GUYMON, Okla. (BP) -- The sun was blazing, and the 102-degree heat was taking its toll on IMB missionary Mark Chambers*. He had driven four hours across a rugged, desolate landscape for this ministry opportunity, and now he and pastor Michael Carter were lost. They asked for directions from an African man sitting outside of his home, and a conversation began that soon turned to spiritual matters. A short while later, the man had heard the Gospel and professed faith in Jesus Christ.
NORTHERN GHANA (BP) -- The tension can be felt across the crowd of hundreds outside the palace in Nalerigu, Ghana. They wait in silent anticipation for the Taraana, one of the Mamprusi king's seven elders, to come out of the hall to present the man the king has selected as chief. When he emerges, the new chief's supporters erupt into cheers and applause. The Taraana ceremoniously places a white smock on the chief followed by a bright red cap. Thus begins several days of celebration and ritual as the new chief is "enskinned."
BROBO, Ivory Coast (BP)--It is the day of Pentecost, and pastor Dabilla Kambou stands smiling in front of an armed soldier at a military checkpoint outside Brobo, the village Kambou wants to enter. The pastor is known for his wide grin that can defuse the most tense situations. The guard can't help but smile back as he shakes Kambou's hand and asks, "Where are you going?" "To church," Kambou replies, "for the big celebration." A minute later he's back on his motorcycle and on his way again, still smiling. "That's nothing," he says of the easy encounter. During Ivory Coast's nearly nine-year-long civil war, most encounters at military checkpoints were intimidating. Soldiers would all but strip search civilians and rummage through their bags for weapons and anything of value. Individuals found suspect often were beaten, jailed and sometimes executed. Kambou would make the nearly 20-mile journey from Bouaké to Brobo every month by bicycle. Otherwise, traveling in a personal motor vehicle almost guaranteed he would be accosted and have the vehicle commandeered by soldiers. "It was hard," Kambou says, shaking his head. "The war didn't do any good for our country, but good things did happen during the war." Those good things are the reason for the celebration he is attending at Brobo Baptist Church. Throughout the war, the congregation not only preserved, but thrived. Deacon Arnaud Kouassi Brou explains his congregation's decision to set aside a day of jubilation: "We wanted to stop everything and give thanks. We need to recognize all that God has done." In 2003, Brobo was flooded with refugees from nearby Bouaké, Ivory Coast's second-largest city. International peacekeepers had established Brobo as a demilitarized zone, and it became a safe haven for people fleeing the fighting between government and rebel troops. Brobo Baptist Church had over a dozen new believers who wanted to be baptized, but they had no pastor. So they called on Kambou, who pastors a Baptist church in Bouaké.
ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST (BP)--The air is filled with a nauseating, thick, black smoke. Three months ago, the smoke came from gunpowder and vehicles set ablaze -- along with horrific "necklacings," modern-day lynchings in which a victim is burned alive when a gasoline-filled tire is placed around him and set on fire.