In predominantly Muslim northern Cote d’Ivoire over the past year 193 new believers have come to Christ, and 33 villages have formed new home Bible studies. One village even built a church building totally on their own initiative and with their own resources (see photo below). This is the first Vineyard church building in Cote d’Ivoire! Their first service began Christmas Eve 2016 didn’t end until Christmas morning.
We repeatedly told our new friends in northern Cote d’Ivoire that we are there to share Christ, and make disciples, and we don’t care if they identify with the Vineyard Movement or not, but they do see themselves as part of the Vineyard family and don’t want to be independent.
One former-Muslim Christian leader, summarizes what has taken place in the past year, “It’s a miracle! I have seen missionaries give 20 years of their lives, and I’ve never seen this much happen.” All this has been done through careful strategy, partnership with local Christian leaders, and with short-term teams and trips; there are no long-term American workers living there.
A “Winning” Strategy
The Cote d’Ivoire Partnership, led by Josh Armstrong of Maryville Vineyard (TN), has goals to start multiple church planting movements, making disciples of Jesus in thousands of unreached villages among many language groups. Things are off to a good start! How is it happening?
In response to God’s call just under two years ago, Josh headed to Cote d’Ivoire where he knew no one. After several exploratory trips a partnership emerged between the Maryville Vineyard, local believers in central Cote d’Ivoire, and CityTeam, which is an international ministry deeply committed to igniting church planting movements.
In February 2016, five African church planters were trained, one of them did not work out, but the four remaining ones are doing wonderfully. Over the past 12 months these planters have been visiting about 80 villages in a Muslim region in the center of the country. They are using the Discovery Group method which was first used in Northern India. The African planters enter villages looking for people that God has already begun drawing to Jesus. These “people of peace” are the doorways into the communities, and these individuals and their friends begin to study and obey God’s Word together with the planters. In time, these individuals can easily start leading their own groups. Using this model the Word keeps spreading through naturally occurring relationships already in place. The Holy Spirit leads individuals in these groups at their own pace to begin obeying God’s Word, and an individual within a group may progress toward giving his or her life to Jesus even before the person leading the Bible study has taken that step.
Jump Forward One Year
On this February 2017 trip, we had a Muslim driver who helped us get from place to place crammed in an SUV traveling over many miles of ridiculous roads. On Friday we asked him, “What has been a highlight of the week for you?” He said he was amazed at how many people were immediately healed when we prayed for them. Healings play a key role in many Muslims’ journey to Christ. Healings show them that He is alive, that He is real, loving, and powerful. We saw Jesus do lots of very cool things! Our driver also had a significant dream that week which he talked over with us. He shared deeply with us about his life. God is drawing people like him into experiencing His love, power, and closeness in Christ.
These are photos of two church buildings (both inside and out) that I (Jim Egli) visited in Cote d’Ivoire. Guess which one is the new Vineyard building, and which one was built by the first president of Cote d’Ivoire and is now official Vatican property.
Visit the Cote d’Ivoire page for more information on connecting with this partnership.
Jim Egli is the Leadership & Missions Pastor at The Vineyard Church in Urbana, Illinois.