Worship goes on in Côte d’Ivoire despite damage
Bulldozers took down a fence and half the building at a United Methodist church here, but hand-clapping and shouts of “Hallelujah” during a recent service showed the community’s spirit was untouched by the destruction.
Worship continues at Port-Bouët 2 - Derrière Wharf Nouvelle Jérusalem United Methodist Church, amid what is left of the building after a path was cleared for the construction of the Abidjan-Grand-Bassam highway. The congregation's name translates to New Jerusalem.
how you can help
Donations can be sent to the Central Conference External bank accout, with the name of the church, Port-Bouët 2 - Derrière Wharf Nouvelle Jérusalem United Methodist Church, in the memo line of the check.
Wire transfer information: Account No. 0111617081-75
Account name: Emuci-Fonds Exterieurs
Address: Eglise Methodist Unie Conference Annuelle de la Côte d'Ivoire, 41 Boulevard de la République, 01 BP 1282 Abidjan 01.
On a recent Sunday, shouts of “Hallelujahs” and “Praise the Lord” came from all sides. At the invitation of Cyrille Mawuena, a singer, some people wandered between rows praying aloud. Others, like lay preacher Emmanuel Flito Houenou, knelt at their seats in prayer.
Those who were praying in silence still had their hands raised to the sky as they prayed for nations in wars, Côte d'Ivoire, the church universal, The United Methodist Church in Côte d'Ivoire – but not for their own building.
"What happens to us is typical to Africa. People are allowed to build with their meager means and routes are created after," explained the Rev. Fulgence Koffi, pastor of the church.
He acknowledged the importance of highways in the development of a nation, but said an urban development plan would have helped avoid this situation, which affects not only the church but also the homes and businesses of many in the community.
Koffi and Barthélemy Atémenou, the local president of the laity, had tried earlier to get accurate information about the highway’s path from the Ministry of Construction and Housing.
"Some officials told us that the current road would be widened to 11 meters (36 feet), others to 20 meters (66 feet). To our surprise, the last option affected us," Atémenou said.
"If the state destroys its police station and mosques, what else can we do?" he asked in resignation.
Repairs and worship
The community has been promised compensation for its loss in a memorandum of understanding signed between government and church officials.
Meanwhile, the church is still going strong. Wooden walls replaced the demolished cement walls. The building has a new roof, and the church’s furniture and equipment are stored in a temporary location.
Sara Zannou Epse Djohi firmly believes that "like the temple of Jerusalem, the temple's destruction is not the destruction of God."
With the fence gone, she said, the church is more visible to outsiders and people who use the busy road.
Koffi shares Djohi’s beliefs about the positive benefits. He cites the biblical text of Haggai 2:9, which refers to the glory of the present house being greater than the glory of the first.
"The church still exists. It has not been destroyed. It will build a new temple that will be another new Jerusalem,” Koffi said. An architect has already committed to designing a new building to fit the smaller property.
The current site is the second site for the church. Founded in 1963 by four women and three girls, the church’s first site was threatened by encroachment of the sea. In 1976, the church moved to the current location.
Two other United Methodist churches, Adjouffou’s Mount Carmel and Anani’s City of Peace, will be completely cleared away because of the highway.
Broune is the communicator for The United Methodist Church in Côte d’Ivoire.