A gift of 25 bicycles to the clergy in Abidjan, means they can evangelize in areas with few or no passable roads, and while they are pedaling, they can “meet the faithful” along the way.
Lined up in front of United Methodist Emmanuel Port-Bouet 1 in Abidjan, the bicycles were the first of 75 to be distributed to pastors and lay leaders to boost evangelism nationwide, said Louis Aboua, lay leader of the Côte d’Ivoire Annual Conference.
The bikes were donated by the Côte d’Ivoire laity in partnership with Bikes and Bibles, a nonprofit ministry of the U.S. North Georgia Conference. The organization donated $7,000.
“These 25 bicycles represent one third of our gift to support evangelism,” Aboua said on Laity Sunday, Oct. 16.
Of the 17 districts that make up the conference, 10 are missionary districts, covering the center, west, northern and eastern parts of the territory. In three missionary districts, there is less of a United Methodist presence compared to the southwestern, south and southeastern areas.
“Lay preachers and catechists will now be able to cover long distances in a short time and will possibly meet the faithful more frequently in the localities they cover,” he said. “Offering these bikes is one of many ways of achieving the Great Commission together with clergy.”
United Methodist lay members from various districts gathered at Emmanuel Port-Bouet 1 UMC to worship and celebrate the vital ministry of the laity working together with clergy.
Sylvio Atchiori, a United Methodist lay preacher, delivered the sermon. A delegation of nearly 50 local church and district lay leaders, as well the Rev. Isaac Bodje, general secretary of the Cote d’Ivoire Annual Conference, representing Bishop Benjamin Boni, were in attendance.
In his sermon, drawn from Matthew 24:42-51, Atchiori urged the faithful to “give up futilities and focus on the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ.” Further relying on Scripture pulled from Joshua 1:1-9, he added that, “the laity should not be afraid nor should it be discouraged to support initiatives which make the church stronger — financially, socially and effectively present.”
Bikes and Bibles
Joe Kilpatrick, executive director of Bikes and Bibles, was not able to be in Abidjan for the distribution of the bikes.
“The program was expanded to Côte d’Ivoire thanks to a contribution by the First United Methodist Church of Dothan, Alabama, which provided $21,000 for three episcopal areas of West Africa,” Kilpatrick said in an email interview.
Bikes and Bibles has provided about 800 utilitarian bicycles to United Methodist pastors in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique and Kenya since 2013, he said.
“The bikes are given to provide local pastors with tools to help them improve their ministry, family and economic life,” Kilpatrick said. “Motor bikes are sometimes requested to assist the district superintendents who travel a wide territory and do not have motorized transportation.”
Bodje called the congregation to rise and pray to dedicate the bikes to the service of the Lord and commended the beneficiaries to take good care of the tools.
After the prayer, he offered thanks to the Bikes and Bible ministry, highlighting that such an initiative demonstrates the laity’s commitment to support clergy in its task to “feed the sheep of the Lord Jesus Christ,” as noted in the Gospel of John 21:17.
The remaining 50 bicycles and Bibles are planned for distribution by the end of the year.
Ndzulo is special projects manager for the West Africa Central Conference. News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, [email protected]