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Bouake Bible School

By Barry Baggott

religion, articles, christianity

The first class to receive training at the Bouake Bible School in Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), West Africa, participated in a graduation ceremony June 7, said Barry Baggott, missionary and director of the school.

Bouake Bible School began in September 1995 as a two­year program to train French­speaking African evangelists. The school is located in the city of Bouake and is operated in cooperation with the church in that city.

Speakers at the commencement exercises were Baggott; George Akpabli, director of the Center of Biblical Training in Cotonou, Benin; and Seraphin M'Bla, a law student and member of the Bouake church. About 165 people attended the ceremony. Ten men, ranging in age from 24 to 42, comprised the first class. Nine were Ivorians and one was Ghanaian.

The training program included courses in all the books of the Bible as well as other subjects such as church history, music, French, church growth, traditional African religion, Islam, denominational doctrines, the Christian family, the Holy Spirit, and history and geography of Bible times. Each student was required to spend seven hours weekly in personal evangelism, resulting in 22 conversions during the two years. The students worked in an agricultural program to help provide some of their own food.

The school was operated on a three­months­on, three­months­off basis. During the three­month breaks students could choose to return to their homes, and help their home congregations, or to stay in Bouake and learn a trade. Upon graduation the students are expected to be self­supporting until such time as the congregations with which they work can take over their support.

The goal of the program is to train men, not as pastors or church administrators, but as men who will do the work of an evangelist: teaching the lost, establishing and building up congregations of the Lord's church. Those places where men have been trained in larger numbers are generally those places where the church has grown the most. We desperately need more gospel preachers in French Africa.

Since graduation, five students have returned to their home congregations. One has moved to a town where the church consisted of just one family, and one moved to a city where no church of Christ existed previously. Another is planning to help a new congregation in another town after completing his vocational training. One has moved with his family to the country of Burkina Faso to work with the small church in the capital city of Ouagadougou. The remaining student plans to help the church in Conakry, Guinea, while a leader in that congregation is being trained in the Bouake Bible School.

Baggott, as well as being the director of the school, is the primary teacher. Also teaching two­week classes each trimester are Isaac Gnohou, an Ivorian evangelist supported by Woodlawn Church of Christ in Florence, Ala., and John Kessie, a Ghanaian evangelist supported by Prestoncrest Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas. Other teachers who came for one to three weeks were Ken Hargesheimer, Lubbock, Texas; Garth Hutchinson, Marseilles, France; Charles White, Lyon, France; Doyle Kee, Geneva, Switzerland; Dan McVey, Accra, Ghana; Christian Nsoah, Tema, Ghana; Bob Prater, Stuttgart, Germany.

The next class at the school is scheduled to start in September and should comprise 10 to 12 students.

Students in the first class were lodged in rented housing, but construction of a simple dormitory building is under way. Classes are conducted in the rented building of the Bouake Church of Christ.

Baggott and his wife, Rachel, have served in Ivory Coast since September 1987. They have two sons, Andrew, 7, and Matthew, 4. The Baggotts' sponsoring congregation is Crieve Hall Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn. They work with Bonnie Tirey, who is sponsored by the Ninth and Elm church in Orange, Texas.

Published October 1997