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Trips

Cameroon Fall 2012

Douala, Cameroon August 7-17, 2012

We will be working through Dale Kietzman University at their request in Douala, Cameroon to train French speaking pastors from Cameroon and from the Central African Republic in Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics.

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

Field Notes   Cameroon Fall 2012

Aug  17th,  2012Thankful

We arrived here on August 8th and began teaching August 10th. It has been an amazing 7 days of teaching 8 hours a day. This trip has been difficult because of the long hours, but very satisfying for me. I have enjoyed teaching and realized that I love teaching most in the African context.

Today we completed our time with an exam given to the students. In a typical African style, the students had planned a program for the end of the program. Tired and wanting nothing but to go back to our accomodations and rest, we were ushered into a room where  the event was to be held. They expressed their appreciation for the courses taught and their wishes for more to be done. Four letters of appreciation were written and read aloud. The content was the same except for changes in a few words. I thought, “Just read one and give out copies to the various people being appreciated.” Then I realized it is not so important what I want or how I want things done. It meant a lot for these brothers and sisters to read their words aloud to each person. While teaching, we learned a lot as well.

There is so much about this trip to be thankful to God for. For example:

  1. The church in Central African Republic will not be the same ever. 75% of our students came from Central African Republic. It is a very poor country and has gone through many wars. The church is struggling, but here we had key leaders from the different denominations in Central African Republic. In my class were pastors who have been in their churches for over 20 years as well as pastors who were old but just beginning to preach . Additionally, I also had key government officials who had taken up leadership roles in their churches and were seeking solid theological training to equip them for the ministry. As they said, what is happening here in Douala will have an impact on how their teaching ministries go back home.
  2. Many pastors stood up to confess that they have been wrong in what they have been teaching their congregations. As we went through Hermeneutics and biblical theology, they kept saying, “The scales are falling off our eyes.” A pastor for over 30 years came to me to say that he is so thankful to God for coming . He said that he realizes he had been teaching and preaching out of ignorance. He was praising God for giving him the opportunity to learn how to rightly interpret Scripture while he is still alive and promised that he will make sure his people know what he has learned. For that, I am thankful to God.
  3. Many social issues relevant to the African context came up in class and we addressed them biblically. It was challenging to get students to see that culture does not determine how we approach Scripture but rather, the Bible determines how we live in our cultures as Christians. Surprisingly, there is a seemingly natural inclination here to defer to cultural demands and expectations. Many times in class we had to spend time debunking some of the cultural assumptions about what is true. 

As class ended today, the students had one plea: “Please come back and teach us more.”  That is exactly what we pray God will enable us to do in January.

 

Philemon

 

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Aug  12th,  2012Our Students

After a not so good first day (see last journal entry), we have been having a great time teaching. What a blessing to be able to teach here in Douala. Most of our students are from Central African Republic. They traveled for two days to get to Douala and take two courses on Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics. Their zeal for learning is evident.

I have been humbled by the humility of these seasoned pastors. The majority have been pastors for many years. Yet, they are not ashamed to admit ignorance of what the Bible actually teaches. During class, we went over John 3:16 to show how one’s understanding of a text can become more and more accurate with careful examination of the passage. Many in both my class and Pastor Matt’s indicated that they have been preaching John 3:16 wrongly. These are men who have been pastors of churches for years. Their joy of finding out how to work with a passage is clear to all, and their joy in returning to their churches and teaching better comes across as well.

The 22 students who came from Central African Republic come from different denominational backgrounds. Yet, they are happy to be studying together. Their country is very poor and they say that many are turning to Christ in the midst of the hopeless economic conditions they are facing. These people need to be shepherded well and the pastors are seeking to be prepared to do so. One of the evidences of their poverty is seen in the fact that over 95% of pastors have other jobs. Even more interesting to me is the fact that these are men of social significance in their countries. I have in my class a man who is a leader in the cabinet of the prime minister of the country. Others are in charge of important departments in government. They love the Lord, love preaching his Word, and want to be better prepared to do so . It is a joy to be part of their preparation.

We are seeing that the impact of our teaching will go far beyond Cameroon, to areas (such as Central African Republic) that we will never dream of reaching.

The Cameroon students are also observing the humility with which the students from Central African Republic learn. What a great unplanned lesson, since humility is a difficult thing for many Cameroonian pastors to practice.

Continue to pray that God will use us to help the students to love him more by learning to interpret his Word better, and also by seeing how the whole Bible fits together in a way that shows God’s overall work in the redemption of man.  Pray that they will understand the material and be able to use all that they learn when they return to their own churches.

 

Philemon

 

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Aug  9th,  2012First Day of Class in Douala

First day of class. The school is a long distance from the rest home so we needed to travel for a bit to get there. Once there we were met by no one and no information. This is not much of a surprise, but nonetheless it was disappointing. But it is Cameroon so Philemon and I waited. Slowly some students tricked in, but not the ones expected and no school leadership was still to be found over an hour later.

The students we met were former ones from Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary in Ndu. It was a true pleasure to see them! Two of them were pastoring and one of those men was in the process to prepare to come to America to work on his Ph.D. I had a pleasant time catching up with them and simply sharing pastoral experiences. During this whole time Philemon was working his skills on the phone attempting to find any information as to our situation.

In time someone with the school arrived and helped Philemon on the phone. In time we received word that the students from Central African Republic (CAR) were somewhere in the city. The housing that they were to receive never happened so they had spent the night in some insufficient living conditions some distance away. To our surprise the CAR consulate called to check up on what was happening. It was then that we found out that some of the men were rather important in the government. In addition, all of the CAR men are what are known as “men of dignity” and should be treated with respect. 

Eventually the students all arrived and Philemon started the orientation with singing. It was a joy to see these student lift up voices in thanksgiving and praise. Because of the mishaps early on we could not teach; rather we explained the courses and gave our expectations for the classes. After all the questions were answered we were left with an ongoing concern with how the CAR students would be housed. At the time of this writing it appears that sufficient housing has been secured, we will see if that is correct tomorrow.

What stands out so far? God has made a place of beauty in making Cameroon. His handiwork is evident all over the land. Sin has made its indelible mark on that land and with it you see much suffering and hopelessness. As an American, solutions come to mind in quick succession but then I remind myself that what is needed first is a revival of the Gospel in the hearts of this land and then changes shall be lasting.

I was again reminded of the great, far reaching potential of the vision of TLI. All of those who came from CAR are people of influence and the vast majority are pastors. What they learn here in the course shall affect many people we will probably never meet. People are starving because they do not know the Word of God and, worse yet, they have no real way to learn it. Through courses like this, that horrid reality can change.

We finished the day with former students from years past. We ate mutton and beef (Philemon and I had the lining of the stomach as well) with toothpicks around a table. The food was good, the pepper powder (I think it was a curry powder) was hot, and the fellowship was precious.

Tomorrow we start teaching in earnest, the days will be about eight hours of solid teaching. Much work to be done in such a short time. Prayers for our faithfulness and diligence are needed and requested. The same for the students. May we help equip the pastors here to make much of God because God’s Word makes much of Him.

--

Lord bless,

 

Pastor Matt

 

 

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