The fourth edition of the West African Singles Conference took place December 2011 in Cote d’Ivoire.
After Winneba (Ghana) in 2008 and 2009, the Covenant University (Nigeria) in 2010, it was the turn of the first French speaking country to organize and host the 2011 conference. All roads led to Cote d’Ivoire for disciples who came from Warri, Abuja, Lagos, Cotonou, Lome, Monrovia, Libreville, Bamako, Ouagadougou and many towns and cities inside Cote d’Ivoire itself.
The international event under the theme, ‘’Christ in you, the hope of Glory’’ (Col. 1:27), kicked off on Thursday evening the 8th with a welcome ceremony that displayed the flags (and anthems/cultures) of the many nations that were represented and ended on Sunday, the 11th of December 2011.
The four day conference was held at three different venues: from Thursday evening to Saturday afternoon in a retreat center in Kodjoboue, from Saturday evening to Sunday morning in a very beautiful hotel in Grand Bassam, and concluded in Abidjan city with the rest of the entire Abidjan Church, during a glorious Sunday service on the Church property in Angre.
Kodjoboue and Grand Bassam are two quiet settlements on the outskirts of Abidjan along the west coast of Africa. Abidjan is not just the economic capital of Cote d’Ivoire but could also be described as the economic hub of that entire West African Sub-Region especially because of it’s strategically positioned sea port; the Abidjan port feeds most of the countries north of the country like Mali, Burkina Faso etc with goods because of their lack of proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Abidjan Church and its leadership must be applauded for their faith in insisting to organize the conference despite the intense civil war they suffered earlier during which at least 3000 people are said to have lost their lives.
A delegation of about 30 disciples from Nigeria and Ghana arrived Cote d’Ivoire from Accra on board a brand new luxurious STC bus on Thursday evening after travelling throughout the day. They were then transported to Kodjoboue, a retreat center situated beside a lake, and surrounded by nature. The journey from Bonoua (a small town outside Abidjan) to Kodjoboue, had a very spiritual undertone. The delegation had to be transported through a rough and narrow road in the dark after a long from Accra journey, just to be ushered in to a calm and very peaceful environment that hosted the first two days of the conference. This experience was reminiscent of the yearly experience of pilgrims in ancient times who often travelled from very far distances (eg. the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-28) to go to Jerusalem in order to meet with God in the temple. (Psalm 122:1-4).
In fact, by the end of the first class( ‘’The Hope of Glory: a heavenly vision’’) on Friday morning , taught by the lead evangelist of the Abidjan Church, Francis Dasse, all the conference participants knew they were in for a true encounter with their God. The apostle Paul’s example as a single man who wrote from prison to the Church in Ephesus, with a deep conviction of how richly blessed we are in Christ(Eph 1:3ff), inspired and challenged singles to find contentment in the fact that Christ lives in them instead of allowing their single status to rob them of true joy.
This first class had been preceded by a very vivid and creative introduction of this year’s theme with a vision of how transformed each participant will be by the end of the conference. The logo for the conference illustrated the fact that we all came weak and kneeling in Christ through prayer but with a promise to leave, standing tall in Him at the end.
The D-groups that followed that first class gave every conference participant the opportunity to share their expectations of the conference, their dreams, and prayer times together.
After the lunch break, the class second class (‘’The Hope of Glory: an open hearted surgery’’) helped the singles to look much deeper in to their hearts. Fulbert Sineneho, the evangelist who leads the singles in the Abidjan church, openly shared from Scripture as well as from his life.
He inspired and challenged singles to uproot sin from their lives through honesty to God in prayer, through openness in the fellowship with one another with the help of Scripture and to have a repentant heart that treasures our very precious relationship with God much more than the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Mike Olomo’s class to the brothers and his wife’s ( Chinwe) to the sisters concluded the teachings for that Friday on the theme, ‘’The hope of Glory: a walk with God’’. God truly used them to transcend all legalistic methods to simply focus the hearts of disciples on their relationship with God by painting a much bigger picture and understanding of who God is: an approachable, loving Father as opposed to the Jews who saw Him only as a distant God who waits around to punish every single sin we commit. Their class melted hearts and ushered every child of God in to a personal heart-to-heart dialogue with their heavenly Father who so much desires a relationship with them. It was followed by deep moments of heart-felt confessions and prayer times in pairs especially given the nature and space we were blessed with in the Kodjoboue John Paul the First retreat center.
The three classes was punctuated by deep moments in worship and praise in French, English and African tongues and dance and by cross-cultural and international fellowship as language and cultural barriers were being destroyed. Mainly Ivorian dishes were served during lunch and dinner and participants from other countries were opportuned to discover new eating habits as they expanded their horizons in many different ways.
By the end of the second day, after enjoying sports activities in the morning, classes on ‘’ The hope of Glory: A matter of endurance’’, the whole group moved to the beautiful NSA Hotel in Grand Bassam- much closer to Abidjan for the last class for the day illustrated by incredible and faith-building testimonies on ‘’ The Hope of Glory: A responsible Single life’’. God used Odunayo Odulate and Abban Diana who are both singles from the Accra Church to teach that class.
That evening, all hearts that had been cleansed and drawn near to God through heavenly worship and fellowship, inspired by the great teachings and prayer times, exploded in a gala dinner night. Ivorian, Nigerian, Togolese, Cameroonian music graced the evening as Christ and culture was celebrated in joyful and creative dance styles.
It is worth saying that this divinely inspired yearly International Singles Conference is breaking down language and cultural barriers in God’s Kingdom and uniting disciples to the worldwide fellowship of disciples in a unique way. The conference was particularly a milestone in that light.
The luxurious hotel rooms and environment felt like heaven on earth and prepared everyone for the last day of the conference in Abidjan the next day, Sunday the 11th of December.
The delegates from outside Abidjan and Cote d’Ivoire had the opportunity of driving through a cross-section of the city of Abidjan especially after missing the sight –seeing aspect of the program on Saturday due to logistic challenges. Whatever was missed, we praise God the faith of the Abidjan disciples who dared organise this conference in the midst of recovery from a bloody civil war. God bless their incredible hearts of sacrificial love.
During that the combined and concluding service, an army of joyful singers and dancers, offered praise to God and the entire Church was fed by a deep message from one of the evangelists ,Daniel Deroux,; a spirit-led message that unveiled the theme of the conference to the entire Church.
If God, through His presence in the midst of His people in the desert, could guide, protect and provide for their needs, how much more would He do so, now that He lives inside us. God has always desired to live among and even inside His people to take care of all of their needs be it physical, spiritual, etc.
Hence the theme of the conference, ‘’Christ in you, the hope of Glory’’. That was the thrust of that incredible blessing of a message with its many wonderful implications in our Christian life.
We truly are living sanctuaries, mobile vehicles of the presence and Glory of God, through Christ who lives in us, through His glorious Spirit.
To God alone be the Glory as we prepare for Ghana 2012.