What is like to serve in the work of Christianity in Africa? Togolese builder and speaker-brother Nicolas Deh tells about smoothing rough edges in African Christianity’s work fields and how the work of God’s Kingdom has become established in western Africa. Adapted from Siionin Lähetyslehti, September 2018.
Nicolas Deh from Togo has served as a minister for many years. They have nine local ministers, and this year they plan to call four more to serve. “In Togo the domestic mission work is such that three weekends a month we ministers keep services in different parts of Togo,” Deh explains.
In his daily job Nicolas Deh works in the building trade. He has a team that builds houses from the foundation up. Customers typically buy the supplies and then Deh organizes laborers and supervises the building process.
In the early 1990s, amidst unrest in his home country, Nicolas Deh fled to Sweden. In Sweden he attended many different churches before he met Conservative Laestadians. After he received the grace of repentance, he returned to Togo to tell about his discovery. Meanwhile he stayed in touch with Swedish believers.
When the work of Christianity became established in Togo, the local believers established the Laestadian Lutheran Church, which in French is the Eglise Luthérienne Laestadienne du Togo. Deh is the chairman of the church.
Often on Speaking Trips, Sometimes at Home Too
In addition to serving in the activities of the local congregation, Nicolas Deh participates twice a year in week-long mission trips as a guide and interpreter. He has also gone on a few ten-day mission trips to other African countries. “At first my wife felt this workload was heavy, but now when the children are older, things are easier on the home front.”
Nicolas says that he has learned to value time spent at home, and he tries to be at home during the workweek as well as on one weekend a month. His wife is Cecile Deh, and they have six children, the youngest of whom is five years old.
Nicolas Deh hopes that those in positions of responsibility would be remembered in prayer and that others would have a merciful attitude toward them. He encourages others to discuss matters openly and to express their viewpoints. “Sometimes it happens that at a meeting someone refrains from expressing their opinions and then later complains how poorly things are handled.”
Deh ponders the way he handles his own duties and how he has developed in those duties. He welcomes constructive criticism. “How else could I have noticed what I’m doing in a harmful way? When someone gives me feedback, it’s possible to try to do things better,” he says. “Previously I might have reacted very strongly if I thought someone or something was hurting God’s kingdom.”
I See Where God Has Done His Work
The young, growing home Zion in western Africa has experienced growing pains. “In these African countries I have felt that discussions can get quite harsh sometimes. We need much forgiveness. I think that the difficulties we’ve experienced in our home Zion help us in our dialog with congregations in other countries.”
Deh says there has been an improvement in these matters. “It seems that in Gambia God has done His work and mutual understanding has grown. The atmosphere of forgiveness and grace has borne fruit.”
Deh has noticed a need to learn the basics of faith. “When mission workers are westerners, locals might get the idea that if they join our group, they’ll get some monetary assistance. We just have to gently guide them to understand that God’s kingdom is not food or drink, but that faith comes first and people are called into the fellowship of faith.”
His August mission trip through the countries of Senegal, Gambia and Guinea made Deh think about what he knows how to do and what he is able to do. “Now afterwards I realize how God has prepared hearts and opened His Word. Even though I’m happy that God has been able to use me in His work, I must say that the most important thing is that my own name is in the Book of Life.”