DAKAR '98: Regional Consultation for Francophone West Africa

Holistic evangelism/Church Planting
Partnership Development for Unreached People

June 5th-12th 1998
Dakar, Senegal


From across French speaking West Africa they came. For the days of June 5th - 12th over 50 African Church leaders convened in the city of Dakar, Senegal. Delegations came from Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Guinea. These francophone countries together with Gambia, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau were the focus countries in question during the days together. Another 100 church and mission agency leaders from places like Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Kenya, the United States, Canada, England, Belgium, France, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway and Brazil joined these leaders there. They came to learn and see how they might better serve the church in Francophone West Africa. Why did they all come so far? They came to take part in DAKAR '98, the first ever Regional Consultation on Partnership for Church Planting among the remaining Unreached People Groups of Muslim French speaking West Africa. 150 delegates came in all. These delegates represented at least 78 different church and mission agencies, from 26 different countries around the world. To be sure, this gathering was a very diverse group of people. Yet, in spite of their many differences, they shared at least two things in common: First, they expressed a deep love for and commitment to Jesus Christ. Secondly, they shared the desire to see the remaining unreached people groups of French speaking Muslim West Africa come to salvation, established in their own reproducing, nationally led churches. It didn't take long to see that global trends combined with the incredible possibility of fulfilling the Great Commission in this generation, warranted - one might even say -demanded, the consulting of one another so as to see how that might come to pass in Francophone West Africa. This consultation built upon five years of partnership development in the region by Interdev and World Vision working together with local missions and churches. To that experience was added the force of the growing momentum coming out of AD2000 and Beyond's Joshua Project 2000 and National Initiatives development in the region in the current decade.

Having said that, one senses that the real reason for the success of the consultation, was the representation from almost each of the various National Associations of Evangelical Churches and Missions across French speaking West Africa. Leaders from many of the largest denominations in Francophone West Africa as well as the leaders of a few national mission-sending organizations took part. The Evangelical Fraternity of Churches in Senegal hosted this historic and strategic event as a forum to help foster partnership among the diverse ministries of the established and the emerging church for a focused, united effort among Francophone West African people groups with no church. Participants: These key church and mission leaders came from such diverse backgrounds as Presbyterian, Southern (and other forms of) Baptist, Assemblies of God, Christian Church, Evangelical Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, Mennonite, Pentecostal Free, Dutch Reformed Church - to mention only a few. Some of the mission agencies gathered included: numerous National Evangelical Alliances and mission agencies focusing on unreached peoples, Wycliffe Bible Translators, World Concern, SIM, New Tribes Mission, Trans World Radio, Habitat for Humanity, Mission Aviation Fellowship, WEC International, United World Mission, Gospel Missionary Union, Pioneer Bible Translators, Philafrique, Emerging Young Leaders, the Church Missionary Society, Scripture Union, Scripture Gift Mission, the International Bible Society, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Literacy and Evangelism Resources, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists, Mission Moving Mountains, Horizons, The Bible League, etc. Principle Objectives: They all came in order to pray together, encourage and learn from one another, as well as consider the possibility of planning and making strategies together for better-coordinated collaboration across the region. Although by no means did these meetings claim to be representative of all those working or interested in Francophone West Africa, it was a tremendous beginning. The fact that other important leaders were unable to be there was recognized by all. Every attempt will be made to integrate the outcomes of this event with what is already happening in each country through the Africa for Jesus Strategy of AEA and its network of Evangelical Fellowships; AD 2000's Joshua Project, National Initiatives and Resource Networks as well as other mission projects. Cooperation with and the involvement of a wider circle of ministries was seen to be critical to the ongoing process through out the region. National Groups: During the first day of the consultation each of the countries represented in the region had special breakout sessions that concentrated on that particular country. During the reporting times, it was heard that in seven out of the ten of the countries, the working groups saw the need to develop, or use existing National Consultations of all sorts (AEA, AD2000, Interdev, etc.) to focus on Unreached People Groups in that country during the coming twelve months. Wherever possible, it was noted that national structures such as the various National Associations of Missions and Churches should be used to organize these National consultations. These consultations were seen as one of the most important first steps needed in order to explore the possibility of developing partnerships to reach the different people groups in the most effective way. An eighth country decided to go right into exploring the possibilities of launching such partnerships for certain known larger unreached people groups in their country. Language Specific Groups: During these country-specific working groups, eight key People Groups were highlighted as the largest priority unreached peoples. They included the Wolof, Soninke, Songhai/Zerma, Fulani, Tamacheq (Tuareg), Susu, Mandinke, and Diola. All eight of these major unreached people groups coincide with those previously identified by the Joshua Project 2000 list. Some of these unreached people groups are found in more than one nation and therefore it was clear that there is a need for multi-national consultations where these groups are found. These groups then received special focus of prayer and investigation during the rest of the consultation. Of those eight unreached peoples, all those that did not as yet have a partnership in place have set a goal of starting one in the near future. This is not to duplicate efforts already in those countries, but would rather be an attempt to try and include other key churches and ministries that were not represented at the consultation. Of the partnerships proposed, seven are strategic Gateway Peoples with populations of over one million each. Three already have partnerships developing, the other four will be new initiatives. Prayer and Main Focal Points: Prayer teams from local churches prayed on site throughout the entire consultation. Two separate Concerts of Prayer were among the main highlights of the gathering. The emphasis on prayer would have to be seen as one of the main reasons for the success of the meetings. Prayer laid the foundation, and provided the covering for discussion of key issues in the region that were dealt with during plenary sessions. These issues included: Vision and Mobilization to finish the task Expatriates and Nationals working together What should the Church look like in a Muslim context

