We just completed our first full day of classes in the Middle East, training our pastor friends how to preach and teach from narrative and law—in this case, from Genesis and Exodus. The TLI curriculum takes the approach not to teach everything in a given book of the Bible, but to study a few passages and go deep.
Our day began with the men well-rested and ready to learn. We spent the first half of the day on how we are to appreciate the stories and narratives of the Bible. The first step in teaching these stories is not to take a scalpel and dissect them. The first step is to enjoy them, to appreciate them as gifts from God. God reveals himself through his word, and that should affect us. We then took the second half of the day applying principles of interpretation, seeing how the smaller stories in Genesis fit into a larger picture of God's redemptive plan.
All day we witnessed these brothers, our students, faithfully exploring God's word, passionately discussing what they were learning, asking good questions, encouraging one another (and us), and rejoicing in those truths.
Our usual class schedule is from 9am to 4pm. But our trainees are so eager for more, they have asked us to teach for a couple hours in the evening as well. During a meal together, we talked with one of the brothers who had recently gone through months of persecution. Immediately upon returning home from our training last year, he was brought in by local authorities several times. Leaving their country to come to our training raised suspicions.
"Each time the authorities called me in for questioning," he said, "I was preparing for that day to be my last." Through tears, he recounted praying with his wife, comforting her while also dealing with his own fears. Months passed with close government scrutiny. Day by day, he continued entrusting his safety to the Lord. And by God's grace, in the end, he was released and able to return to ministry.
As he was telling me his story, I thought to myself: This man was almost killed for coming to this training. And yet, here he is again. Risking his life again to be trained to preach the gospel in his country. What courage and faith he has in God!
But he is not alone. Each one of these men knows that traveling here to be trained as Christian pastors could put them in great danger. Yet, they still come. Every one of them lives daily with the sobering truth that preaching the gospel in their country could be their last act on this earth. Yet, they still preach. Joyfully. Passionately. Effectively.
“Each one of these men knows that traveling here to be trained as Christian pastors could put them in great danger.”
They are baptizing hundreds every year, seeing generations rescued from following a dead false prophet, and through the power of the gospel, now follow the living Savior. That the Lord allows us to play a small part in their work is a blessing that cannot be put into words. We feel the prayers of others. We sense God's pleasure. And we know that Jesus will take the seeds planted here and continue to produce a bountiful harvest of souls.