The Toura people of Gouané, a remote but important village in Western Ivory Coast, for generations resisted all efforts to bring them the gospel, even though other ethnic and national groups there believed and formed churches.
Ivorian pastor Marcel Gue, with whom Converge global workers Steve and Carol Smith have collaborated in training and deploying missionaries in his region, conceived a plan to pierce the spiritual darkness of this village — reaching the children first as a way of getting to the heart of the parents.
In February 2019, a massive mobilization of churches — including a mission team from Converge congregations River’s Edge Church in Iowa Falls, Iowa, and Wintonbury Church in Bloomfield, Connecticut — organizations and individuals from two continents and various regions of Ivory Coast came together to share the gospel with 500 elementary children during a five-day vacation Bible school.
Each day, volunteers spent 2½ hours with the children using art projects, music, Bible stories and recreation tied to the theme: Jesus is stronger than everything.
A highlight for Steve Smith was hearing hundreds of children chanting at the top of their lungs: Jésus est plus fort, plus fort que les puissances (Jesus is stronger, stronger than the powers … than sickness, storms, death, sin and separation).
Logistical obstacles, attacks on the team’s unity and spiritual opposition from the traditional religious leaders all threatened the endeavor. Still, they saw God powerfully working.
On the last day, children were given an invitation to trust in Jesus, and 380 of them raised their hands. Eleven Toura adults, including the assistant tribal chief and his wife, decided to follow Christ.
The team also built a missionary house to serve as lodging for a Toura missionary family and a meeting place for the new church.
Going to Guiané
In February 2020, a large group of volunteers, including members of Wintonbury Church and River’s Edge Church, brought the VBS program to elementary school children in the nearby village of Guiané. This time, nearly 200 children raised their hands to put their faith in Christ.
The team that went door-to-door sharing the gospel saw about 20 adults say yes to Jesus, including the regional chief and his entire family. The chief also gave the land for a church building. On the first Sunday after the project, the new church met with 10 Toura adults and 35 children.
“Only those Ivorians who have labored for years in prayer and evangelism with the Toura people can truly appreciate what this amazing breakthrough means,” said Steve Smith, sent out by Wintonbury Church as a Converge-appointed global worker to Ivory Coast in 1985.
Like in Gouané last year, a local missionary pastor and family in Guiané will work to establish the new believers and continue the work of evangelism. The family and church receive regular ongoing training and mentoring from experienced Ivorian missionaries, pastors and workers. An elder from a sister church regularly travels to Gouané to teach Toura literacy to believers so that they can read the recently translated Bible in their language.
The Ivorian believers are serious about reaching the unreached with the gospel and establishing the new believers in the faith.
“This is a wonderful example of how the Lord brings together cultures, churches, missionaries and people together to accomplish something that was really his plan,” Steve said. “Carol and I did not plan this. This was not part of our original vision. God did it; it was God’s vision.
“We’ve played our part, but everybody else has played their part. We’re just delighted to see how the Lord has let us all be a part of his kingdom work.
“There are so many stories of how he helped us overcome obstacles and persecutions before, during and after the projects. It’s been a wonderful example of his amazing wisdom, power, love and compassion for the lost.”
Like River’s Edge Church and Wintonbury Church, you and your church can connect with the world’s least-reached people groups. Contact our U.S. Engagement Team to learn how.
Michael Smith, Converge Content Specialist
Michael Smith serves as Converge’s content specialist. He has nearly two decades in the newspaper publishing industry. Michael worked as a copy editor and designer for the Tampa Tribune for more than a dozen years. He also was a member of the editorial staff of Florida Baptist Witness and other publications across the Southeast.