The Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering West Africa (YLGWA) was held 30 November – 4 December 2008 in Nigeria. On the eve of the programme major ethno-religious riots broke out in Jos, where the gathering was supposed to be held. Within twenty-four hours the venue was changed to Abuja. With several uncertainties due mainly to the Jos crises and the change of venue, the YLGWA opening session started with praise and prayer.
The gathering brought together fifteen mentors/speakers and fifty younger leaders from the English-speaking West African countries of Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. The breakdown of attendance was as follows:
|Sierra Leone||2 participants|
|Other||8 participants who came for part of the gathering|
Delegates were selected on the following criteria:
- Church and mission leaders and/or Christian leaders in the marketplace
- Generally aged twenty-five to thirty-five
- Balanced geographical spread across countries and zones
- Gender balance (male/female)
The younger leaders unanimously voted to adopt the theme: “Live and Lead Like Jesus.” Plenary speakers included:
- Pade Tokun, Calvary Ministries (CAPRO) in Democratic Republic of Congo and Central Africa
- Rev. Steve Asante, president, Ghana Baptist Convention
- Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Egbunu, Bishop of Lokoja Diocese, Anglican Communion
- Gideon Para-Mallam, Lausanne English, Portuguese, Spanish-speaking (EPSA) International Deputy Director
Participants identified six critical issues concerning evangelizing West Africa:
- Orphans and Vulnerable Children
- Transforming the Sub-Region through Prayer
- The Remaining Unreached People Groups
- Unveiling the Giant of Islam
- Understanding Youth Culture
- The Challenge of Liberal Theology and Nominalism
Although five workshop topics were identified, only two were held, since most of the resource persons were unable to make it due to either the crisis in Jos or the last minute changes. The two held were:
- Growing as an “EZRA” Younger Leader: How to Develop an Effective Devotional Life and Skill in Expository Bible Preaching for Transformation by Rev. Dr. T.B. Dankwa, senior pastor, Accra Chapel, Accra
- Team Building and Networking with Others as a Younger Leader for World Evangelization by Rev. Reuben Ezemadu, international director, Christian Missionary Foundation, Ibada
Additionally, the countries represented had an opportunity to share the challenges and opportunities for the gospel in their various countries.
Participating younger leaders were divided into ten small mentoring groups. Participants then spent time getting acquainted, sharing challenges and testimonies, praying together, and learning about what God is doing in different contexts.
The main thrust of the messages at YLGWA was the need to re-evaluate leadership styles and take personal note of Jesus’ calling on Christians to live and lead like him as revealed in the Gospels and Epistles. Participants left with a clear understanding that it would not be possible to lead like Jesus unless they live like him. This remains a fundamental call Jesus made to all his followers. Christians cannot respond to this call without re-focusing on the cross of Christ as his followers in their leadership journey.
To lead like Jesus means answering the call to servant leadership—a scarce commodity within the African Church setting today. Participants were reminded that they “have no mission of their own”—only the mission of the master and those they serve on the mission field. The vision for world evangelization will receive further boost if Christians intentionally invest in growing younger kingdom-minded leaders.
Participants were given a closing charge by Ghana Younger Leaders team coordinator, Nana Yaw Offei-Owuku, who summarized the joy of learning together. He said that God had done three things during the gathering:
- Jesus had called them back to himself through fellowship and learning together.
- Participants had been challenged to move out of their comfort zones to finish the work of world evangelization in the sub-region, continent, and beyond.
- Participants had been encouraged and charged to submit to mentorship and to commit to identifying other younger leaders and seeking out practical ways to mentor others until Jesus’ return.
Para-Mallam told participants that the YLGWA 2008 started as a faith project and ended as such. He reminded all present that the planning suffered many “hiccups” along the way, but God’s faithfulness saw them through each challenge.
Para-Mallam took time to appreciate the mentors and facilitators for their efforts and noted the doggedness and personal initiatives of the younger leaders, even some who could not be present at the gathering. A brief DVD presentation on Lausanne was shown, and participants sang “In Christ Alone” as a closing rallying song of collective declaration of commitment.