20 May 2006

Sepikaha Church Story

For the past two weeks we have been running up and down the road to Sepikaha, a village outside of Tafiré in northern Côte d'Ivoire with a crew of 6 young men from Bethel College in Indiana, USA and a seventh from Canada who joined the Bethel crew for this trip. The reason for this visit was to roof a chapel that has been sitting for close to 12 years waiting for a roof. This chapel was the 6th chapel that Sepikaha has seen since it built its first back in the early 60’s following a difficult beginning. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Sepikaha is how this fellowship began and why in the last two weeks we have been roofing a chapel this size.

Chloe (pronounced “klo”) began having eye problems as a young man. While working in the south of the country he began to loose his eyesight and returned to his home where he found that his aunt had received Christ while in Korhogo trying to take care of a daughter who had died from a short illness. He along with several others put their faith in Christ and began to study together the Word of God even though he was loosing his eyesight. Because of what they were learning they decided that they could no longer participate in the secret society called the “Poro” because of the idolatry involved. This refusal to belong to the poro angered many in the village who made threats against them and made life hard on this new band of believers. Through a series of events the government officials where eventually implicated in the attempts to pressure the new believers into participating in the poro. To the surprise of the poro supporters however, the representative of the government, after reviewing the case and a visit to Sepikaha, decided to support the Christians saying that the village was even blessed to have them present in Sepikaha.

During this time Chloe decided to attend the Bible School in Korhogo even though his eyesight was gone.
He had visited the hospital several times to try to reverse his failing eyesight but in the end he lost it altogether. While at Bible School he would study as the others but from memory. While others took note in class he listened and learned. He learned to find biblical passages by learning the thickness of the pages of the book. Chloe became one of the best evangelists in the region and after his time in Bible School he returned to the Tafiré region where he continued to lead this small group of believers in Sepikaha. Being blind Chloe would walk many kilometers to share the gospel and to teach the company of believers. Through his faithful teaching and the faithfulness of the other believers in Sepikaha the little group of believers grew in spite of the treats and mistreatment.

Through the years this group of believers had built 5 different meeting places and had out grown each of them. Their most recent chapel which we roofed had been built to accommodate 300 plus believers but they lacked the funds and the skill to roof the chapel. For several years they had been requesting help but with the recent changes in Côte d'Ivoire their request had been all but forgotten. Thankfully, when the crew from Bethel College asked about a building project through Bill Grudda, the WorldVenture ST coordinator for West Africa, Katiénéfoa Timothée, the president of the Association of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Côte d'Ivoire (AEBECI), remembered the plight of the fellowship in Sepikaha. Through a series of events, visits, much prayer and the faithful support of churches in the US, Canada and Germany, the Bethel crew arrived in Sepikaha the 3rd of May to raise the trusses into place.
As we raised the trusses the guys developed relationships with both members of the church in Sepikaha and other believes from Korhogo and Bouaké who had come to help in the construction and roof-raising. Every morning we woke up to breakfast prepared and brought to the home we were given for the time of our stay. We ate very well and there was always more than enough. It was a joy to see how involved the members of the church were as we raised trusses, tied them down and attached the metal sheets. Our home was actually the newly finished home of Chloe which he had finished a few days before our arrival. I was impressed and humbled to see the way the believers engaged themselves in the project. By the time we had finished roofing the 14 by 20 meter building we knew each other pretty well and we were pleased that no one was hurt. Lifting the 1.5 ton trusses was a bit of a challenge as well as raising and bringing down our home built crane. In the end we learned quite a bit about lifting heavy things up in the air and about how to do it safely. As with any project this size and crews this big, we struggled some with communication and illness. Thank God however, only a few were feeling down only part of the time which meant that we were mainly up most of the time, which when raising a roof is a good thing!

Thanks for your prayers and support during these past few weeks. We are trilled to have spent a few days with the Bethel Crew and to have been the liaison between them and the Sepikaha believers. Lot of work but the privilege was out of this world!

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