One key aspect of The PEACE Plan is fostering connections between local churches to share learnings – even across continents! Prior to COVID, Brandywine Community Church had been partnered up with a group of pastors from across the African nation of Guinea. Their members would travel to provide in person training. The restrictions of this season haven’t stopped the church from continuing to pour into their friends in Africa, and in fact, they provided an opportunity for the Guinean church to show up in a big way! Check out this feature below on the partnership from The Daily Reporter. If you would like to learn how your church can partner with other local churches in your area or across the globe, email info@thePEACEplan.com.
Partnership between church, African country continues, virtually for now
By Anne Durham Smith – Jan. 23, 2021
When men from a Greenfield church bid goodbye to their new friends in Guinea in early March 2020, they left with hope-filled plans for the year ahead.
Those plans included quarterly visits and leadership training for a group of 14 pastors. The sessions would be designed to help them nurture their congregations and also empower their members to be agents of change in education, health care and other aspects of life for the country’s more than 12 million people.
The group from Greenfield has not been back to the west African nation since. Instead, they saw doors close behind them on their journey back, as the novel coronavirus made its way around the globe and prompted travel restrictions.
“We got home just as they shut down the countries from travel,” said Jim Flood, PEACE Plan administrator at Brandywine Community Church. “We left Paris, and they shut down Paris.”
Yet the relationship they embarked on has continued via videoconferencing and flash drives, as those involved refashion the methods for delivering the content — and as churches growing in their sense of mission step forward to meet new COVID-related needs around them.
The PEACE Plan matches vibrant American churches with countries in Africa in partnerships to help combat five “global giants”: spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. They seek to act in five areas named in the acronym PEACE: Plant/Partner with churches to promote reconciliation; Equip servant leaders; Assist the poor; Care for the sick; and Educate the next generation. It’s meant to mobilize ordinary Christians to seek out ways to take action in these areas.
Saddleback Church in California, where “The Purpose-Driven Life” author Rick Warren is founding pastor, has had such a relationship with Rwanda for 16 years. Saddleback invited Brandywine and other congregations it deemed healthy churches to become partners with additional African nations.
Joseph Morlu remembers hearing about the PEACE plan after the president of the fellowship of churches he’s part of attended a conference of African nations in early 2019 and came back saying there was a church identified to partner with Guinea.
French is spoken in Guinea, and “’Peace’ is not a French term; it is English,” Morlu said, speaking by videoconference from Guinea. “I was curious to know what PEACE was going to be.” Having read some of Warren’s book, he became more curious when he heard Warren was involved.
When a group of four from Brandywine first arrived in Guinea in November 2019, Brandywine senior pastor Mark Wright was quickly invited to speak to a large gathering of the leaders from various Guinean churches going on during their visit. The church leaders seemed receptive to his encouragement to them to work in even deeper unity.
When the group left, they planned to carry out leadership training with a team of 14 pastors, who would then train others. Only the first such visit was made, ending in early March 2020 just before coronavirus-prompted restrictions.
Leadership training is still the plan, but the Greenfield-to-Guinea communication has been carried out via Whatsapp, emails and Zoom instead of personal visits. Friday, the group was scheduled to have a Zoom videoconference with the team from Brandywine.
Flood and others have worked to reformat PEACE Plan materials. They mailed 14 flash drives, one for each pastor in the cohort. As the Guinean pastors cover each section and implement pieces of the plan in their congregations, they receive passwords to open up the next portion of the material.
Meanwhile, “COVID came like a flood upon all of us,” said Jonathan Ballah, another pastor in the group of 14. Amid travel restrictions in the spring, there has not thus far been the ability to fully gather churches to pass along the training. Yet the needs around them were great; his church gave away food, soap and masks several times.
Morlu said in partnership with Brandywine, the church leaders in the group were able to distribute 7,000 pieces of soap, along with 500 lidded buckets to keep water clean. They were given out among educational districts to encourage hand washing.
“That was something that brought the church on the scene,” he said.
Ballah said as other groups and organizations stepped forward to help, “It really brought some sense of awakeness. … ‘The church exists in Guinea.’ … We are also assisting in a time of crisis.”
Guineans are still working to distance and wear masks, the pastors said, though the virus’s grip has somewhat loosened there for now. The pastors look forward to the day when the leadership lessons they’re discussing and implementing now can be shared with fellow pastors in the capital city of Conakry, and with tens of thousands more pastors in the country’s interior. They are then meant to empower laypeople in their congregations to also be on mission.
“Including the laity of the church into a training like this from the beginning has been an eye-opener for me,” Ballah said. “That’s my big takeaway right now.”
Morlu said he eagerly anticipates future sections of the training.
“(It) raises my appetite to know more. This really is what the church is supposed to be doing,” he said.
“We pray that others can also make themselves available and buy into the vision to see how God wants to transform our nation.”