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Togo December 2015

Undisclosed Location November 28 - December 12, 2015

We are collaborating with École Supérieure Baptiste de Théologie de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ESTABAO). This is a French speaking Baptist seminary.

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Field Notes   Togo December 2015

Dec  11th,  2015End of Training

It’s our final day of teaching here in Togo.  I’m done teaching my course (OT Background) and Tom will be teaching his last class session (OT Biblical Theology) in a few hours. It has been a challenge for us to teach so much material in a 30 hour course and even more so having to do it through a translator.  It has also been a challenge to respond to the many questions that the students have each day during the class.  We’re thankful for their questions because it shows they are thinking.

Their questions has challenged me to think through the Scripture and to trust the Lord for wisdom in how to respond. For example, yesterday in my class, we were studying through the different people groups living in Palestine when Israel came out of Egypt and the wilderness. One student asked why Israel needed to conquer and drive out the Canaanites who were living in land that was already promised to them?  Why didn’t God simply give them the land without having to fight for it? It was a good question.

I’m so thankful that the Lord enabled me to think of a response. God wanted His people to learn how trust Him. He wanted them to continually depend upon Him each time they went into battle.  He wanted them to recognize that victory was not going to come about through their own ability, wisdom and strength but through Him alone. And when that happens God, rather than man, receives all the glory. If God simply gave Israel the land without having any challenges before them, they would never learn how to trust Him. They would also miss the opportunity to glorify Him.  It’s all about God’s glory.  I then challenged the students to think about the obstacles that God places before us so that we can learn to trust Him and not in ourselves to work things out.

We are so thankful for the two weeks of ministry here at the seminary. Tom and I are praying that our courses will be used by the Lord to help equip these future pastors and church leaders to advance His church in Togo and in other countries in West Africa.

Pray for us as we head to the airport this evening and begin our long journey home to our wives. We miss them.


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Dec  9th,  2015In Search for a Better Communication

Weymann and I are approaching our last 3 days in Lome, Togo. Our time has been insightful, hopefully for our students, but certainly for us. As Weymann and I casually reflect on the challenges of teaching through translation, from English to French in Togo, we wondered if such a process could be strengthened in order to result in a more effective impartation of the theology being taught; a more strategic effort to cultivating a better complement between teaching and translation. 

The students at Ecole Superieure Baptiste De Theologie De L'Afrique De L'ouest (ESBTAO) don't seem to lack a hunger for knowing the Word of God. It is encouraging when a student has the attitude like Jacob, "I won't let you go until you bless me.” They seem so demanding for understanding. The challenge before us has more to do with accurate communication between French speaking students and English speaking teachers.

Mawena Akakpo asked my translator and me to go very slow, not because he was not getting the gist of what was being taught, but because he wanted to savor every thought for a complete understanding. Padibalaki Koffee Awi, a student with a good working knowledge of English, often engages with my translator to discuss the right word in French that better communicates the theological thought being taught.

There also appears to be a certain student behavior that operates on understood communication. The students remain quiet and silent until they get the theology being taught, and see how that theology relates to their life as Africans at home and in the streets. Once this understanding happens, the students erupt in discussion, input, questions, and good critical dialogue like the chatter of a lively rainforest; understood communication is so important to the teaching process.

In the casual musings of Weymann and myself, we considered how translation is often a casual facility. We were not necessarily thinking of Togo, but that of a broader global world where oral translation is necessary. 

From a layman's understanding of the art of communication from one language to another, in our case, from English to French, we wondered if it would be helpful to give more careful thought and strategy to the relationship between translator and teacher. It would be good to have missionaries and teachers who are skilled in the disciplines of such communication, help us teachers think through a more skillful way of communication from one language to another for we are merely teachers feeling the gaps in effective communication. 

It seems that the translator is at least as significant as the teacher for he or she is the final communicator of theology. That communication demands careful precision of thought and expression. As the use of translation and translators continues as a necessary means of communication, it would seem helpful to have one on the field who could give focused attention to such communication. 

