Some 300,000 spectators and an appearance by the nation’s president highlighted the fiftieth anniversary of Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) ministries in the Ivory Coast in West Africa. One participant in the event, Louis L. King, the U.S. C&MA president, said, “Never before has a church in the worldwide family of C&MA churches achieved such national recognition and favorable exposure.”

Fifty-three years ago the first Alliance missionary couple, Rev. and Mrs. George Powell, arrived in Bouaké, the second largest city in this French-speaking, West African nation. As one of the first Protestant missions in the country, ministry rapidly expanded, a national church grew, and the country’s largest evangelical denomination resulted.

Today, the autonomous C&MA churches, called the Evangelical Protestant Church (C&MA) of the Ivory Coast, have 760 congregations with total membership of over 100,000. The nation’s population exceeds 8 million.

Inaugurating the celebration, held in December, were two Saturday afternoon parades in Bouaké, headquarters city of the national church and of the 35 C&MA missionaries. Following separate parade routes, Christians from 6,000 towns witnessed in song to an estimated 100.000 people lining the streets. Uniformed, banner-carrying Christian Service Brigade and Pioneer Girls youth led each brightly dressed parade of 2,000.

The delegations converged at the Air France Church of the C&MA, which is named for the section of the city in which it is located. Many spent the entire night in “cell praise meetings” throughout the city.

Early Sunday morning, Christians, animists, and Muslims poured into the Air France sanctuary and overflowed into a massive nearby tent and temporary shelters. Masses estimated at 300,000 (half the population of Bouaké) lined the adjacent highway. Three alternating choirs performed.

By 9:00 A.M. all television crews and members of the press were positioned and the honored guests began arriving. They included cabinet ministers, the president of the supreme court, president of the national legislative assembly, the chiefs of the military, and most Bouaké city officials.

Finally, in his first Bouaké visit in 11 years, the chief of state, President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, accompanied by a red-plumed, silver-sworded color guard, walked a red carpet to his seat of honor.

The singing reached its final cadence and a four-hour service began. A national C&MA leader reviewed the Protestant Evangelical Church’s work during the last 50 years. Then American guest, Louis L. King, presented the church with a $50,000 gift to help construct church facilities in Abidjan and Bouaké and a $5,000 grant for ministerial students.

Next, the president of the national C&MA church, Diéké Koffi Joseph, looked intently at President Houphouet-Boigny (not a professing Christian) and preached the gospel. Following the message, the minister of the interior decorated King with the Medal of Honor, Ivory Coast’s second-highest national award, elevating him to the rank of Officer of the National Order. President Houphouet-Boigny embraced King with a triple kiss of friendship.

After the service, 500 invited guests were escorted to a sit-down dinner elsewhere in the building. Sitting at the head table with the nation’s president and church officials, King was conspicuously the only non-African.

After everyone else feasted on a huge, outdoor dinner on the grounds, the crowds began to disperse. The anniversary celebration was the greatest single event held by the Christian and Missionary Alliance church in any West African nation.


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