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The small west African nation of Togo is sandwiched between Benin and Ghana with Burkina Faso to the north. The Gulf of Guinea makes up the southern coastline where the majority of the estimated 6 million people live. Togo covers an area of about 57,000 sq km (22,000 sq miles). The capital, Lome, lies on the coast. Inland a mountain chain crosses the country north to south. The far northwest is mainly granite tablelands but nearer the coast are plains with arable land. Less than one third of the land mass of Togo is arable thus much of the agriculture is subsistence with food crops including yams, cassava, maize, beans, rice, and sorghum. Export crops include coffee, cocoa and cotton. Some cattle, sheep and pigs are raised in the north. The most significant mineral output is phosphate. The Gross National Product is a little more than $300 per person.
The early history of Togo was mainly interpreted through oral history. Inhabitation was told of before the tenth century. Sudanic people from the Nile area arrived in the northern region between the tenth and thirteenth centuries. Other early arrivals were the Ewe people, who are the present majority in the south. The Kabye people are the minority and hold the northern area and also political power. In the fifteenth century the Portuguese came to the area. Togo became a major source of slaves in the slave trading era earning the area the title the “Slave Coast.”Â In the nineteenth century freed African slaves from Brazil joined the Togolese ranks. Togoland became a territory of Germany in 1884 and alter a colony (1905) but following the First World War administration was split between France and Britain. Eventually the British portion joined with Ghana to the west. French Togoland gained independence in 1960. In 1967 a military coup made General Eyadema Gnassingbe President, making him Africa’s longest serving president/dictator until his sudden death in 2005. He was succeeded by his son, Faure Gnassingbe. The first multi-party elections were held in 1993. Today the Republic is governed by a single legislative body known as the National Assembly.
The religious make-up of Togo is diverse. Tradional/Indegenous/Animist faiths are the majority, claiming between sixty and seventy percent of the people. Christianity, mainly the Roman Catholic tradition, claims twenty to thirty percent. The population of Muslims is variously given at ten to sixteen percent.
There are various reports of the work of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Togo. The earliest reported efforts were by Walter Bryan of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma who began to arouse interest in the African nation perhaps as early as the 1970s. It is said that he led the efforts over many years to gain official government recognition for Churches of Christ, which was gained in 1992 and allowed for free assembly and evangelism. Prior to this time only seven denominations were recognized and anyone outside of those were not granted legal fellowship and witnessed persecution. There is at least one report of imprisonment for a minister of the Churches of Christ in this era.
Other reports state that the 1980s saw the genesis of Churches of Christ in Togo as the result of evangelists who were converted in Ghana and then went to Lome where they began teaching and preaching, often in the face of persecution. In 1983 or 1984 the Nswam Road Church of Christ in Accra, Ghana sent some men to evangelize. These two reports may be of the same event. The 1990 edition of Mac Lynn’s Churches of Christ Around the World reported that a Togolese Christian had then been working for two decades with little result. Another report says a Ghanaian by the name of George Akpabli entered Togo to live and evangelize among the Togolese, remaining through the difficult years, often facing persecution along with other young Christians. He left Togo in 1990. One American, Jerry Davidson of Florence, Alabama is said to have joined the Togo effort in this era. French World Bible School, a Churches of Christ correspondence school, had students during this time resulting in many baptisms.
In 1992 a medical-evangelistic campaign to Lome was planned, composed of about thirty American and European Christians. However, this had to be canceled due to political turmoil, probably preceding the first multi-party election in 1993. In 1994 a team of American missionaries formed at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas moved to the city of Tabligbo, in southeastern Togo. The team, consisting of the families of Frank Bunner, Scott G. Harris, Jeff Holland, Edwin Slack and Jeff Tacker, targeted the Quachi or Watchi people, a tribe of over a half a million people. Between 1994 and 2003 eight families worked as part of this team, including the Koonce, Parker and Crowson families, primarily planting churches in the local language of Ewe. In 2003 Matt Miller reported there were 30 churches with over 800 Christians meeting as a result of these efforts. In 2007 Murphy Crowson reported to the Christian Chronicle of a successful well drilling project that brought a sustainable source of clean water to the people of Kpotonou, Togo.
In 2000 another team of five families from Harding University moved to the northern town of Kara to begin a work among the Kabye people. In 2003 Matt Miller, of one of those families, reported eleven churches established with a membership of over 150. Miller also reported two other congregations planted entirely by Kabye Christians in March and June of 2003 as a sign of growth of the Togo Church into becoming an indigenous Church.
Brian Jennings of Ghana Christian College reported to the 2000 World Convention that Kwami Afakule, a graduate of the College, and a member of the Ghana Christian Churches was working with the a cappella Churches of Christ in Ghana and that there was a spirit of cooperation present. Jennings also reported that there was then a plan under discussion between Togolese and Ghanaian Christians to work jointly in sending a worker to Senegal.
There are at least two reports of work of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in Togo. In 1997 it was reported in the missions magazine Horizons that the Fellowship of Associates of Medical Evangelism (FAME) was seeking funds to purchase property in Togo to assist a medical professional who was practicing in the open air. Dick Hostetter was responsible for that work. The second report comes from the website of White Fields Evangelism which lists Togo as one country where they have personal knowledge of the Gospel being spread in that land. This report is unconfirmed ( http://www.white.fields.org ).
Global Ministries, a partnership between the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, reports a link with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Togo. However, evidence suggests that this support comes from the United Church of Christ rather than the Disciples of Christ as the last several editions of the Horizons do not reference any current work or support in Togo.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
For further historical reference:
Churches of Christ Around the World, Mac Lynn, 21st Century Christian Publications, Nashville, TN, 2003.
Disciples of Christ Historical Society, 1101 19th Avenue, South, Nashville, TN (USA) 37212
Telephone: 615 327 1444
Website: http://www.discipleshistory.org (provides links to other historical sites/databases).
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206 (USA)
For a list of many Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (in the United States) missionaries/ministries see:
Mission Services Association
7545 Hodges Ferry Road, Knoxville, TN (USA) 37920
Telephone: 1 800 655 8524
Fax: 865 573 5950
Directory of the Ministry
1525 Cherry Road, Springfield, IL (USA) 62704
Telephone: 217 546 3566