africa people are living in poverty
and miserable conditions, so they think they can have peace … if they
come to church. So when we talk about the gospel, they are more
attentive to that.”
Otofa Hypolithe is lay leader
of Nazareth United
The denomination is helping resolve the problems that affect the
country, Hypolithe says. “Those who do not know God, hate each other;
but as a member of this community, whenever we preach the word of God
to these people, we help them have the spirit of love in their mind,
and that is very crucial for the peace process in this country.”
Nazareth wants to reach out to its neighbors, says Fidèle Sako, who is
in charge of evangelism for the congregation. The church needs a sound
system with speakers and musical instruments to attract people. It has
a small evangelism tent but needs resources.
The Nazareth members have organized special services to collect money
for people in need and have other plans for raising money, such as
cultivating chickens, pigs and sheep, but they lack startup funds.
In addition, the congregation wants to build a house for the pastor, a
medical center, a skills-training center for women, and a center for
A growing church
Nationwide, The United Methodist Church is in a good position for continued growth, Nazareth members say.
The church is well organized and dynamic, and it has a good reputation,
says Georgette Assare, lay preacher in charge of pastor-church
Georgette Assare (left) sings with
other Nazareth members.
Other members note that the services are not boring, and they like
having opportunities to delve more deeply into Scriptures through
classes held in members’ homes. Class members share their lives with
one another, “so my problem is your problem in the Methodist Church,”
one person notes.
Nazareth emphasizes hospitality and nurture. If someone’s relative
passes away, church members will be with the bereaved family. The
congregation encourages children and young people in their studies,
giving prizes to them for academic achievement.
It prays for newcomers during worship and has fellowship time, with
food and drink, afterward. A visitor is put under the supervision of a
class leader who will visit him or her later.
Across town, Jerusalem United Methodist Church is dealing with some of
the same challenges and goals. It has an 86.5-acre site with a
temporary sanctuary where 200-300 people worship each Sunday.
The building is too small, says Jean Anoh Adjobi, a lay preacher and
Methodist class leader at the church. The congregation, started 24
years ago, wants to build a sanctuary with enough room for more than
Corn plants stretch toward the
open sky within the unfinished
walls of the church.
Its construction plans also include a house for the clergy, a shelter
for women and children, a center for youth and women, a school for
students from kindergarten to university, a hospital and a United
Methodist radio station.
Building the radio station will be important, he says. “Our purpose is
to get many people to God, to Christ.” Radio can help draw more people
into church, he says. It would also be a good way to provide messages
on concerns such as AIDS, which is killing many people in the villages
and towns, and letting women and youth know about training
opportunities at the church center in the future, he says.
“We need a lot of money to make the radio station work,” he adds.
To generate funds, the church started raising teak, a type of hardwood,
on 12.4 acres in 2007. “People from the community come and work on the
farm,” Adjobi says. “When they have the time, they just come and work.
From time to time, we just employ two or three people to work weekly.”
Jean Anoh Adjobi is a lay preacher
and class leader at Jerusalem United Methodist Church in Yamoussoukro.
The congregation plans to wait 10 or 20 years until the teak is grown,
cut it, sell it and use the proceeds to build the new church, Adjobi
says. As with many of the church’s dreams, money becomes the sticking
“We have to wait,” Adjobi says. “We have no (other) means.”
*Tanton is director of the Media Group at United Methodist Communications.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5473 or email@example.com.
Otofa Hypolithe: “People are joining the church.”
Georgette Assare: “The church is well organized.”
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A brief history of Methodism in Côte d’Ivoire
United Methodists confront Côte d’Ivoire’s pressing problems
Cote d’Ivoire denomination joins United Methodist Church
Eglise Methodiste Unie Cote d’Ivoire
Timeline: Ivory Coast
Country profile: Ivory Coast
Cote d’Ivoire (U.S. Department of State)
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