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Cote d’Ivoire, along with WorldVenture leadership and missionaries, is in the midst of celebrating the 50th anniversary of its national church association, the Association of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Cote d’Ivoire (AEBECI), in the city of Korhogo.

President Jeff Denlinger and International Ministry Directors Lloyd and Jan Chinn are attending the three-day celebration, along with WorldVenture missionaries and approximately 5,000 Ivorians. Yesterday, a festival at the Korhogo Cultural Centre featured singers and dancers from many different ethnic groups, including the Lobi, Gimini, Tagbana, and the Dioula people groups. This emphasis on music at the festival symbolized the role music has played in reaching Ivorians with the gospel, according to WorldVenture missionary Rod Ragsdale.

The festivals continued throughout the night at the six main churches in Korhogo, but the main event will constitute a parade in front of government officials at la Place de I’Indèpendance Saturday. The parade will feature kits, clowns, acrobats, and other entertainment from AEBECI churches, schools, organizations, and ministries.

“On Saturday morning we want the whole town of Korhogo to realize that there are Christians who live and work among them,” said AEBECI President Keo Kognon.

The celebration will conclude with speeches, gifts, and awards given to some of the key people making a difference in the association.

According to Jeff:

“Even as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the AEBECI, we mutually acknowledge that there yet remain great needs across Cote d’Ivoire and the surrounding nations that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can satisfy and that our unique organizational visions are one in our hope in God and our obedience to Jesus Christ to make disciples, to strengthen churches, to demonstrate the love of God through practical expressions of health and education. Our AEBECI-WorldVenture partnership is entering into the next chapter of serving God together.”

Although WorldVenture has been a strong presence in Cote d’Ivoire for 68 years, this event marks something even more significant: the successful transition from missionary to national leadership.

“There are areas of specialty and expertise where WorldVenture missionaries and others may have roles to play in the development of leaders, the advising of medical works, and other endeavors,” said Rod. “But the overall strategy and vision for the future of the church in Cote d’Ivoire must come from the AEBECI leadership team and its churches.”

In other words, successful succession is the desired result for any of WorldVenture’s ministries. A ministry without a plan to implement national leadership is a failure, according to Rod. And while he says some ministries are underdeveloped, many ministries have successfully passed along the baton to Ivorian leaders.

As Glenn Boese, a WorldVenture missionary, put it, “I believe the value that the mission and the African church placed on a strong association of churches kept us all on the road, as bumpy as it was, to today, where the AEBECI is the one who owns and shapes the vision here.”