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Missions 101

The Ethiopian Eunuch in Togo

Dec. 19, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

During the last month of this year TLI staff will be sharing stories of how God has used us in 2014. This one is from Josh Montague. Enjoy.

In October, a team of TLI teachers was in Lome, Togo teaching a number of courses at a seminary. Our teachers taught Old Testament Exegesis, Old Testament Theology, Old Testament Survey, while I was tasked with New Testament Exegesis. 

As we examined narrative passages in the New Testament, we looked at the typical story structure found in much of the New Testament. From an initial setting, a conflict is introduced that moves into a climax. A resolution of some sort follows and then the narrative concludes with a new setting. Some semblance of this pattern can be found in many, if not most, of the New Testament stories.

We worked through a number of examples, paying particular attention to how the emphasis of the story was often found in either the climax or the new setting. Eventually we made our way to the account of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. The Ethiopian eunuch is a servant of Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians. As we noted this historical detail, I reminded the students of the connection to the Old Testament queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 10:1. In the Old Testament, an African queen travels to Jerusalem and encounters the glory of God. In the New Testament, one of Jesus’ commissioned disciples is taken by the Holy Spirit to encounter a representative of an African queen.

I mentioned the connection because of the obvious African connections, but the students seemed more excited than I was expecting. There was a buzz in the room. As I queried them, they mentioned that the Togolese people trace their roots to Ethiopia. So we were examining a story with great genealogical significance and their enthusiasm level was noticeably affected.

The book of Acts traces the movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and then then to the “ends of the earth”. Sitting here in a Wisconsin coffeeshop, I’m at the ends of the earth according to the New Testament’s perspective. In a small seminary in west Africa, these men were able to see the gospel’s historic spread from the location of Jesus’ death and resurrection to where their ancestors were said to have lived.

I’m not an anthropologist and I make no claim to understand the genealogical roots of west African people groups, but I can read Scripture and see Jesus’ promise to Philip and the rest of his disciples in Acts 1:8: “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

About half of the men in my class were pastors in the city of Lome. A number of them, however, were planning on planting churches in small villages in the more remote areas of northern Togo, where the gospel has not penetrated at all. We were teaching men who would take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus’ promise was fulfilled as the Spirit moved Philip and others to witness to people such as the Ethiopian eunuch. Christian tradition has this Ethiopian official taking the news of Jesus back to his people in Africa. Jesus’ promise is still being fulfilled as faithful Togolese pastors plant churches in areas where there is no gospel witness.

 

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The Story of the Browns

Dec. 18, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

During the last month of this year TLI staff will be sharing stories of how God has used us in 2014. Enjoy.

I love Aaron and Meg Brown and their three little girls. I met Aaron for the first time three years ago on a flight of stairs at Bethlehem Baptist Church. I was coming out of a meeting. TLI had just gotten off the ground and Aaron was working as a janitor trying to figure out what he was going to do next in life.

We started talking and 15 minutes later I asked him if he wanted to be sent to Cameroon as a missionary to teach at a seminary. He said "Yes, but let me talk to my wife and get back to you." He got back to me quickly and said they wanted to do it.

This is not how people are supposed to get to the field. There should be interviews and tests and the10835287_660330775865_1459994883734671280_o mapping out of preparation. I highly recommend it. This was just different. For the next six months we tried to work out the details to get the Browns to Cameroon. It blew up in our face. Still wanting to serve in missions, Aaron became a curriculum writer and would play a large role in shaping what we have now published.

Two years ago an opportunity in Uganda appeared. Again, we gave the green light and a house was even built for them. Due to some hard circumstances the Browns could not go again. Aaron, being a man of his word paid the rent on the house for over a year despite not moving.

Still, with a desire to get to the field and Uganda on their mind, the Browns pushed forward. I won't lie and say it was smooth sailing. It was hard.  However, this past summer they went to Missionary Training International to aquire solid cross-cultural tools. Again - a departure date was set. It was mid-October and they had found a great deal on a ticket and needed to leave by December 1. The problem - they needed about 10% more in support and $30,000 in startup costs. 