Well, just some passing thoughts that will stimulate better thoughts among skilled practitioners in the disciplines of language communication. 


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It’s Sunday morning. The first week of teaching has gone by so very quickly.  Tom and I have had enjoyed our time with our students. Yesterday we had a little time to see a little bit of the city and to also have dinner with a missionary family, Trevor and Kimberly Yoakum and their children, who serve at the Seminary. Trevor is the only full-time resident faculty member. The Seminary could definitely use another missionary faculty member from the U.S. to help out with the teaching. (Contact TLI if you’re interested.)

This morning Tom and I will be attending an international church that meets on the chapel here on campus. Tom will be preaching. Pray for him and for his translator. Later we will have some time to review and get ready for another full week of teaching. This week students in both Tom’s class (Old Testament Biblical Theology) and my class (Old Testament Background) will have a research paper due and a final exam to take. Pray for the student and us as we conclude the final week of classes. Pray that what they learn through the two courses would help them not only in their understanding of God’s Word but also in how they handle it.   


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Dec  2nd,  2015Excellence and Reputation in Lome, Togo

Weymann and I are looking at our 4th day of teaching in Lome, Togo at Ecole Superieure Baptiste De Theologie De L'Ouest (ESBTAO). Yes, the name of the school is in French and so is the language of the students, adding a challenge to teaching the courses Weymann and I have before us. Old Testament Background and Old Testament Theology demand careful communication from the teacher and active engagement from the student. To complement the challenge is finding creative ways to assess the students' grasp of the subject matter. And, this is 'formal' education, rather than 'informal,' meaning that the courses are as demanding as master level courses among the best of US seminaries; such formal education gives significance to TLI's curriculum development. Here are some encouraging words to TLI and ESBTAO:
  • The Yoakum family have been fantastic hosts and their family professional competence gives dignity to the work of leadership training on the mission field. Trevor Yoakum paid a sincere compliment to TLI saying, "Every team from TLI has been a positive complement to the ministry of ESBTAO and morale of both students and faculty." Trevor recited joyful stories and named specific TLI team members with endearing affection -- TLI is welcomed.
  • The competence level and serious professionalism given to the 'whole' student at ESBTAO is impressive, even intimidating at times. The demand for excellence is of utmost priority among ESBTAO faculty and administration. This will positively challenge TLI. For example, there are 3 years of courses. Trevor commented that the administrative board at the highest level is demanding that teachers in the 3rd year have no less that a PhD.
  • Weymann is a veteran of Togo, having been here; I am having my first go at teaching at ESBTAO. The wisdom of TLI in giving one or a few schools to one International Trainer to be the point person, shows its helpfulness in Togo, especially in its formal setting. It allows for an informed  partnership among faculty, administration, and indigenous leadership with TLI for keeping in concert for a common unity of purpose.. 
There so much more that I can and want to say but the length of this post already exceeds the recommended amount of words. But, as these next 2 weeks progress, Weymann and I will have more intimate reflections on students of Lome, Togo. Pray for us ... Tom Brown


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Nov  30th,  2015First Teaching Day

Tom and I arrived in the city of Lome last night about 7:30pm and after about waiting an hour to get through immigration, we finally were welcomed by a missionary family serving at the Seminary and the Director's wife. After a short drive we got settled in our rooms on the campus of the seminary.  After a long day and a half of travel, we retired for the night. 

This morning I started teaching my class on Old Testament Backgrounds. There were about 14 students that enrolled in my class..


I recognized a number of them that took the class I taught in October 2014.  After going through the syllabus of the course and explaining about the course assignments, I started teaching through the first two lessons of the course.  

Tom just completed teaching his first class on Old Testament Theology this afternoon. He had about 17 students enrolled in his class.


Please pray for us as we continue to teach and interact with the students in our classes.. Pray also for the students, especially those who are taking both courses. They have a lot of assignments to complete over the course of the next two weeks. Pray that these courses will help equip them for their current and future ministry.

For thise Building Up of His Body,



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