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All-Africa Alliance Youth Conference

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When I heard about the 2013 All-Africa Alliance Youth Conference (UJAC in French), to be held in Kankan, Guinea, from August 12–19, 2013, I sensed an inner tug to go. This longing remained with me throughout my last two years of college. A month before the biennial event was to begin it didn’t look like I was going to make it. I was still in the United States, consumed with job applications and interviews. I was prepared to let the dream slip away, but God made a way for me to go. By the end of that month, I had accepted a job offer, had flown to Burkina Faso to spend several weeks with my family and was boarding a bus with my Burkinabé friends to attend the conference. Despite my lack of faith, God opened the door!

The conference, which drew 500 African Alliance youth—mostly from Guinea, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon and Mali—was a blast. I spent each day with three good friends, sitting through the many sessions, eating Guinean food, drinking tea, playing soccer and laughing until, overtaken by sheer exhaustion, we hunkered down side-by-side on our shared foam pads for a couple hours of sleep.

But UJAC 2013 was more than just a good time. We were saturated with the Word of God and earnestly sought Him together. An African proverb warns of the duck, whose oily plumage allows it to swim in water without getting wet. After being washed in God’s presence, I didn’t want to be like the duck and come out dry—I want to continue dripping with praise to Him.

From the start of the conference, the delegates were united by a shared burden for troubled youth and a broken society. Just weeks before UJAC, Guinea’s city of N’Zerekore had been racked by brutal ethnic conflict that left more than 50 dead. Côte d’Ivoire was still rebuilding after a decade of civil war, and Mali was rebounding from a debilitating coup d’etat. All countries represented were struggling to overcome crippled societies with fatalistic mindsets. Tribalism, corruption, unemployment and poor education were the common realities in which it seemed everyone had a personal stake. In the midst of confusion and hopelessness, we gathered in Kankan to meet Jesus. We had questions, but He holds the answers.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Samuel Kamano from Guinea, reminded us that God’s nature is unity in diversity. He is three-in-one, plural and singular, communal and personal. Created in God’s image, we reflected His character with our unified spirit despite our diverse backgrounds. Throughout the week, we lifted our personal burdens together as a community.

The theme chosen for the week was a rousing call to action: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Our youthful arrogance was sobered by the extent of the task. Dr. Kamano emphasized that the command encompasses all nations, all people groups.

Pastor Yaho from Côte D’Ivoire expanded upon the all-inclusive nature of the gospel with messages on conflict mediation. The Bible tell us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” What steps are we taking to resolve conflict in our homes, communities, churches and nations? Why are we surprised when people groups become embittered against the church when we have failed to take them the gospel? Who are we forgetting or refusing to disciple?

As we go and make disciples, we were invited to consider the kind of disciples we are called to be and to make. Are our lives being daily renewed, or are we trapped in worldly mindsets? Are we building our lives on God’s principles? Are we infusing our disciples with the whole Word, which is the power of God?

Malian Pastor Daouda Zonou’s series on leadership qualities for the emergent church examined the cultural aspects we have allowed to creep into our church practices and our biblical interpretation. We were urged to build our life on Truth, which transcends both cultural norms and our own whims.

Even though we possess this great Truth, Pastor Sangoye of Gabon noted that many believers are fruitless in the areas of discipleship and stewardship. Confronting poverty, he encouraged us to understand who Jesus is. “From Him, and through Him, and for Him are all things.” He is both the finality of every endeavor and the means by which to achieve it. Jesus is a sure investment because with Him nothing is lost.

UJAC founder Rev. Yiranou Traoré from Mali reminded us that investing in Jesus is both our responsibility and ensures our security. After recounting the story of lives sacrificed in bringing the gospel to West Africa, Rev. Traoré asked, “How, then, can we remain silent? This message transforms!” Dr. Kamano added in his final address, “When we fail to proclaim the gospel, our societies continue to suffer.”

As the conference concluded, there was already a feeling of victory over past failures and the burdens we currently face. A tangible spirit of hope had been ignited by God’s presence about what He will do in West Africa and in all nations as He empowers us to go and make disciples.

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