All-Africa Staff Join in Time of Renewal, Fellowship

Post a Comment » Written on April 15th, 2008     
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KRIBI, CAMEROON (April 15, 2008) – A time of worship, spiritual renewal, teaching, strategic planning and general fellowship best describes the recent all-Africa retreat that brought together numerous missionaries and mission leaders at the Hotel Ilomba in Kribi.

The biennial event is designed to both encourage and challenge participants in various areas of ministry, as well as promote opportunities for individuals to get to know one another better, says Pete Ekstrand, who with his wife, Cindy, serve as regional coordinators for Africa for the Department of World Mission of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

“The retreat is a significant time of connection for the Africa staff,” Ekstrand notes in a special dispatch to Covenant News Service. In addition to the connecting, there is spiritual renewal through devotionals, singing, laying on of hands in prayer and recreation. “For the short-term staff, this is often their only opportunity to meet the staff in other countries,” Ekstrand adds.

PrayerAfrica missionary participants represented Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea (EG), Cameroon, and Central African Republic. To view additional photos, please see All-Africa Retreat.

World mission representatives included Curt Peterson, executive minister; Baxter and Margie Swenson, co-directors of personnel; and Walter Contrearas, director of mission mobilization and connection. Participants also included Dennis Wadley, international director of Bridges of Hope International; Dr. Mossai Sanguma, president of the Congo Covenant Church; O’Ann Steer, a counselor with World Mission’s Member Care Committee; and Rev. Reuben Ezemadu from Nigeria, who serves as African continent coordinator for Movement for African National Initiatives (MANI) and was the speaker for the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence (SPE) seminar, “Teaching the Bible in Traditional Oral Cultures.”

The training seminar was offered by Covenant World Mission in partnership with the Department of the Ordered Ministry, which made arrangements for the missionary staff to participate. There is an SPE emphasis at one staff retreat per region.

“Through the four seminar sessions we came to a deeper understanding of how people in traditional oral cultures learn, and we learned about how the different learning styles impact effective teaching styles,” Ekstrand observed.

A one-day strategic planning session produced a revised draft of a general strategic plan for the vision, core values and strategic commitments of Covenant missionaries across Africa.  The edited mission statement reads: “Covenant World Mission participates in, connects and facilitates partnerships between churches, organizations and followers of Christ in the whole gospel mission of God in Africa.”

The Swensons and Contreras were invited to attend the retreat so they could interact with all the Africa staff, several of whom they had not met before, Ekstrand noted. Each shared their personal faith journey during morning worship and devotional times. Following the retreat, Baxter Swenson visited Equatorial Guinea with Tim and Helen Smith, who have ministered there since 1999.

“The morning prayer times were focused on praying for each other . . . we had ample time to pray,” said Keith Gustafson, Congo coordinator, in describing highlights of the experience. “I was especially challenged by Reuben’s commitment and experience. “It (learning about Reuben and MANI) made me realize how important it is to encourage mission done by Africans.”

“I was challenged to think outside of the box,” said missionary Karen Benson. “Reuben said we have to think of a new way to do partnership, that we need each other.”

“I really enjoyed my time at the conference,” notes Ben Steel, short-term missionary in Burkina Faso. “From the first night . . . I felt welcomed in – it reinforced my passion for missions.”

“It is always precious to be together with these colleagues,” Ekstrand says. “I deeply feel a part of a special family when I am with them. I was encouraged by the prayers of my colleagues for us. Prayer coming from those who really know you is precious.”

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