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  • Writer's pictureLarry Neville

The Unknown Church Planter

This past Monday morning I was having breakfast at Polly Pies with Carl and Adam Friedrich along with our good friend and co-worker Eric Daafour from Ghana, Africa.

As we were all sharing stories of people who had come to know the Lord, Eric shared his story. While he was sharing, I became very conscious of the fact that the God of creation is truly leading and guiding our lives. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

A Young Man in Accra, Ghana

When Eric was a young single man in Accra, Ghana he attended a large traditional church because of a girl he liked. The challenge was that he had to walk a long way and then take a bus, so it took him a few hours to get there each Sunday morning. One Sunday as he was walking he heard a man preaching in a building near where he was. He looked at his watch and it was almost 11 am so he decided, I can’t make it to the church I have been attending so I will go in here. When he got in the building, there were four people. The preacher his wife and children and Eric. When the preacher finished he came and talked with Eric. Eric asked him, “Is this a church?” The brother explained that he came from America to pioneer a new church. So, for convenience sake, Eric found himself coming back to this little church with four people. His girlfriend asked him what happened and if he was going to go there and he said yes, he decided to join that small group. As a consequence they ended their relationship.

For over a year only a few people showed up at this church, usually only the four.

Each Sunday Eric would stand in front of the building inviting people as they walked by. He invited a young woman and she said no. A few more Sundays she was walking by and as he invited people he invited her again, finally she said that she would come. That woman later became his wife. They now have three sons and two daughters.

They did outreaches and invited people, but no one stuck. After a year or so, that pastor decided to return home. My brother Mike Neville was contacted to see if Praise Chapel had someone who could move to Africa to continue this pioneer work. Mike responded, and Praise Chapel sent Frank and Victoria Donkor there. When they arrived, Eric was the only one in the church.

Twelve years ago, when it was time for Frank to leave Africa, Eric and Joyce became the senior leaders of Praise Chapel Fellowship in Ghana. They are doing a great job.

This story really brought home the significance of disciple making and church planting for me.

I don’t know how long the first pastor from America labored in Ghana but he probably left Ghana discouraged. To leave with only one person in the church, after moving his family there, all the sacrifice and cost.

In the natural you would say that they were a “Failure.”

Today over 30 years later, I say, “What a success.”

Eric has a beautiful family, pastors a great church, disciples hundreds of people, and oversees a church planting movement in Africa.

Over the years I have personally pioneered a couple of churches that are not around today. They closed. I have also sent out workers and had them return home feeling like a failure. But, as the years go by, I continue to be astonished at the fruit that eventually comes from those sacrifices, and labors of church planting and discipleship. What seemed like a mistake, a waste of time, money, and the church planters personal sacrifice never, yes NEVER, is a mistake or is wasted.

God has the ability to take what we deem a failure and make it an “Eric” miracle.

As Peter and the other disciples who followed him were fishing all night and had caught nothing, I’m sure they felt like failures. We left all to follow Jesus and now here we are with an empty boat. We can’t even catch fish good anymore, we gave up our businesses, or work, now look at us. Yet, as the morning dawned, they saw a figure hovering over a fire and it looked like he was cooking some fish. Then he said, “Children have you caught any fish?” They had fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus knew that. He knows your labor. He sees you toiling all night and catching nothing. He saw this pastor move his family to Africa, labor all night for a couple of years and only have one disciple. In all of it, Jesus was at work. He said, “Children throw the net on the other side. By, now they are beginning to suspect that the man on the shore was Jesus. When they threw the net on the other side they caught a boat load of fish. One of men said, “It’s Jesus.”

When you feel like your labors of love are not producing. When you feel like maybe “I should quit.” Remember that Jesus is on the shore. He is more interested in you than in that boat or the multitude of fish. They did bring the net full of fish to the shore, but Jesus never mentioned the miracle catch; he only focused on feeding the men and one man’s destiny.

“Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep.”

Eric’s story and the wonderful work of Praise Chapel in Ghana is eternally connected to a young couple that you don’t even know. But, evidently in God’s plan they were the ones who would impact one life, “Eric” enough that He is still following Him.

To that unknown church planter and your family, I say, “Thank you.”

Since we are not in contact and we don’t have any idea where you, are all I can do this Monday morning is to pray for you. I pray for you and so many others like you who may never know or enjoy the fruit of your labors and sacrifice in this life. Your few years in Africa may hold bitter-sweet memories for you and your family. As Paul said, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day” (2 Timothy 4:8). The tens of thousands of souls who have been and will be saved and touched by God through Praise Chapel Fellowship in Africa are a part of your reward.

Pastor, do you have a story like this? Will you share it? All you have to do is Email me here or send me a voice message. Let’s hear some of these amazing stories of God taking our futile labors and sacrifices and turning them into a miracle catch.

Have a great MondayMorning.

-Larry Neville


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