And so we prayed and Aaron got to work. Four weeks later he had $30,000 in pledged support and 10% more in monthly donations. As Aaron told me, "It was like God dropped manna from heaven so we could go."

They have arrived in Uganda and had a challenging transition like most missionaries. Their story however has brought me great encouragement. On Dec 2 I was flying out to Atlanta to visit some friends. As I was about to board I went over to security to see the Browns passing through the metal detectors. They had said their goodbyes and were on their way. It was a privilege for me to be there in the hallway at Bethlehem. It was a greater privilege to see them at the airport, full of tears and faith.

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Be Careful How You Translate

Dec. 16, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

COCKTAIL LOUNGE IN NORWAY

"Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar."

DOCTOR'S OFFICE IN ROME

"Specialist in women and other diseases."

HOTEL IN ACAPULCO

"The manager has personally passed all the water served here."

INFORMATION BOOKLET ABOUT USING A HOTEL AIR CONDITIONER IN JAPAN

"Cools and heats: If you want condition of warm air in your room, please control yourself."

AN AD BY A HONG KONG DENTIST

"Teeth extracted by the latest methodists."

IN A SWISS RESTAURANT

"Our wines leave you nothing to hope for."

IN THE LOBBY OF A MOSCOW HOTEL ACROSS FROM A RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTERY

"You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composer, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday."

IN A HOTEL IN VIENNA

"In case of fire, do your best to alarm the hotel porter."

AIRLINE TICKET OFFICE IN COPENHAGEN

"We take your bags and send them in all directions."

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Watch as Pastor Uses Invisible Power to Knock Down Church Members

Dec. 11, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

This is not an outlier, but something practiced regularly throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Who exported this type of theology? Or was it even exported at all?

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Teaching Mark to Iranian and Pakistani Immigrants

Dec. 10, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

During the last month of this year TLI staff will be sharing stories of how God has used us in 2014. Enjoy! Today comes from Josh Montague.

On my first trip with TLI a year ago, I had the privilege of teaching Iranian and Pakistani immigrants in Athens. I had just finished preaching through Mark’s Gospel in my church in Wisconsin and was now working through that book with with these men and women entering Europe, many as political or religious refugees.

Mark’s Gospel has two main themes. First, Mark wants to show that Jesus is God. He does this by0D103D12-316E-41AD-9B29-8011FA23D1AF_mw1024_s_n showcasing Jesus’ miraculous ability, his authoritative teaching, and the confessions by men like Peter and the Roman centurion. Second, Mark repeatedly emphasizes the high call to discipleship that Jesus demands of his followers. “Follow me” is a common command. “Deny yourselves and take up your cross” is a central teaching.

So when I taught this in the suburbs of Madison, there was a cultural understanding of Jesus’ divinity. No one here is surprised to learn of the Bible’s presentation of Jesus as God. But when you teach about the radical discipleship to which Jesus calls us, suburban Christians are confronted with their idols of security, possessions, comfort, and wealth. 

Skip back to Athens. When I told these immigrant church leaders that Jesus calls us to lay aside all else for the sake of knowing and following him, many of these immigrants shrugged their shoulders and a few even verbally said, “We’ve done that!” Some in the group had left Iran because they wrote pamphlets about the Bible. They were fleeing to Europe for their lives, leaving behind families and homes. But when you teach these students from Muslim backgrounds the clear biblical teaching of Jesus’ divinity, there’s a weight in the room. There’s no cultural assumption about Jesus being God in Iran. Many of these students would have thought this teaching utterly blasphemous just a few months prior to our study.

The Bible is so rich, not just in our own personal reading, study, and preaching, but in it’s impact across different cultures. Comfortable, suburban Christians need to be stirred up by Jesus’ call to radical discipleship. Iranian and Pakistani immigrants need to see the clear presentation of Jesus’ divinity in Mark’s Gospel. Mark, inspired by the Holy Spirit, beautifully weaves these themes together and the global church is still benefitting from that ancient text.

 

 

 

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