Over the past couple of years, for various reasons, we have had to be creative in organizing events to galvanize us and help keep the women’s ministry vibrant and focused. We have had preaching caravans, devotionals and regional events, but this year, on Saturday, October 27th the Eglise du Christ d’Abidjan, was finally able to hold its 21st Journée des Femmes.
We used Facebook, email, television and radio spots to inform as many women as possible, as well as the traditional door-to-door and person-to-person.As the Ivory Coast emerges to turn the page on its dark past, we felt it was time to mobilize the 800+ sisters of the Abidjan Church to organize one of the most thrilling events for our ministry, Women’s Day.
After much prayer, the Lord truly inspired us with a theme that was most pertinent for every woman, young and old, rich or poor living in our country, “The Part That Will Not Be Taken Away.” Inspired by the story of Jesus’ visit to the house of Mary and Martha in Luke 10, where Jesus lauded Mary’s decision to prioritize her relationship with Him over the pressing obligations around her, this resounded clearly in the hearts of every woman in that room, many of whom had be profoundly affected by the 2011 socio-political crisis. Many of the women lost homes, possessions, careers and relationships – things we so easily put our hope and trust in.
The testimonies of two incredible women brought Mary’s example to life in our day and age: Agnes Mbahia shared how since her conversion in her mid-teens over a decade ago, she has had to battle peer pressure and the temptations of youth to persevere in honesty in school and purity in dating. The crowd went wild to hear that Agnes recently became a newlywed.Afterward, Cady Makanjuola kept the whole assembly on the edge of their seats as she recounted her story: in her 10 years as a disciple she experienced widowhood, riches to rags, single motherhood, remarriage, infertility, giving birth after 40 and seeing her baby through a life threatening encephalitis among other challenges. But she proudly proclaimed, that the only rock and refuge, the only constant she has had at every corner has been her relationship with Jesus and her only hope has been in the salvation He offers. Cady said, “Material possessions will come and go, but there is only one thing that can never be taken away from us, that is our relationship with God.”
Regional leader Agnes Koffi challenged us to see that our choices, whether religious, career, or social can easily turn us into a Martha and make us lose sight of what is really important. Paule Dassé, who leads the women's ministry in French speaking Africa, with her gift of down-home wit, gave Martha’s story the African flavor we could all relate to, yet so poignantly called us to put the dramatic experiences of the past few years in the light of Mary and Martha’s choices and choose the Part that no soldier, politician, looter or economic situation can take away.
The message of unity was also proclaimed through the opening performance and dancers from every region of the country, each beautifully showing their particularity, yet blending together to form a breathtaking pageant of African beauty.For me, this Women’s Day was particularly special as it was the first time my two daughters attended as disciples. It was so exciting helping them to confirm their invitations, reaching out to teachers, and picking up our friends.
The icing on the cake was that Odette Lamidi, whose first contact with the church was her visit to this Women’s Day service, was baptized into Christ three weeks later. Odette, a widowed mother of three had a Muslim then denominational background. After attending the program, Odette started studying the Bible immediately. She said that when she had been invited, she knew that it was something different and as she sat listening to the messages of the day, she never felt more at home. Today Odette rejoices in that she has at last found and chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.