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Trips

Cameroon March 2012

Douala, Cameroon March 6-17, 2012

Teaching in theology department of Dale Kietzman University and providing informal training for pastors in the area.

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

Field Notes   Cameroon March 2012

Mar  16th,  2012Friday Update

Dave and John left this evening. It has been a good week of teaching and learning from the pastors here. On Thursday we had our last class session and spent time with the students. They shared with us what they have learned in the class and it was clear that they want TLI to keep sending teachers to teach. They showed that the course has made a difference in their lives and were not shy to say that they have been wrong in their interpretation of Scripture. One pastor stood up and said that his church tradition is known for a lot of noise and no content. He said it is so good to have a serious session in interpretation. He hopes that they will move from being noisy to being serious about the truth of the gospel. According to this pastor, they have always thought that a lot of noise is evidence of the Spirit’s anointing but now they are seeing things differently. Another student, to our shock, said that he started the class believing that the Bible does have contradictions. In the end, he confessed that he now believes with all his heart that the Bible fits well together and does not contradict itself. These are just a few of the testimonies that were given.

The students, from the little that they had, gave gifts to all of us. They purchased African clothes and gave us. We received them with much joy. This is a giving culture and we have come to appreciate it.

Below are comments from Dave and John about their time here.

From Dave Sowers

“Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

Most of us have seen a baby’s intense desire for milk, but we don’t always see, or experience that level of desire for the word of God. But I saw that kind of hunger and thirst for God’s word this week in Douala. By God’s grace, there was a great eagerness to learn the Scriptures, and humility to acknowledge that they have not given the Bible the attention it rightfully deserves. On the last day of class several of them testified about how the classes had made a difference in their lives (when Philemon gets back he will create a link to video clips). And because these men are all pastors, whole churches will be influenced to be more serious about the word. I am thankful for the opportunity to see God working in the hearts of these students, and would say with Paul, “finally, brethren, pray that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified” (2 Thess. 3:1).

Dave Sowers

From John Bothof

"Being asked to put my experience teaching hermeneutics to pastor in Douala, Cameroon seems like an impossible task. Here goes! Everything I imagined that I would experience in Douala was blown out the door in the first two days. The word flexible has taken on a whole new meaning which is impossible to communicated in words (you got to come and experience it for yourself, and yes, I believe that is a plug). I have witnessed pastors who are hungry to learn how to interpret the Bible faithfully. Churches who hunger for training full of warmth and hospitality. A city in desperate need of well trained pastors who are faithfully ministering the Word of God and bringing good news to the spiritually confused and lost. And people just like me who need the warmth of God's reconciling power found by faith in Jesus Christ. Oh, before I forget I almost caused a riot (I'm embellishing a little) at 5:30 in the morning on Sunday because of the bread dropping incident. Douala has the craziest motorcycle drivers in the world. My son Isaiah has almost forgotten what I look like because I've been gone so long. And I have grown to love this work more each day and I regret leaving so soon. Last but not least, the greatest experience has been God's humbling of my heart to serve pastors. To God be the glory, and as I say with my kids at home with glasses raised high, 'and to the kingdom'. Amen."

John Bothof

When I have access to good internet, I will put up pictures of our time here. Thank you all again for all your prayers on our behalf.

 

Philemon

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Mar  15th,  2012Thursday Update

Today we finished up with teaching and spent time with the students encouraging them and listening to them tell us why they give thanks to God for our coming. We were once again reminded that training pastors here is important and strategic. As write this, Dr Randy Stinson and Gunnar are on their way back already. Dave and John leave tomorrow and I (Philemon) will travel to the village to visit my family for a few days. 

Here are some thoughts from Dr Stinson on his time here.

“On the last day of this trip, I have a few thoughts:

  1. This trip has been unforgettable for both me and my 15 year old son, Gunnar. We have a lifetime of Gospel memories that I am sure we will be talking about when we are both old. Living in the city of Douala for 8 days, gave us first hand experience and observation of the world-wide need for the Gospel. We came on this trip not to become more grateful for the things we have (although that has happened) but to cultivate a more robust love for the nations. That has happened as well.
  2. The need for pastoral training here is great. There are 3 million people in the city. To reach these people, it would take 15,000 churches of 200. These pastors here are hungry and teachable.
  3. The need to reach families is universal and cross-contextual. Deuteronomy 6 is true for all cultures for all time. Although there are some unique challenges here, many still need to lead their homes, care for their wives, and shepherd their children.

I am grateful for the vision of TLI and their mission to give pastors the training they need. Gunnar and I are both honored to be a part of the team. God bless Philemon Yong and his leadership on this trip.” 

Randy Stinson

Continue to pray for safe travels for all the team members. We thank God for our families who so graciously allowed us to be here. Internet is poor today and so I am not able to include any pictures. Hoping it will be better tomorrow.

 

Philemon

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Mar  14th,  2012Wednesday Update

Today was an encouraging day for all of us. Dr Randy Stinson has been sick and consulted with the doctors yesterday. He was given medicine and after much rest, he was able to go out to eat with all of us tonight. We are so thankful to God for his recovery. He and Gunner fly out tomorrow evening. His time here has been helpful is many ways. What he has taught has opened the eyes of pastors to think differently about Christian Education. He also got to see first hand the ministry context of Cameroon.

Today I interacted more with the students and learned much about who they are, why they are here, how they see the courses impacting their lives and ministries etc. Their testimonies encouraged me that we are doing the right thing here. I asked one student what he thought about the courses. He smiled and said, “The teachers do not allow us to wander off on some theological arguments. They tie us to the text and do not allow us to go until we have dealt with the text.” Training pastors here in Douala is important and these pastors made sure we got that message.

