This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

West Africans celebrate first credentialed leaders

Mennonite Church West Africa advanced its mission to establish Anabaptist churches in three nations on the Atlantic coast when it celebrated the ordination of its first credentialed leaders.

Members of Catel Mennonite Church celebrate the Jan. 27 ordination of Gibby Mane and Daniel Dijn-ale. — Beryl Forrester/EMM
Members of Catel Mennonite Church celebrate the Jan. 27 ordination of Gibby Mane and Daniel Dijn-ale. — Beryl Forrester/EMM

More than 200 people, the most ever for this type of event, filled Catel Mennonite Church’s new meetinghouse in Guinea-Bissau for MCWA’s annual conference Dec. 26-31.

“Christian leadership is meant to be servanthood, not masterhood,” said Adriano MBackeh, one of four newly credentialed pastors and a keynote speaker at the conference.

“Just as Jesus gave himself willingly, so also should church leaders today follow that example rather than seeking honor and prestige.”

The four pastors were to be ordained soon after the conference: Daniel Djin-ale and Gibby Mane on Jan. 27 at Catel, MBackeh and Sangpierre Mendy on Feb. 10 in the Gambia.

“It is a joy to follow leaders who are servants like Jesus,” one conference attendee said.

Eastern Mennonite Missions volunteer Beryl Forrester, who lives in neighboring Senegal, described the credentialing as a step of independence for the pastors. Previously they had been supervised by missionaries.

“When they are credentialed, they will be on their own,” Forrester said. “The missionary will be available for counsel.”

The credentialing is overseen by MCWA with input from LMC, formerly Lancaster Mennonite Conference. In a partnership with EMM, the mission agency of LMC, MCWA is working to establish an Anabaptist circle of churches in Guinea-Bissau, the Gambia and Senegal.

Part of a Mennonite mission presence in West Africa since 2000, MCWA began in the Gambia and reached Guinea-Bissau in 2005. It does not yet have a congregation in Senegal, but Forrester said there is a point of witness there that could develop into a congregation.

Most of MCWA’s work is with the Balanta people, but other people groups are also part of the emerging church.

Historically, the Balanta have embraced an indigenous religion with influences from Islam. They live throughout the three countries where MCWA serves and make up a plurality of Guinea-Bissau’s population.

EMM is looking for a church development worker to serve in Senegal as a biblical instructor with MCWA. Senegal is a French-speaking nation.

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