Missionary Francine Mafuk (red shirt) works with a group of young women in the SILO UMC area in Côte d’Ivoire to extend their education and offer alternative options to early marriage. (Photo: Courtesy of Francine Mafuk and Jean Claude Masuka Maleka)

By Christie R. House
With Francine Ilunga Mpanga Mufuk and Jean Claude Masuka Maleka
April 7, 2023 | ABIDJAN, CÔTE D’IVOIRE

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV)

The Rev. Dr. Jean Claude Masuka Maleka and Francine Ilunga Mpanga Mufuk, a missionary couple with Global Ministries, describe their work as revitalizing evangelism and church planting ministries in the United Methodist Church of Côte d’Ivoire. They train clergy and laity who have a passion for evangelism and planting new churches. They also recognize the need for social ministries to strengthen the capacity of people, helping them grow to their full potential to answer the call of Jesus to share God’s love and create community.

Helping children grow

Part of Francine’s work is to train Sunday School teachers for the church’s children’s ministry. She also directs a ministry with marginalized young girls and vulnerable children. Since COVID-19 disrupted village life in 2020, she has been cooking food for 150 children on a weekly basis. The feeding program is still growing, and each week she seeks to meet the challenge to feed more children.

Yet, through this program many children have seen improvement in their lives. Francine is supporting 66 disadvantaged girls and young women with small scholarships to make possible their access to education and counter the traditional practice of early marriage in the villages. In September, each girl receives an education kit, including a yearly tuition of $365.

During the 2021 academic year, six girls were among the best students at Alépé village. In 2022, 23 young women received their state diplomas. One, Priscille Kouakou, is now studying at Africa University in Zimbabwe. She told Francine, “I want to study psychology so that I can help other girls.”

The ministry for young girls and women transforms the lives of the girls and their families. Francine is currently looking for volunteers to teach at the vocational center to educate vulnerable girls.

Helping the church to grow

Since arriving in 2013, the Rev. Jean Claude Masuka Maleka and his team have trained 41 people and planted 56 churches.

“There is a great need to train many evangelists and church planters who share the gospel of Jesus Christ in new areas,” Jean Claude notes. “The UMC of Ivory Coast’s vision is to deploy more trained workers who are responding to the Great Commission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We are targeting the western and northern parts of Côte d’Ivoire and the neighboring countries (Guinea Bissau, Guinea-Conakry and Burkina Faso). The new United Methodist congregations are growing and creating Bible study groups within their communities. After gaining in membership, we build small missionary churches for 200 members. In 2021, we constructed five small temples and one big church, the UMC SILO, which I serve as a missionary pastor.”

Rev. Dr. Jean Claude Masuka Maleka offers prayer in the new SILO sanctuary. Photo: Courtesy of Jean Claude Masuka Maleka

The UMC SILO was first planted in 2015. Jean Claude’s team of evangelists and church planters started the work to offer Christ to people in a low-income area called Yopougon toit rouge. They discovered that many young people there were struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.

The team initiated a program that focused on drug abuse prevention, treatment, mental health and related areas, as well as community awareness of the problem. After two years, they started a church called SILO (Shilo in the Bible, means place of prayer). After two years of worship in a nonpermanent structure, they gained enough members and support to build the larger permanent church facility. This year they completed the roof over the sanctuary.

The SILO church roof frame over the sanctuary. The congregation has now completed the dome roof. Photo: Courtesy of Jean Claude Masuka Maleka

Both Francine and Jean Claude see their mission as participatory, inviting their UMC supporters to become involved in their mission in different ways.

Francine and Rev. Dr. Jean Claude Masuka Maleka. Photo: Jean Claude Masuka Maleka

“In God’s mission we can deliberately create space to develop relationships,” they said. “We develop healthy, long-term local and global partnerships in which we can be in mission together, seeing the gospel proclaimed and lived out in areas of compassion and justice.”

Christie R. House is a consultant writer and editor with Global Ministries and UMCOR. Francine Ilunga Mpanga Mafuk (Advance #3022068) and the Rev. Dr. Jean Claude Masuka Maleka (Advance #3021390), from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have served as missionaries in Côte d’Ivoire for 10 years.

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