NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In this series, thoseinvolved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
Pastor Kossi Blewu is forty-eight years old. He is married, has seven children, and—along with his wife—cares for four orphans. He serves as a pastor, Bible Institute teacher, and chairman of the Mission Evangelique Lutherienne de Confession du Togo (MELCT). Togo is a former French colony on the south-west coast of Africa. The name of this church body translates to “The Confessional Lutheran Evangelical Mission of Togo.”
Pastor Kossi is a former high school teacher, school headmaster, and prison evangelist. Before he affiliated with the CLC, he had been working with a Togolese Lutheran pastor in a prison ministry. This Togolese pastor had graduated from Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1999 this Lutheran pastor had met a CLC member who was visiting Togo and had expressed interest in working with the CLC. At his invitation, Missionary Koenig made a trip from Nigeria to meet with him. But when it was determined that we did not share a common confession of faith with this man, the CLC Board of Missions did not pursue further contact. At that point it seemed as if our involvement in Togo would be short lived. But the Lord had other plans, better plans! Through this initial contact, Missionary Koenig was introduced to Kossi Blewu. He was described as someone who was sincere in his desire to proclaim God’s Word, but who also needed more theological training. Over the next several years Kossi studied with Missionary Koenig both in person and by correspondence. He also attended the seminary in Nigeria for a short period of time. The CLC declared fellowship with Pastor Kossi and the MELCT. Pastor Kossi was ordained by Missionary Ude and the MELCT was officially registered with the Togo government in 2008.
Over the past ten years the Lord has blessed the work of Pastor Kossi and the MELCT. Four men have gone through seven years of part-time theological training with Pastor Kossi, assisted by CLC missionaries. In March of 2017 these four men were ordained and appointed to serve as pastors of MELCT congregations and preaching stations. In April of 2017 the Mt. Horeb Lutheran Bible Institute was established, and seven men began their studies in preparation to serve as faithful preachers, teachers, and evangelists. The Lord has also provided opportunities for the MELCT to care for seven orphan children. Forty other needy children gather at the church in Lomé each week for Bible study and nutrition. The care that these children receive is supported through offerings to the CLC Project Kinship.
What has unfolded over the past eighteen years is just a part of the story of our gracious Lord working in and through the life of Pastor Kossi Blewu. As a child he grew up as the oldest of ten children. He grew up in a rural village a couple of hours north of the southern coastline of Togo. He was the oldest of ten children; he had four sisters and five brothers. His father was a hardworking and successful farmer, carpenter, and businessman. He was shrewd in his financial dealings and the Blewu family was envied by many in the area. Kossi attended a private Presbyterian school as a child but does not remember ever attending worship services or believing in Jesus in his youth. Neither he nor any of his family were Christian. They followed the old superstitious religions of their ancestors.
When Kossi was only seventeen years old, his father died rather suddenly. Several men in the area, who were envious of his father’s success, saw this as an opportunity to change their fortunes in life. These men drove Kossi away from his home and family with threats of violence if he continued his father’s businesses. This led Kossi into a deep depression for several months as he stopped attending school and refused to eat or go outside. He feared for his life and the welfare of his family. His mother called in a local Juju doctor to try to help him. But of course, this didn’t help. The visit from the Juju man only frightened him more, so he decided to run away. He left home and went to the big city of Lomé. He remembers that he did not care if he lived or died, but he was not going back to the Juju doctor, and he wanted to get away from the men who hated him and his father. As the oldest son and heir to the family businesses, he thought this was the best way to protect his family.
When he arrived in Lomé, he noticed that there were a lot of churches and many people were coming and going on Sunday mornings. He decided to find out what Christianity was all about. That was where Kossi first learned of God’s grace and mercy. What the Holy Spirit revealed to Kossi through His Word led to a saving faith and a life of service to the Lord and His kingdom. While living in Lomé, he attended college and studied to become a school teacher. He graduated, but before he completed his government teacher exams, he took a job teaching French at a high school in Ghana. After a few years he returned to Lomé, where he passed the government teaching exams and began teaching secondary school. He eventually became a headmaster (equivalent to our position of principal). During all of this time he continued to attend church services and Bible studies. As his faith grew, so did his desire to serve the Lord and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Around the age of thirty he became involved with a non-denominational prison ministry, organized by the Lutheran pastor mentioned earlier. As a result, Kossi began to hear and learn the truths of Scripture in a new and systematic way. He was introduced to Lutheran doctrine and was shown how it was derived from Scripture alone. The CLC’s plan had been to work with the Lutheran pastor who was mentoring Kossi, but that never materialized. Instead, the Lord used that man to introduce Pastor Kossi to Missionary Koenig and the CLC. This teaches us again not to think so highly of our plans that we miss the privilege of following the Lord as He directs us down a much better path of His choosing.
Todd Ohlmann is a full-time visiting missionary for the Church of the Lutheran Confession.