Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering – West Africa
By Mark Kolo Facilitator, Lausanne YLGWA
The Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering West Africa was held from 30th November to 4th December, 2008 in Nigeria.
On the eve of the commencement of the programme, specifically under 36 hours, major ethno-religious riots broke-out in the city of Jos, the capital of Plateau state in Nigeria, where we were planning to hold the gathering. Therefore within 24 hours i.e. on 29th November, we had to change the venue of the event from Miango to Abuja. The attendant nightmarish experience can only be imagined but through it all, God was more than faithful and we remain very thankful to Him.
Against all odds, with several uncertainties due mainly to the Jos crises and the change of venue within 24 hours, on 30th November the YLGWA opening session started with praise and prayer by all participants.
The gathering brought together 15 mentors/speakers and 50 younger leaders from the English speaking West African countries of Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Unfortunately The Gambia could not be represented due mainly to financial constraints. However, we resolved to carry them along by assigning them to a mentoring group headed by a leader who is making plans to visit The Gambia early in 2009 to connect with those recommended for YLGWA. The breakdown of attendance was as follows:
Ghana – 14 participants
Liberia – 7 participants
Sierra Leone – 2 participants
Nigeria – 40 participants
Others – 8 participants who came in and out but could not stay all through.
Delegates were selected on the following criteria:
- Church and mission leaders as well as Christian leaders in the market place
- Aged between 25-35 (with a few above 35 years)
- Balanced geographical spread across countries and zones
- Gender balance (male/female)
The Younger Leaders unanimously voted to adopt the theme: ‘Live and Lead Like Jesus.’ The plenary speakers were:
- Pade Tokun – Calvary Ministries (CAPRO) in DRC and Central Africa
- Rev. Steve Asante – President, Ghana Baptist Convention
- Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Egbunu – Bishop of Lokoja Diocese, Anglican Communion
- Gideon Para-Mallam – Lausanne English, Portugehese, Spanish-speaking (EPSA) – International Deputy Director (who took a challenge on The Vision for Growing Younger Leaders: A Global Imperative for the Church.)
Participants identified six key issues as critical to evangelizing West Africa. These were:
- Orphans and Vulnerable Children
- Transforming the Sub-Region Through Prayer
- The Remaining Unreached People Groups
- Unveiling the Giant of Islam
- Understanding Youth Culture
- The Challenge of Liberal Theology and Nominalism
Although we had also identified five workshop topics, only two were held during YLGWA as most of the resource persons were unable to make it either due to the crisis in Jos or the last minute changes. The two held were:
- Growing As An ‘EZRA’ Younger Leader (How to Develop an effective devotional life and skill in Expository Bible Preaching for Transformation) – with Rev. Dr. T.B. Dankwa (Senior Pastor, Accra Chapel, Accra)
- Team Building and Networking (with others as a younger leader for world evangelization) – with Rev. Reuben Ezemadu (International Director, Christian Missionary Foundation, Ibadan)
In addition to the plenary sessions and workshops, the countries represented at YLGWA had an opportunity to share the challenges and opportunities for the gospel in their various countries. These were anchored by:
- Ghana – Victor Abeka Obeng
- Liberia – John Kunkun
- Sierra Leone – Aiah Foday Khabenje
Participating younger leaders were also broken into 10 small mentoring groups of 5 or 6 in each small group with a mentor. These groups spent time to get acquainted, share challenges, testimonies, pray together and learn from one another about personal issues and what God is doing in their different contexts.
God spoke to the participants through the workshops, strategic issue sessions, plenary sessions and small group interactions. The main thrust of the messages at YLGWA was the need to re-evaluate our leadership style and take personal note of Jesus’ calling on us to live and lead like Him as revealed in the Gospels and Epistles. Participants left with a clear understanding that it would not be possible to lead like Jesus unless we live like Him. This remains a fundamental call Jesus made to all His followers. We cannot respond to this call without re-focusing on the Cross of Christ as his followers in our leadership journey.
To lead like Jesus meant answering the call to servant leadership, a most scarce commodity within the African Church setting today. Participants were reminded that we “have no mission of our own” only the mission of the Master and those we serve on the mission field. The vision for world evangelization will receive further boost if we intentionally invest in growing younger transforming Kingdom minded leaders.
Participants were given a closing charge by Ghana Younger Leaders Team Coordinator, Nana Yaw Offei-Owuku. He summarized the joy of our learning together which took place during this event and conveyed effectively the enthusiasm of the younger leaders to keep the vision of the YLG alive in their hearts and post-event action steps. He said that God had done three things during the gathering which participants learnt and will leave and live with:
- Jesus called us back to Himself during our days of fellowship and learning together.
- We have been challenged to move out of our comfort zones to finish the work of world evangelization in our sub-region, Continent and beyond.
- We have been encouraged and charged to submit to mentorship and to commit to identifying other younger leaders and seek our practical ways to mentor others until Jesus’ return.
Lausanne EPSA International Deputy Director, Gideon Para-Mallam told the participants that the YLGWA 2008 started as a faith project and ended as such. He reminded all present that the planning suffered many “hiccups” along the way with a change of venue twice: in the process of planning and 24 hours to it commencement. The funding, logistical challenges and timing, the latter as a result of the Jos crises nearly aborted the event but God’s faithfulness saw us through each of these challenges. The provision of Abuja was within 5 minutes of a phone call. Despite all the challenges, Gideon thanked God for His provision and care during the planning and running of the YLGWA. What was seen as impossible has become possible. To God be the glory.
He also took time to appreciate the mentors and facilitators for their efforts. He noted the doggedness and personal initiatives of the younger leaders. Three of the younger leaders from Nigeria and one from Ghana who were in Malaysia remained faithfully committed in the planning and execution of the YLGWA. He also appreciated two YLG planners who although were not selected to go to Malaysia, their commitment remained unwavering.
He brought greetings from the Lausanne Chairman Rev. Doug Birdsall and International Director, Lindsay Brown and gave an update on the planning of Cape Town 2010, urging prayers for the successful planning, hosting and the gathering of 4,000 leaders during the Lausanne Congress.
A brief DVD presentation on Lausanne was shown and all participants sang “IN CHRIST ALONE” as a closing rallying song of collective declaration of our commitment. As we prayed for journey mercies for all participants and shared the grace, the closing evening summed up the joy and the Spirit of Lausanne as we ended our time together in God’s awesome presence.
The Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering (YLG) is an initiative of the Lausanne Movement. At the Lausanne 2004 Forum for World Evangelization held in Thailand, the Leadership Development Track resolved that there was need to mobilize the global Church to intentionally develop younger leaders as part of the commitment to the task of world evangelization. This led to the hosting of a global YLG at Port-Dickson, Malaysia in September 2006. Prior to the YLG Malaysia 2006, the Nigerian delegation at the Forum had commenced efforts to organize an Emerging Leaders Summit and with the resolution to hold YLGs around the world, the Nigerian effort was enlarged to become a West African effort for all the English Speaking countries. The planning was turned over to the younger leaders themselves with the core planners being those who represented West Africa at the Malaysia YLG.