Joseph, Laura, Gilbert, Danny,and Bonnie Consford are missionaries in West Africa.
Joe was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1977. His father was in the Air Force and was stationed at Buckley Field east of Denver. When his father got out of the service, the family moved back to deep East Texas. The pastor in Denver had recommended a church in Center, Texas.
Joseph grew up in the Central Baptist Church in Center, Texas. He started going to school when he was eight months old because his mother taught in the Christian school. His family attended every service possible. Joseph was eager to learn and be a part of any activity. Joe was saved at the age of four; he was led to the Lord by his father at home.
Joe’s favorite thing was to be close to any preacher. He loved the guest speakers, his pastor, or any other pastor he could get to know. When he was about nine years old, he noticed that the preachers did not want him around as much. His parents thought and prayed about the matter. Joe loved to polish anything. So his dad made him a shoeshine kit. Joe made money to buy shoe polish and brushes. At every service, he was ready to polish the guest preacher’s boots just so that he could be near him. Many preachers passed through his church. Joe tried to polish shoes for each of them.
Every time that camp, youth conference, a pastor’s conference, or a youth rally came around, Joe was in the vehicle ready to go. Joe surrendered to be a missionary to Africa at the age of twelve after hearing Dr. Jim Vineyard preach at his church’s missions conference. When Joe graduated from high school at Central Baptist Christian School , he was ready to go to college. One week later, he was on his way to Oklahoma Baptist College to start to work for Brother Ross. He never looked back. He knew God wanted to use him as a missionary in Africa. Joe began attending OBC in August 1995 and graduated in May 2000 with a Missions diploma.
Laura was born in Independence, Missouri, in 1975. At that time, her parents, Adrian and Bonnie Van Manen, were teaching in a Christian school in Kansas City, Missouri. From there, they moved to Springfield, Missouri. When Laura was six years old, they moved to the Windsor Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Laura’s dad has been the music director there since May 1982. Laura’s mother has taught English both in the Christian school as well as the college.
Laura was saved at the age of eight; her father led her to the Lord at home. She had a tender heart and was always open to the Lord’s leading. Laura surrendered to missions at the age of fifteen during a youth conference at her home church. At that time, she did not know where the Lord would have her go as a missionary; but, she was willing to wait on His direction in her life to show her exactly where He would have her go.
After graduating from high school at Windsor Hills Baptist Schools in May 1993, Laura began attending Oklahoma Baptist Collegein August 1993. In May 1997, she graduated with a Missions diploma. While in college, she had the privilege of taking a missions trip to Ukraine. Upon graduation from college, Laura was still uncertain as to exactly where the Lord would have her go. After talking to her pastor about what she should do, she stayed there at the church and continued working in the church office. She was able to help with the monthly missions magazine, Fundamental Baptist World Missions.
In July 1998, during the annual Youth Conference at Windsor Hills Baptist Church, Joe and Laura’s pastors were talking one afternoon. They saw Joe walking across the parking lot. Brother Dodson asked Brother Vineyard why he had not found a wife for Joe yet. Brother Vineyard replied that Joe would be a fool not to marry that short girl who worked for him in his office. They motioned for Joe to come over where they were. They let him in on the conversation and told him that he should go right then to ask Laura to sit by him at the activities that night. Brother Vineyard also told him that Laura really liked cheese. He told Joe of a certain place that sold good cheese. He said that he should go buy some and give it to Laura the next day. Joe said that he did not have any money. Brother Vineyard said that Brother Dodson would give him the $20 that he needed.
Joe went straight to the cafeteria where Laura was helping prepare the evening meal. Joe asked Laura to sit by him, and she said that she would.
The next day, as Laura was working in the office, there was a knock at the door. It was Joe with the cheese.
That evening, Brother Vineyard preached a message entitled, “Give Me that Torch!” He had lined up several different missionaries to come up and pass the torch along to others who had surrendered to missions. Joe was one of the torch carriers. While Joe was on the platform, Dr. Vineyard said, “Joe thinks he’s going to marry one of my secretaries. Did you buy her that cheese?” Joe replied, “Yes sir.”
Joe and Laura were married December 15, 2000, and began deputation in January 2001. After completing deputation in October 2002, they began language school in Albertville, France, in January 2003. After completing language school, they returned to the States to prepare their container for shipping.
They arrived in Ivory Coast in March 2004. Because of civil unrest, they had to leave in November 2004. Laura was expecting a baby, and it was recommended that they return to the States to have the baby.
Gilbert John Consford was born on March 18, 2005, at 11:16 P.M. at Deaconess Hospital in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. After Laura was in labor for twenty-four hours, the doctor took the baby by c-section because the baby’s head still had not dropped. Gilbert weighed 8 lbs. 1 oz. and was 19 inches long. Laura’s family was there at the hospital waiting with Joe and Laura.
