We will be in Douala, Cameroon working with Dale Kietzman universituy to train pastors for the French speaking church of Cameroon and Central African Republic. We are expecting a minimum of 40 pastors to make the two day journey from Central African Republic to meet up with other pastors in Cameroon for the courses. Many who come from Central African Republic are pastors who also hold government positions. We had a student last time who is the chief of cabinet for the prime minister of his country. Yet, he wants to be equipped to help the church grow in his own country. We will be teaching in English and it will be translated into French. It is an experience that one will never forget particularly as you watch pastors of over 20-30 years in ministry learn things for the first time and vow to try to bring change in their churches.
Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.
We finished out work here in Douala on Thurday. The team has
returned to the US but Philemon has stayed behind for some meetings he needs to
attend and also to visit his family in the village. Teaching here has been a
blessing. It stretched the students and us as well.
Students were very thankful for the courses we taught. They
expressed a greater appreciation for the OT and saying that now, they have a
better sense of how the Bible fits together and how important the OT is for the
NT. Most have never understood that the OT points forward to the NT and is
fulfilled in it. Rusty did an excellent job in walking them through a Survey of
the OT. Same thing could be said for the Gospels that Peter taught. As a few
students told me, it is so easy to read the Gospels and miss the point because
one does not know the contextual issues surrounding them. For Biblical
Leadership, Dave was a gift from God as they say. Students were challenged and
the question now is, “what do we do with what we now know to be true and
Biblical?” One student was asking me if I thought he should teach this at his
church right away and what to do about the opposition that he will receive. On
Genesis, it was eye opening. Several commented that during this course they kept
wondering if this is the same book that they have read before.
All in all, we believe that God worked through us to
encourage our students and to help them become even better in their preaching
and teaching. We realized that a good number of the pastors are hindered by
cultural questions and expectations in their ministry. For example, one asked
what he should say to his people who believe that when a person dies, after
some time, his skull should be dug up. They argue that Joseph told the
Israelites to take his bones with them when they returned from Egypt. Do not
ask about the connection between the two but this young man said that this is
an issue to be addressed but since it is so deeply rooted in his tribe, it will
be a struggle in the church to undo. Another asked why we should fast if
fasting is not mainly for getting from God what we want. Others struggled with
the existing structure of the Church government and asked what is the best way
forward for them. One Pentecostal pastor shared in class that in his church,
the Bible has not been their authority on matters of leadership and that now,
he wants to lead his church differently no matter the cost.
Such are just a few examples of the joy producing
experiences we had here. The terrible heat of Douala caused us to teach
thinking more about what we are saying and why we are doing this. God brought
us here for the 27-30 students he brought so that through us, he will equip
them for ministry. Thankful to have been a part of this team. Dale Kietzman University
is meeting a need here in Douala. Much work remains to be done but the fruit
are already visible.
Here are some pictures from our time here. If the link does not work, copy and paste in your browser to view.
Only God can produce lasting fruit, and only He knows what the long-term effects of our efforts will be. But in His kindness, He sometimes let's us see a glimpse of what He is doing through us in the lives of others. God granted encouragement last night as the students shared how they desire to apply what they have been learning to their lives and in their churches. Over and over, these pastors expressed their desires to shepherd their churches more faithfully, to become more of a servant to others and to bring their congregations into conformity with the Biblical pattern of eldership. Three times the class erupted in applause in response to what was shared. One brother shared his desire to grow in humility in his character, and the class cheered. A sister (who had previously seemed unconvinced of 2 Timothy 2:12-14) announced her desire to serve as a deaconess and to teach women about their Biblical roles in the church, and the class clapped enthusiastically at this breakthrough for her. And a Pentecostal brother acknowledged that the Word of God has not been the authority in his church, and expressed his earnest desire that the Bible be given its rightful place in his life and ministry. This testimony was greeted with great rejoicing and applause. One more example, even though the class did not clap or cheer, was another encouraging reminder that God has been at work during our time here. A brother had been ignoring the instruction in 1 Timothy 3:6 about new converts in leadership. When this verse was taught in class, he had a variety of reasons why he thought his church was an exception to this requirement. So it was a blessing to hear this pastor share last night that, as a result of this class, he will no longer be giving leadership responsibilities to new converts. Even if this glimpse is all that God has been doing, the trip would be worth it. But I hope and pray that God will do far more!
Thankful to be part of what God is doing in Cameroon,
It's not every day that your commute to work involves following a motorcycle taxi on which the customer is balancing a solid wood dining table on his head as they weave in and out of traffic. But then again, it's not ever day that your commute to work is in Douala, Cameroon either.
Today I kicked off the first full day of our Gospels and Acts course with our students. I had begun the course in part on Friday afternoon, but essentially only did an introduction what a gospel is, how they came to be, and a general overview/summary chart of the four gospels. The students received that information eagerly, and that eagerness (particularly after having been able to rest some over the weekend) seemed intensified as today began. So, this morning we were able to spend time looking at both the religious and political scenarios that existed in the first century, as well as the history of the Intertestamental Period (between the OT and the NT) - and so many students were so thankful to have additional background information that opens there eyes to the realities that inform the reading of the New Testament Scriptures. I am prayerful that with this teaching the students will now have a more accurate understanding of the Scriptures, remembering that the Gospels were not written TO us though they were written FOR us.
