Established in 2004
In the year 2004 God led Rev. Richard C. Whitcomb, the International Director of Agape Gospel Mission and founder of Agape Bible College, along with missionaries Terry Nutter and JC Ebersole, to launch Agape Association of Bible Schools (AABS) in Accra, Ghana. The Lord gave them a vision to expand the training of pastors and church leaders in such a way that it would reach many more men and women in many more places than could possibly be trained at Agape Bible College (a campus-based college) alone. They envisioned that this training would increase exponentially if it were made available “on-site”, that is, in the local churches and communities across Africa and beyond.
At the start AABS offered a curriculum of 48 theological courses, a packet of documents containing guidance to begin and operate a Bible school, and numerous additional resources for AABS member schools. This package of resources has at times been referred to as “a Bible school in a box.” In October 2004 AABS organized its first annual Bible school equipping conference in Accra, Ghana with 25 Bible school directors in attendance.
By God’s grace AABS has had resounding success and enjoyed steady growth each year. In 2006 it reached the milestone of resourcing Bible school members in all 10 regions of Ghana, as well as a few more African countries. The year 2007 saw Bible schools in Niger, a country which is 97% Muslim, begin using the AABS curriculum. In 2009 AABS appointed a national director in Nigeria to oversee the many member schools there and expand to even more schools in that country. The following year a Ghana national director was appointed and in 2011 God provided a director for Togo and Benin.
Having been used by God to birth the ministry, Rev. Whitcomb felt led by God to hand it over to a larger and more experienced organization that could develop it further. In early 2011, after prayer and consultation with other leaders, he sensed God guiding him to release the ownership of AABS from AGM into an affiliation with Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM), an evangelical mission society with headquarters near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. JC Ebersole continued to serve as the Executive Director of AABS.
Following this transfer, the AABS ministry became incorporated with the government of Ghana and the name of the Association was changed to Africa Association of Bible Schools, although the AABS acronym remains the same. This new name reflects its vision to expand across the African continent. God continues to enlarge AABS and grant it new opportunities. In 2011 AABS began offering a 62-course curriculum for Bible schools and in 2012 opened a branch office in Nigeria. By 2013 there were hundreds of member Bible Schools in ten countries equipping leaders to disciple the nations while building the local church. Numerous Bible schools have also been resourced with the AABS curriculum in 5 additional African countries and several countries of Asia and Europe.
In 2016 it seemed good to both JC Ebersole, the AABS Executive Director, and EMM for AABS to form a board of directors and register as a nonprofit entity in the USA. The Board was formed and in 2017 the ministry transitioned from the oversight of EMM to the authority of its AABS-US Board of Directors. Also in 2017 national directors were appointed in Liberia and Sierra Leone. In 2018 a West Africa Director was appointed to oversee the national directors in West Africa, expand AABS to all 16 countries in this region, and appoint national directors in those countries currently without one.
As God leads, AABS anticipates expanding to all the countries of Africa, with a national director in each country who is assisted by a local support team and prayer team. May God be praised.
THE VISION OF AABS
The Africa Association of Bible Schools is a voluntary association of like-minded independent Bible schools in Africa. By uniting together we can share resources and experience in order to increase our effectiveness in teaching believers and training ministers.