After the birth of Gilbert, the Consfords took their first furlough while they were waiting for the political situation in Ivory Coast to stabilize. During the remainder of 2005 they were able to visit many of their supporting churches as well as raise some additional support for their growing family and ministry needs.
When the Consfords were ready to return to Ivory Coast, all of the missionaries had left the country due to the political situation. Therefore, they served in Ghana from January 2006 to May 2007. They were able to take care of another missionary’s work while he furloughed.
Danny James Consford was born by c-section on Thursday, October 26, 2006, at 9:20 A.M. at the Port Clinic in Takoradi, Ghana. He weighed 7 lb. 8 oz. and was 20 inches long. Having a baby in Ghana was quite an experience. They thought that pain medicine was not needed because one would heal faster without it. After some insistence, pain medicine was given. Nana Consford was with them for his birth.
They returned to Ivory Coast in May 2007 and helped Pastor Maximin AKE of the Fundamental Baptist Church of Anyama get his Sunday school program more organized. This was a good six months where they were able to help the church and work on their French which had become VERY RUSTY since November 2004.
Laura’s parents came for a visit in May 2007. Laura’s dad made a trip to Ghana with Joe to get another load of furniture. They enjoyed playing with their grandsons. Just before they left to go back to the States, Joe’s sister Lori came for a visit as well.
In January 2008, Joe and Laura began to help Matt and Sarah Litson in the Fundamental Baptist Church of Belleville. Matt Litson had just started the church in November 2006, and he was scheduled for furlough in May of 2008. Matt asked Joe if he could oversee the new church while he and his family were on furlough.
The church in Belleville is a result of many years of prayer and soul-winning. Tom Vineyard first started soul-winning in this area about fifteen years ago. During 2004, this was the center of Joe’s soul winning efforts as well. When the Consfords left for the birth of Gilbert and for their furlough, Matt Litson started going door to door in Belleville as well. The people of the Fundamental Baptist Church of Anyama have been very faithful to work with children in this area as well as by means of neighborhood Bible clubs. For several years, the church even paid for a bus to run from Belleville to Anyama on Sunday mornings. When the price of transportation began to climb due to the hike in fuel prices and number of people needing transportation, it just became more feasible to rent a building and start a church in that neighborhood.
Matt Litson and Romeo TEBI, a national, began holding services the first week of November 2006. On the church’s first anniversary, there were 120 in attendance with a Sunday morning average of 65 and a Wednesday evening average of 20.
A young national, Marcel, who has been very faithful to the Lord since his salvation in 2004, began to have a burden to reach teens in Belleville. He approached Matt and asked how he could be involved in the ministry. Matt asked Joe if he would be willing to train Marcel to work with teens. So, in January 2008, Joe and Marcel started a teen Sunday school class in Belleville. Marcel is now doing an excellent job of teaching this class and working with these teens. His class averages twenty young people each week.
In January 2008, the Belleville church held its first Missions Conference. The church people had a great time of fellowship with the Ivorian missionaries, and the people seemed to realize that they too have a responsibility to reach the lost as well.
The Belleville church held a farewell service for the Litsons on May 6, 2008, the day before they left on furlough. It was a great service with standing room only in their little rented church building. The singing was memorable, and the messages were encouraging; but the Holy Spirit did something special that night. He knit the hearts of the people in that church together, and they started to have a desire to see a church established in that neighborhood!
The Consfords arrived in Ivory Coast on November 2, 2010, which was one day after the first round of the presidential elections. There had been no elections in that country for ten years. The first round of the elections narrowed it down to two candidates. The second round of the elections was held on November 28, 2010. Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner over the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo claimed fraud at the polling stations in the northern part of the country and refused to step down.
After spending weeks at the house without being able to venture out, there was a Town Hall meeting with the US Ambassador. He recommended that US citizens leave the country because of the uncertainty of the situation. After talking to their pastor about the situation there, the Consfords traveled to Ghana by car. After their departure, things really heated up in Ivory Coast. Many people were killed, vehicles burned, and homes and businesses looted. Things are still very unstable in Ivory Coast at this time. After months of fighting, Gbagbo has been captured, and Ouattara has taken his place as president. However,it will be a long road to recovery for that country.
The Consfords began exploring possibilities to see where the Lord would use them next. During this time, their vehicle broke down and was down for ten weeks. They rode to church with another missionary family during that time. The church that they attended was struggling and had no pastor. (Joe had taught Sunday school at this church when the Consfords lived in Ghana in 2006.) Rather than let the church die, Joe Consford volunteered to become the missionary pastor to get the church back on its feet until a national pastor can be trained. On April 17, 2011, the church voted him in as missionary pastor.
The Consfords are excited about the possibilities and opportunities at the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Takoradi, Ghana. At some point in the future, they would like to return to Ivory Coast when it stabilizes. They are happily serving as missionaries in West Africa.