After a break from the stickiness and heat of the day, having lunch with Philemon and Dave (Rusty has left already for the US), it was back to the classroom. In the afternoon the students/pastors and I dived into the Gospel of Mark. It was great to look at some of the introductory aspects (including Mark's faith journey - as the cousin of Barnabas, on mission with Paul, heading back home, on mission with Barnabas, and then reconciling later with Paul) - and then look at a couple different outlines/summaries of the book (including a geographically-driven approach, and a approach driven by the key verse in Mark 10:45. We also struggled through together on the topic of Mark's ending in chapter 16... a question the church has debated for centuries now. I believe God helped us to prayerfully consider His word, and pray He will continue to guide each of us as we go forth to share His message.
We began and ended our time together in class today with looking at some of the questions the students submitted. I've asked them to each submit at least three questions during this class - as I believe questions are such a powerful learning tool - and so have made this an important part of the class. Some of the questions are more basic (from those students at a lower level of biblical knowledge) and some are of great depth and difficulty (from students with a greater depth of learning already, now pursuing Master of Divinity degrees). I am so appreciative of the involvement and interest most of the students have in these classes, their thirst for truth and hunger to know, apply, & share God's Word is an encouragement in the importance of this ministry, and the great impact it will have.
And so, as the day comes to a close now (after Dave and Philemon both taught their evening classes too, Dave and I shared a light meal, and we are all doing are own small things) I find myself thankful to be here in Cameroon at this time. Thanks for your continued prayers on behalf those ministering here, and for all of your other areas of partnership in this work God is doing.
Well, I have finished my teaching responsibilities for this
trip. I gave my final examination this morning and instructed the students in
their assignments that are to be completed before June. Just from a quick
survey of the exams, I believe many of them did well, which is always
encouraging. However, when discussing the assignments for June, I think many of
the students were surprised at the amount of work. However, we reminded them
that they are Master’s students and we are expecting Master’s level work. My
desire is that the students see the assigned work as proof of our care and our
belief that they are truly capable. In a culture like this one where “shaming”
is commonplace to keep people in their current state, it our hope that holding
high expectations will communicate the opposite of shame. We believe they are
able to learn, work hard, and produce work that will bless the Cameroonian
church by the power of Spirit. Please pray for these students as they continue
studying and trying to meet the demands of work and family.
Before coming on this trip I wondered in the back of my mind
if it was really worth it to travel all the way to Cameroon to teach for one week.
And as I sit writing at the end of the week, there is no more doubt—it is
absolutely worth it. I have been reminded on the students’ zeal and eagerness
to learn, and it is amazing what the Lord can do in a few days with people who
truly want to know the Scriptures. To all those who have supported us this past
week through prayer, financial giving, helping our wives and children while we
are away…thank you! I truly believe the Lord has used your resources to
encourage and build up the body of Christ in Cameroon.
Since my section on the Old Testament is finished today,
Peter will begin teaching the Gospels and Acts this afternoon. I know he is
excited to get started. We are incredibly thankful that, by God’s grace, no one
has had any health issues on this trip—no stomach problems to speak of—thank
you God! I am leaving today, but Philemon, Peter, and Dave will continue
teaching through the middle of next week.
[Note on Matt: In case you are wondering, Matt Reimer is
listed on the team but he did not come with us on this trip due to some last
minute changes in the student numbers. A conflict in the Central African
Republic prevented about 30 students from coming to Douala, so Matt will be
coming with a team in July 2013 instead.]
Internet connection is poor and we have not been able to post any pictures yet. Will do as soon as we are able.
Today, Wednesday, I had the great satisfaction of addressing in my teaching some very important issues that the Cameroonian church is facing. The first is the question of applying the Old Testament to a Cameroonian context. As I was teaching through the books of Joshua and Judges this morning, a student posed the question: "Since Israel was made up of tribes and God sent a national and international leader to deliver the people, should the tribal people of Cameroon look for a national leader to rise up as their 'judge' or deliverer?" This question captures a foundational struggle many Cameroonians experience in trying to apply the Old Testament text to their setting. In summary it goes: Israel has a certain cultural phenomenon, we in Cameroon have the same phenomenon, therefore, we must do exactly what Israel did. This student's question provided a great context to point to the fact that Israel's 'judges' were not the leaders they really needed. The judges did not unify God's people in his land. In fact, even the monarchy could not do it permanently. Israel's tribes needed the same king the tribes of Cameroon need. The tribes of Cameroon do not need a national 'deliverer', they need to submit to the one who will deliver the entire world. Please pray that these students will leave this week convinced that Old Testament Israel does not equal modern day Cameroon. I am laboring to teach them to read God's revelation to his people in the Old Testament through its fulfillment in Jesus, so please pray that God would grant clarity and wisdom.
A second issue that we addressed was the nature of prophecy in the Old Testament. As I anticipated this quickly turned into an arm reaching contest with students all over the room wanting to ask about common practices in their churches regarding prophecy. The room was divided over the issues being discussed, but I am thankful that the overall tone of the conversation was respectful and thoughtful. Some of the Pentecostal pastors shared over dinner that they were very helped by our conversation and that they now see that all prophecy must not go against what Scripture says, no matter what a person says they have heard from the Lord. I was encouraged.
After a long day of teaching at the university, Philemon, Dave, and myself (Peter is visiting in Bamenda) grabbed a snack at an ice cream parlor/restaurant (there is ice cream in Douala--good ice cream). It was a refreshing time of reflection, fellowship, encouragement, and laughter. Spending time with these men has been such an encouragement, and I am blessed to be a co-laborer with them for the gospel and the church here in Cameroon.