This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Dancing in the street, Africans celebrate God’s faithfulness

More Mennonites worship in Africa than on any other continent. In this epicenter of Ana­baptist witness, Mennonites in Nigeria and Burkina Faso celebrated anniversaries last fall.

Mennonites march to their 40th anniversary celebration in Orodara, Burkina Faso. — James R. Krabill/MMN
Mennonites march to their 40th anniversary celebration in Orodara, Burkina Faso. — James R. Krabill/MMN

Mennonite Church Nigeria celebrated its 60th anniversary Nov. 15-18 at its headquarters in Ikot Ada Idem. The Evangelical Mennonite Church of Bur­kina Faso marked its 40th anni­versary Nov. 23-25 in Orodara.

Cheers of “60 years! 60 years! 60 years!” filled the air as neighbors joined Nigerian Mennonites in dancing through the streets. Drivers in pickup trucks stopped in the middle of the road to join the celebration.

The 42 Mennonite congregations in Nigeria are thriving. Leaders are being developed, homes are being restored, employment is being created. Seeds that were planted more than a half-century ago have sprouted into a movement.

Vibrant worship embodied full sensory experiences that touched the hearts of the thousands who attended. Singing and sermons encompassing history, reflection and vision were the focal points of the weekend.

Mennonite Church Nigeria’s president, Bishop Victor Umo­Abasi, shared the importance of spreading the message the Mennonite church has to offer.

Misunderstood words caused confusion, while also inciting curiosity among Nigerian citizens who had mistaken “Mennonite” gatherings for “men of night” meetings.

In the future, Umo­Abasi envisions a radio broadcast that will clear such misunderstandings while also witnessing to a broader audience.

James R. Krabill, former senior executive for Mennonite Mission Network, expressed his excitement for the future of Mennonite Church Nigeria.

“One of four Africans live in Nigeria,” he said. “Endless possibilities are open to the church by spreading Christ’s message through other media outlets in Africa’s most populated country.”

Burkina Faso celebration

The weekend after the Nigerian celebration, Mennonites in Burkina Faso assembled at a local stadium and marched to their gathering place in groups representing 19 congregations. The procession through the community was a bold declaration after a series of attacks that had shaken the country.

Despite the potential of being a targeted group, especially with Western expatriates walking by their sides, the Mennonites of Burkina did not allow fear to shake their confidence.

Benjamin Siribié, a balafon player of local renown, led musicians in providing dance rhythms far into the night. A balafon is a type of marimba.
Assétou Ouédraogo composed original words for an anniversary hymn. In joyful unison, voices lifted up the name of Jesus Christ.

“God’s faithfulness was the theme,” said Abdias Coulibaly, the denomination’s national president.

Krabill, who attended both anniversaries, drew parallels between the events. Both churches witnessed to their communities by confidently marching in parades, held joint worship services filled with singing and prepared generous meals.

He expressed the significance of these two churches withstanding the test of time, not just increasing in membership but in their commitment to carry out the mission of Christ. Misunderstandings, fear or circumstances beyond their control have not stood in the way, Krabill said.

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