Glory to God for the opening of the new chapel. Total cost of construction €277.40, far beyond the means of the small group of young Christians who have been meeting each Sunday morning since the end of last year for worship, and each Sunday afternoon for Bible study and instruction in the Reformed faith. Grégoire, who is originally from this village, a few kilometres outside of Dogbo, donated the plot of land on which it was built. (Back in November, the 25th to be exact, I told you something about his love for the Lord and for the young people of his home village, see my blog entitled Miracle.) Things had gotten complicated since then. Some of the original participants had proved to be less than genuine. But a core group of about 6 teenagers, one adult male, and several women had continued to meet together in the shelter of a palm frond hut. Then Jurrien got involved, Jurrien is Marijke’s brother, and with two visits to Benin under his belt, by now a very good friend of Grégoire’s. Within his church at Groningen-Zuid and among his acquaintances it had been embarrassingly easy to find the money required. Gifts, large and small, poured in. For the purchase of corrugated roofing, nails, cement and the wages of a carpenter.
We drove into the turn-off to Vovokame. There stood the sign which had been made by another friend of Jurrien’s in Groningen. The churches of Vovokame welcome you. And, with reference to the artesian well which marks the centre of the village, “Jesus said…"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37) We went past the ever-streaming water in front of the Pentecostal church where Rigobert is elder and on to the small courtyard where we usually park our vehicle. We saw the fetish poles and the horned legba which continue to mark the pagan presence in Vovokame. We heard the sound of drumming from the chapel around the corner. And then there it was, at the foot of a tall palm tree, the Salle de l’Enseignement Reformée, not yet a church (because a church is more than just a gathering of disciples or a building in which they come together), but definitely a place of worship. There were flags, there were streamers of linked paper rings, there were balloons, and there was this little piggy.
African time is relative, as by now all of you are probably aware. We spent the first half hour of it greeting and being greeted, admiring the labour of love which had gone into the construction and the decoration, discussing with the young dirigeant Charles who would be doing what and when during the service, and waiting for the arrival of others who had been invited.
I paused. Marijke looked shocked. And without the blacks the whites are nothing. Everybody started breathing again at once, it seemed. Look at this page in the Bible. What colours do you see? Julien, front row, was quick to respond: white and black! There was agreement all around. What if the page was completely black, would it transmit God’s Word to us? I asked. The smiles started coming as everybody shook their heads. And if the page was completely white, what would it say? There was no doubt in anybody’s mind. Black and white, both are indispensable in God’s plan. And here I have, in black and white, the story of your salvation. Twelve texts, printed as large as would fit on one page at a time, laminated in clear plastic to preserve them for as long as possible. Starting with In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and ending with and surely I am with you, to the very end of the age.
There was more, much more. By the time the service was over, we were three hours on. And it seemed that half the village had crowded into the chapel or stood just outside the doors.
And it was a loud Amen which sounded in response to the blessing: “Que la grâce du Seigneur Jésus-Christ, l’amour de Dieu, et la communion du Saint-Esprit, soient avec vous tous !” And all the while, Fidèle’s pink plastic piggy had pride of place.
(Photos by Jurrien Jongman)