HISTORY OF GAP MISSIONS: IVORY COAST
The ministry began as “Missionary Aviation Outreach” in 1989 when James & LaNelle George began to prepare for their move to West Africa. The goal was outreach to the Gueré people living in the remote regions of Ivory Coast. After several years of preparation and language school-they were ready. They left for Ivory Coast and began their search for the first place God wanted them to plant a church. He showed them. Twenty three people accepted the Lord during that first meeting. The next morning, the village chief accepted Christ. Within eighteen months the ministry expanded to three neighboring villages. More than 350 people left their traditional animistic religion and trusted Jesus as their Savior and the first church was established in the village called Guiri. Inquisitive visitors from other more distant villages came to the church- and the George's home- begging them to bring the truth to their people. With thousands of villages needing to hear the Gospel, James & LaNelle realized they would never be able to reach all these villages alone. They began to pray for the Lord to call nationals into the ministry. The George's desire was to teach & train these local believers in order that they might reach their own people. God answered those prayers. Before long they had dozens of men and women entering the Bible Training Institute. Everyone who could come received Biblical training. Pastors received additional discipleship to help them lead. The nationals had a strong hunger for the Word and many walked for great distances to hear and to learn. Today, many of those beginning believers now help teach & train other nationals. Dozens of churches sprang up among the Guere tribe and literally thousands heard and responded to the preaching of the Gospel. Then war hit.
In 2002, civil war divided Ivory Coast in half. People suffered greatly. Villages were burned. Thousands of people were killed in the western region where James & LaNelle ministered. Including close friends and ministry partners. Those who depended on gardens or small farms to sustain their families were chased from their homes and and lost their means of income and existence. Many people bundled up what belongings they had and fled. Many lives were lost in the war. Both soldier and civilian. The war is recorded as lasting only a short time, but the George's saw it's fighting for 10 long years. Some churches and communities were not heard from for the full ten years. However, the work continued during this time. Although the work was slower moving than before, God opened doors for the Gospel to get to more unreached ethnic groups. Mr. James and local pastors did their best to travel behind rebel lines and minister to these unreached tribes. The work was hard but fruitful and grace filled. Finally, the war ended, and so did the skirmishes. Everyone in Ivory Coast was eager to return to the previous prosperity of that nation. Unfortunately, war has many results. While the country has settled down, elections have gone smoothly, and life has returned to normal- many children have been left with no parents. In response to this, GAP Missions campaigned in the U.S.A. and opened an orphanage in a small fishing village by the coast. The orphanage is now the base of GAP MISSIONS in Ivory Coast. The mission work bounced back healthily after the war. So many were hungry for hope and saw the foolishness of man's violence. Now, with the three ministries: Evangelism of the unreached, The Bible & Training Institute, and Mondoukou Orphanage, GAP MISSONS/Africa is growing at a steady pace. Their are still dozens and dozens of unreached groups in Ivory Coast. GAP MISSIONS has now planted churches among 6 ethnic groups. All of whom had never before heard of Jesus. There are 108 ethnic groups in Ivory Coast. So the pursuit continues. After the war, James & LaNelle noticed that they had a greater ability to evangelize than they did disciple believers. So they began to pray and ask God to send them a young missionary family that they could mentor into leadership. That is where we, the Thompson's, come in. James and LaNelle have asked, and (more importantly) God has called, us to mentor under them-into leadership.The goal is for us (Jon Michael & Brittany) to increase the speed at which pastor's and evangelist's are trained, while also creating more partnerships in order to bring in more orphans. As God moves us to reach each of the ethnic groups, we will evangelize, train, and bring in the most at risk orphans. All of this work is possible because James & LaNelle faithfully followed God through thick and thin. They have spent the best years of their life sewing seeds and preparing a harvest. Now the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So we go to make more workers. That all may know the one we call Father and his son-Jesus Christ.