Tammy and I are so glad to be back in Madagascar and are getting settled. Thanks for all your prayers during this transition back to the island. These past few weeks, the Bible School has been hosting one of our visiting professors from West Africa as they teach another three-week session for our BA level education program in conjunction with the West Africa Advanced School of Theology in Lome, Togo.
One evening, we had the privilege of hosting Dr. Bêchié Désiré Gnanchou of Ivory Coast for dinner in our home. During our meal, I asked him how he became a Christian and he told me this fascinating story.
When Bêchié was a teenager, he was handed a simple Billy Graham tract as he walked down the street. The young Bêchié was a voracious reader and he devoured the free tract, and was struck by what it said. Having grown up in a strong Catholic family, he was familiar with church, but had no idea what the Bible actually said.
Finding a place to read the tract alone, he immediately came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and prayed to accept Jesus into his life, experiencing a radical change in his heart. He went home and recounted to his family what had happened and he was immediately thrown out of his home for abandoning the Catholic Church. Even with such dire consequences, his desire to read could not be quenched and he set about to find a Bible.
Since he could not go home, he stayed with an uncle in Abadjan, the capital city. His uncle had a huge Bible in the middle of the table as a decoration. Once when his uncle left the house the young Bêchié snuck over and opened the massive Bible and began to read some of the stories it contained. As he read, his uncle came home, unannounced, and took the Bible away from him and told him he must never touch his Bible again.
Desiring to have a Bible of his own, he began saving every small coin he could until he had enough to go into the local Bible bookstore and buy a Bible for himself. While in the bookstore, he saw a sign outside that said, “Read the Bible”, he asked the person behind the counter if there was a place nearby where he could read his Bible and have someone help him understand what he read. The bookstore clerk told him to wait until he closed the store.
Bêchié hung around the store paging through his Bible until the clerk locked the store and then took him down the street where they entered an Assembly of God church. Bêchié did not realize they were going to a church, but thought they were going to a reading room. That evening there were only a few people praying in the building but the pastor kindly help Bêchié read and understand what he read.
Over the years Bêchié grew in his faith and eventually became an Assemblies of God pastor, during that time he continued to witness to his family who, one by one, came to a saving faith in Christ. Because of his love for reading and learning, Bêchié attended Bible School and eventually earned both a Master’s degree and a Doctorate in Theology.
For more than 20 years, he has served as the Director of one of the main Bible Schools for the Assemblies of God of Ivory Coast. In addition to his work in Bible training, He was elected at the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God of Ivory Coast in 2004 and served in that post for 10 years.
From a simple printed tract, this young teenager has developed into one of the most influential leaders and educators in the Assemblies of God of West Africa. As you give to programs in the U.S. like Light for the Lost (LFTL) and Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge (BGMC), never under estimate the power of the printed Word. A simple tract in the hands of a teenage boy has had a profound influence across West Africa. There truly is power in the printed Word!