History of the Ministry Of Jesus - Togo
In 1982, Tom and Joan Beak were called by God to go to Togoland, the pre-World War I name for Togo. At that time the Togolese government recognized only 7 churches so they worked under the covering of The Assemblies of God. The vision of the mission was to 1) Preach the gospel where it had never been heard, 2) Minister to the whole person following the model of Jesus, 3) Train African leaders, and 4) do all in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Tom and Joan’s call led them to the north of Togo, in the dry Savannah Region. This area was and is Togo’s poorest region. The greatest need at that time was providing water to remote villages, which was done by digging traditional hand-dug wells. At that time, all churches planted were turned over to The Assemblies of God.
In 1993, Tom and Joan were able to register Ministère International de Jésus with the Togolese government and a new church structure was born. Soon other needs were recognized and new programs were started. Departments were formed to help poor farmers improve their agriculture, to help villagers form primary health care committees, and to help villages too far from government schools to start parent initiative schools.
THE YARIANS BEGIN
In 1995, Gregg and Jayne Yarian brought their three young children to Togo and Gregg began to work training subsistence farmers to be church leaders. Gregg worked with and through three key leaders, NAPOLI Damigou, LARE Nakpergou, and KOMBATE Nakordja. Each of these leaders was responsible for a zone with 5-7 churches. Soon the number of churches increased and some of the local church leaders were chosen to lead sectors of 2-5 churches.
In 1999, NAPOLI Damigou was sent as a missionary to the Konkomba tribe in the area of the town of Guerin-Kouka. At that time there were no native-born Konkomba pastors in Togo. Soon, Damigou had planted 5 churches and raised up local leaders from among the Konkomba people.
1999 was also a year of great transition as Jean Kodjo DJAGNITI, the leader chosen and trained by Tom and Joan Beak to lead the ministry in Togo, died suddenly. The death of Jean Kodjo led Tom and Joan to decide to leave the ministry in Togo in Gregg’s hands and to concentrate on the new work they had begun in Ecuador. After John Kodjo's death, it became evident that there was significant corruption and immorality among the employees of The Ministry of Jesus. Based on our belief that the ultimate goal of missions is not just getting people saved, but glorifying God, we shut down any aspect of the work that was not glorifying God.
Our Student Program began in a small way in 1999 with the construction of a room to house four high school students in our center in Dapaong. At that time, the only high schools in the region were in the major towns and it was difficult for poor village students to attend high school. Our program later grew to include housing and scholarship aid for high school and university students. In 2008, we began our annual week-long conferences, one for high school and university students and one just for university students.
In 2003, we began our program for girls threatened by forced marriage. Many of the tribes or northern Togo practice "sister exchange." If a man wants to marry a woman, his family must give a girl to the family of his bride. This girl serves as the payment of a debt. She has no choice in who she will marry. She may be the first wife of a young man, or the third wife of an old man. The program, under the direction of Madame Bidenou, (Pastor Nakpergou's wife), runs from January-May every year. The girls learn to read and write in their own tribal language and they learn skills which will make them more valuable to their families. By learning how much they are loved and valued by God, many of these girls have gained the courage to refuse forced marriages. We have seen the number of Christian weddings greatly increase in the village where there are Girls Program graduates.
GROWING THROUGH CRISES
Growth often happens through crisis and trial. In the Fall of 2006 a transforming crisis period began when our "Sector Leaders" refused to come to a training, saying that they were "on strike." For many years Gregg had been telling our key leaders that we should not be in a position where the mission was paying church leaders. We agreed to a plan where the amount of aid given to our Sector Leaders would be frozen, meaning that each leader would receive less as growth occurred. Our plan had always been that church leaders would be bi-vocational farmer/leaders. But, our leaders, looking at the full-time pastors of other denominations felt that they should be paid for their work. They did not agree that their pay should come from their churches and not from the mission.
This crisis led to an official turnover of all of the work to the authority of the Togolese church and to our pulling back so that the Togolese would understand that the work truly belonged to them. We changed our base to the US, with two 3-4 week visits per year. The church has since made great strides in developing support from among the members and understanding that they are responsible to look to God and not the missionaries for their needs. There are currently no church leaders who receive a salary from The Ministry of Jesus.
SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH A NEW GENERATION
Observing that the Togolese church would never be able to sustain a nationwide structure with a base of only village churches, we began to concentrate on developing our student program. In 2009, we purchased an unfinished house in the capital, Lome, near the university. The purpose of the Student Center was to provide a place where young men and women from our village churches could live in Christian community and develop their leadership skills while attending the university. In 2011, we purchase land in Kara, Togo's second largest city, to develop a second Student Center. In 2012 we received permission from our partner church, Ministère International de Jesus, to move to the Kara Student Center and develop a program to train university students to be church leaders. We now work in Kara, working in partnership with Pastor KOMBATE Nagbandjoa and his wife, Claire, to train students to be church leaders and church planters.
AND CONTINUING TO NEW GENERATIONS
Helping African churches develop children's ministries has become an important part of our work. During our early years in Togo, all our work was in the villages and The Ministry of Jesus had no work in our town of Dapaong, or in any other town where there was an existing church. Jayne was burdened for the many children who came to our center just to look at our family. In 1996, she began a Wednesday afternoon Bible Club for children in our neighborhood. Soon the Bible Club was attracting children from miles away. The numbers gradually increased to over 200 children per week. When Sena and Jane Ounate-Lare came to plant a church for our partner church, Ministère International de Jésus, in 2004, Jayne began to computerize her lessons and train other leaders to run the program in the Dapaong church. This has led to a curriculum with over 50 Old Testament and over 50 New Testament lessons. The lessons use Bible stories transformed into the form of skits. Each lesson has a review of the previous week's lesson, an introduction, a skit, review lessons for the skit, an application, a memory verse, and a coloring page. Our daughter, Angela, is working on producing coloring pages with African images. Jayne has trained children's leaders, not only for Ministère International de Jésus, but for many other denominations. We have translated all of the Old Testament and half of the New Testament lessons into English for use by the Calvary Chapel Training Centre in Ghana.