Newburgh - In the face of flooded roads, security stops by immigration officials and the devastations of rainy season in West Africa, Elder Thermond E. Herring, Pastor of Mount Carmel, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Newburgh, New York, accompanied the Togo Now Team (TNT) from the Northeastern District Assembly Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, International on their recent trip to the Togolese Republic (or Togo) to bring aid and comfort to the people of Togo.
Newburgh’s Mount Carmel congregation was introduced to Mawussi Atsu Awadzie in 2002, when he journeyed from his home village of Agokpo Dzogbedi in Gblaine Prefecture of Togo to Newburgh to participate in the World Ecumenical Youth Summit, organized by Tiombe Carter and Sadie Tallie, both members of Mt. Carmel Church of Christ. Mawussi made many acquaintances in the greater Newburgh area but was especially drawn to Mount Carmel, Church of Christ, where he became a member. When he expressed his call to the Gospel ministry, he was ordained an elder after two years’ training at the Disciples of Christ Learning Center at Mt. Carmel. Since 2003, Elder Mawussi (as he prefers to be called) has led 13 church members through the ordination process and organized seven churches in Togo.
Mount Carmel Church was a major benefactor to these congregations through the ravages of war in 2004 and 2005 to the recent bouts of flooding in 2009 and early this summer. Elder Herring said, "You have to respect a man who lays down his life for the benefit of his people and church the way Elder Mawussi has."
Planning and preparations to bring school supplies, clothing, Bibles and plain Christian comfort to Togo culminated on June 21, 2010, when a delegation of five church officials set off to see about this dynamic ministry in one of Africa’s poorest nations. Headed by the Northeastern District Prelate, Bishop Leonard E. Brown, the Togo Now Team included Elder Thermond Herring, Pastor of Mt. Carmel Church of Christ in Newburgh; Elder Dr. Sheila H. Gillams, Pastor of Shiloh Church of Christ in New York City; Elder Olivia Dickens, associate minister of Mt. Olive Church of Christ in the Bronx; and Mount Carmel’s Missionary Board President, William Duckery.
Togo is a small nation of 6.3 million inhabitants on the coast of West Africa, sandwiched between Ghana on the west and Benin on the east. Togo’s religious tableau is split equally among Catholics, Muslims, and indigenous faiths, with a smattering of Protestants.
What began as an evangelistic mission turned rapidly into a round robin of conferences with national government officials and tribal chiefs. Elder Herring marveled at the array of bureaucrats who desired to meet with the delegation. According to Elder Herring: "We arrived with a full agenda for eight days of preaching to people. Instead we needed to preach to the leaders about the need for the Church and the Gospel in their country."
The delegation was delighted to meet with attaché Dr. Antoine Agbemaple, who introduced the Disciple delegation to the Minister of Territorial Administration, Pascal Akoussoulèlou Bodjona. Pastor Herring said, "It was exciting to participate in what truly makes the Church of Christ an international organization."
The delegation faced some of the angst and awe that often confronts African-Americans upon their first visit to African soil. The team spent a considerable amount of time traveling roads that ranged from paved highways to foot-paths that made for very slow going. Elder Herring expressed godly pride in his heritage as a black Christian and as an American. "I was impressed with Elder Mawussi’s ability to mobilize the local officials to his cause," said Elder Herring. "And I realized the effectiveness of the American system, which is truly a government of the people, by the people and for the people."
Politics did not eliminate the church’s agenda. Prelate Leonard E. Brown preached, presided over ordination, served communion, witnessed a deliverance service preached by newly ordained Elder Pauline Adjovi, and led a 3-hour conference of church leaders in Kpalimé. William Duckery, a retiree from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, advised the farmers on improvements for their crops.
Pastor Herring and TNT are excited by church work in Togo and Elder Mawussi’s outstanding job of spreading the Gospel. The Disciples found avid church workers on every level of Togo society. Tragically, a flood killed four adults and a child three days after the team’s departure. For this reason Pastor Herring encourages other Newburgh congregations to continue their benevolence to Togo. Like travel on Togo’s serpentine roadways, the going is never easy but the destination lies just ahead.