In working with the students, I also realized how much the school needs the help of TLI to train their pastors. Dale Kietzman University offers courses in International Development. The founders of the school had a vision to create a theology department in the school to train pastors for the French speaking parts of Cameroon. Since the founding of the school, they have not been able to fine someone to help them start this department. Working with TLI, they believe that they can get this off the ground and finally offer theological education to those who need it. This location is well suited for TLI’s vision of school planting where good schools do not exist. If we do our job well here and persevere through the challenges of a new beginning, the results will have huge impact. 

When we started on Friday, I sensed hesitancy on the part of the students about the training. Some were feeling like this is just another training that will not go anywhere. As they sat in classes and learned, they have gradually grown to appreciate the program and believe that this is the beginning of something serious. 

Here is a link to random pictures of students that I took today.

https://picasaweb.google.com/100169672487476705151/OurStudentsInDoualaCameroon#

Continue to pray for the Cameroon team as we draw things to a close tomorrow.

 

Philemon

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar  13th,  2012Monday and Tuesday Update

Time goes by so fast. We cannot believe that it has been a week already since we left home. All of us continue to be thankful to God for this opportunity to serve here in Douala. There is contentment in serving the Lord by helping people understand his word and his body better. 

As teaching continues, we continue to see the importance of what TLI is doing here Here are a few reasons:

  1. The majority of our students are from Pentecostal churches. At first, we were a bit worried about how teaching will go, particularly when one of the first questioned asked was why they need a course in interpreting the Bible when the Holy Spirit tells us what to know. The comments have changed and we are seeing a more humble mindset that seeks to learn. One student said that in his Church background, they tend to go directly from each verse to application and he now sees how wrong they have been in doing so. They have made many mistakes as a result. He then said that there is a need to correct this problem and also asked, “Is more training the answer?” You can just imagine the answer of the teacher.
  2. Over 90% of the students in our classes are currently serving as pastors. Unlike a normal school setting where students wait to graduate and then look for churches, these students come to class and then go back to their churches. This means that the impact of our teaching on their congregations is immediate. We find them asking questions in class that relate to ministry issues they are dealing with right now. One student commented that following the example of 2 Timothy 2:2, we are teaching him and he will teach others who will in turn teach others. This reminds us that we need to teach well. It encourages us that students see the importance of passing onto others what they have received.
  3. One of the pastors in class expressed his joy that TLI is involved in training them. According to him, their church groups are known for being loud and lacking in substance. He sees that what we are teaching is solid and will enable them to move from being loud to being credible in their teaching.
  4. When questions are asked and we take them through a passage to answer it, they immediately accept the answer if they see it in the text. One of the students, after asking a question and being taken through a passage to answer it said, “well, that is just Paul.” He said this because he did not like the answer. The rest of the students in class basically looked at him in shock and said, “that is what the passage says and it is true. Let us move on with the class.” As Dave says, “It is good to have allies in class.” I think that much of the wrong doctrines here are a result of poor exegesis and people will generally accept the truth when they are helped to see it. We are not only helping these pastors see the truth of Scripture but also to teach it to others.
  5. Another student called me today and begged me not to abandon this vision for training French speaking pastors in Cameroon. He says that this training is needed and in more places than Douala. 

Thank you for sending us here and for praying for us. Continue to pray that we will stay healthy, teach clearly, and have open eyes to see the work that God is doing. 

Philemon

 

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Mar  12th,  2012Saturday and Sunday Updates with link

What a weekend? As I sit here reflecting on the activities of yesterday and today, I marvel at how gracious God has been to us. I have come to see that while TLI sends people to teach, they also impact the local churches through their teaching and preaching ministries. Although we came here to train French-speaking pastors, the team had a significant ministry this weekend in various churches. Just those events themselves are worth a trip.

On Saturday, Dave, John, Gunner and I (Philemon) took a trip to the town of Buea, about an hour away from Douala. Randy stayed in Douala to lead a seminar on family discipleship at Trinity Baptist Church where Ndzi Jones is the pastor.

In Buea, Dave led a seminar at Macedonia Baptist Church on leadership in the local church. John did a seminar on mission in the local church at Gethsemane Baptist Church. (Randy led a seminar on family discipleship at Trinity Baptist Church in Douala.) The most common comments that came to my attention were, “we have never looked at it that way. This is really good.” The teachings were exactly what the churches needed to hear. That was evident in the kinds of questions that they were asking and from the observations of the pastors. The pastors were thankful that they came.

The seminars on Saturday highlighted for me again the needs in the Church here in Cameroon. People are indeed hungry for the truth and are ready to embrace it when taught. I am thankful that our team could minister to the local churches in this way.

On Sunday, Dave, John and I returned to Buea for preaching assignments. Randy and Gunner stayed back to preach at Trinity. While in Buea, we were able to observe the worship practices here and appreciate how the people worship in this context.

It was a great weekend and we appreciate all your prayers for us. The next week looks busy but we are all ready for it. Pray for strength and for continued good health. Tomorrow (Monday) we return to the university to teach. Pray for wisdom as we meet the students again and work with them. Pray for discernment for me (Philemon) as I try to understand the needs of the university in terms of training pastors and the role of TLI in it all. 

Here is a link to some pictures I have taken during the trip.  Other team members have pictures and they will feature later.

https://picasaweb.google.com/100169672487476705151/CameroonPictures

Philemon

 

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