I have just returned from what might be the most encouraging and emboldening trip I have been on. The trip was over 13 days. I laid my head down in Greece, Ethiopia, SE Asia, Thailand, and Vietnam, in addition to the layovers in multiple countries. I went with a group to capture on video the ministry of TLI. It was for me the first time I have been able to capture the breadth and depth of TLI’s ministry.
In Greece we interviewed two graduates. You can read a little bit about it here. One of the graduates is named Javad. He is an Iranian refugee who came to Athens 8 years ago. He went through the TLI courses, and now uses what he has learned to preach on Sundays at the church he planted. He also uses our curriculum (which we translated into Farsi) to disciple new believers converting from Islam. I’ve also personally visited with our Eritrean graduates who put what they have learned to use every week.
I then went to Ethiopia during a state of emergency. It was certainly interesting! We drove 40 minutes outside the capital, which was about the distance Americans were allowed to travel. I arrived at 8:30 for classes that were to start at 9:00am. At 10:30 classes got started and a number of students arrived after noon. Typical Africa. In the various classes were 40 Christian leaders and pastors. One pastor has planted a church in the red light district of his city. Another man planted a church in a Muslim-dominated area. A woman in our class did not know of any trained women leaders. She wants to start a regional women’s ministry. I stood outside listening to classes. A teacher asked: "What is the Bible." A student replied: "The Bible is a god. That is what John 1:1 teaches." I was able to then listen to our teacher undo this kind of thinking. It was amazing.
In SE Asia I got altitude sickness. It was 7,100 feet in the valley and 10,100 feet where we walked. There are about 10,000 believers in the country. There might be 20 fellowships of with national believers. I was able to share the gospel with one man and give him my Bible. Pray for him. The Christians who are there are going to follow up with him. He had never seen a New Testament. Starting next week we are going to be training 15 pastors. What a great opportunity for us to help a church that is in infancy.
We finished in Vietnam. We met with two of our workers serving at Hanoi Bible College. The library for the entire school was contained in four book shelves. Daniel Owens, one of our missionaries, published the first Hebrew Grammar in Vietnamese and has just published a dictionary of theological terms. Jon Hoglund, after teaching in Russian for 6 years in Ukraine, is now learning Vietnamese in order to teach at the school. They are both amazing men who have amazing wives and children. Both have PhDs from Wheaton.
All that to say I am encouraged. TLI as outgrown my ability to keep track of everything that is going on. I was so grateful for the opportunity to see firsthand some of the places where we serve. I hope I can share the videos we created early next year. The Lord has been kind to use TLI.
Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International. As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.