All of these subjects had the potential to be contentious and divisive, but the spirit of the group was warm, friendly, enthusiastic and very encouraging. Even tough or "touchy" subjects were honestly and openly engaged in love and a desire to understand one another. Pan-Regional Working Groups: On the third day of the consultation, working-groups focused on Pan-regional ministries like Research and Prayer, Radio and Television, Literature and Translation, Leadership Training and Training of African Missionaries, Relief and Development, and one for the problem of Urbanization in Africa. These groups met to discuss how to better coordinate their specialty ministries across the region. Another purpose was to see how their efforts might be integrated into the developing partnerships that might come out of the consultation. The Radio and Television working group decided to develop an ongoing, regular commission to facilitate these ends as it relates to their special contribution to the region. Partnership Training: The consultation was preceded by a three day Partnership Seminar for almost 50 key African leaders. This seminar focused on training the participants in the principles of effective partnership and of partnership facilitation. The training was greatly appreciated by all. Those who had gone through seminar facilitated most of the working groups during the consultation. Advocacy/Mobilization: Certain churches from the United States were also able to be involved in the consultation. They were able to see first hand what role their churches had played in new church planting efforts among the least reached people groups of West Africa. It was obvious that resource churches have a vital, ongoing role to play as a part of the strategic partnerships that are developing. The consultation has proven an excellent tool to help churches narrow down the direction they want to go in terms of where and how to support future mission outreach and projects in West Africa in the most strategic manner. Dakar '98 was and excellent showcase for the region and its specific needs. Many of us have heard the horror stories of well-intentioned, highly motivated churches that have enthusiastically engaged in independent, culturally insensitive and almost impersonal evangelistic efforts on the field. It is hoped that through Partnership, better integrated church alliances will result in mobilizing more strategic resources to be transferred in appropriate ways to the field, meeting real needs. Another anticipated side benefit will be more accurate mobilization, advocacy and prayer tools becoming available to sending churches. Strategic evangelism partnerships effectively link mobilization and advocacy to field based realities and initiatives. Final Points: The Consultation ended on a high note with a rich communion service after having set some achievable goals for the national consultations and the exploration of new partnerships for the unreached peoples that had been identified. The need for sharing of this vision back home was emphasized, as was the need for a major effort of reconciliation between missions and churches that are not presently working with one another. One of the most important outcomes was the desire of the group to develop a mobilization effort for prayer in partnership with one another for the region and its peoples. The Regional Consultation has helped us all to see that in order to finish the task in West Africa, we must continue to bridge the gaps between the emerging Church and the established Church. We must also bridge the gaps between the Church and specialty ministries born to serve the Church by reaching into the world in ways the local church often can not on its own. Strategic Evangelism/Church Planting Partnerships and the National AD2000 Initiatives are beginning to build these bridges. Please pray for the ongoing process as Interdev, together with partner ministries like World Vision, the various Evangelical Fellowships, AD 2000 and Beyond and all those ministries who have committed to work together, begin the necessary follow-up activities in order to help ensure that the exciting events of the last few days bear eternal fruit at Regional, National and People Groups levels.

For more information on how you might be able to get involved in this process please contact:

Wayne McGee - Regional Advisor for Sub-Saharan Africa Interdev - AD 2000 and Beyond Task force for Partnership: wmcgee@xc.org
Ross Campbell - AD 2000 and Beyond Movement Coordinator for National Initiative development: 100231.140@compuserve.com
Rev. Bayo Famonure - Executive Secretary for Evangelism and Missions Commission of Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA): bayo@rcl.nig.com

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