January 30, 2019

Mennonite Church West Africa celebrates first-ever credentialed pastors

Written by  Micah Brickner
At the January 27 ordination service, members of the Catel Mennonite Church gather for worship. Photos provided by Beryl Forrester. At the January 27 ordination service, members of the Catel Mennonite Church gather for worship. Photos provided by Beryl Forrester.

CATEL, Guinea-Bissau — During its 2018 annual conference, Mennonite Church West Africa (MCWA) celebrated its first-ever credentialed leaders.

More than 200 joyous attendees — the most ever for this type of event — filled Catel Mennonite Church’s new meetinghouse for MCWA’s annual conference December 26–31, 2018.

The four newly credentialed pastors were Adriano MBackeh, Sangpierre Mendy, Daniel Djin-ale, and Gibby Mane. MBackeh and Mendy serve the church in The Gambia, while Dijn-ale and Mane serve the church in Guinea-Bissau.

On January 27, Dijn-ale and Mane were ordained at the Catel congregation. MBackeh and Mendy will be ordained in The Gambia on February 10.

One of the pastors, MBackeh, also addressed the annual conference as a keynote speaker. He spoke on the topic, “Jesus: Our model as a servant leader.”

MBackeh shared: “Christian leadership is meant to be servanthood, not masterhood. Just as Jesus gave himself willingly so also should church leaders today follow that example rather than seeking honor and prestige from their flock.”

Following the event, one attendee shared, “Jesus modeled self-sacrificing servant leadership and that is a model for all disciples of Jesus, not just church leaders. It is a joy to follow leaders who are servants like Jesus.”

Eastern Mennonite Missions volunteer worker Beryl Forrester elaborated on the significance of the credentialing: “Pastoral leadership has been given by local leaders.” However, “these leaders have been under the supervision of one of the missionaries. At this point, when they are credentialed they will be on their own. The missionary will be available for counsel in their work.”

He indicated that the credentialing process is supervised completely within the oversight of MCWA. However, the church did receive input and information from LMC — A Fellowship of Anabaptist Churches.

Forrester serves MCWA through leadership training and lives in Bourofaye, Senegal.

Other speakers at the annual conference included WEC (Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ) worker Thomas Weinheimer and Forrester.

“Each message was followed with questions and lively discussions by the participants,” indicated Forrester.

The Catel congregation was able to provide the use of their new facility for this gathering. The congregation has been working on this meetinghouse for several years and completed its construction just days prior to the annual conference.

“The Catel congregation,” said Forrester, “took full charge of organizing and directing the program” for the annual conference.

MCWA, which is in partnership with EMM, has a mission to establish an Anabaptist circle of churches in the three countries in which it encompasses: The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal.

MCWA has been part of a Mennonite mission presence in the greater West Africa region since 2000. The mission began first in The Gambia and reached Guinea-Bissau in 2005.

While MCWA does not currently have a congregation in Senegal it is actively doing mission work in this country. Forrester said, “there is one point of witness in Senegal that could develop into a congregation.”

One of EMM’s guiding principles states: “We disciple others who can multiply efforts beyond ourselves and long after we are gone.”

In this vein, EMM desires to encourage the multiplication of disciples within MCWA with an end goal of autonomous leadership and a lasting fraternal connection.

Most of the work of MCWA is with the Balanta people, but other people groups are also part of the emerging church. Forrester indicated that MCWA’s desire is to have multiethnic congregations throughout the region. The Catel congregation is comprised of seven different people groups.

Historically, the Balanta people have embraced a traditional indigenous religion with influences from Islam. The Balanta people live throughout the three countries in which MCWA is serving, making up a plurality of the national population in Guinea-Bissau.

EMM is looking for a church development worker to serve in Senegal with MCWA as a biblical instructor. This person will have the opportunity to serve with Forrester, engaging in leadership development and discipleship efforts in this rural part of the French-speaking nation of Senegal. Learn more about this opportunity here.