Akila impacts the lives of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

 
In high school, God started planting in me a vision that was odd to my personality, a vision that I will be serving Him in different places outside the church. This vision started taking shape when I had to move from my hometown to the capital city for college. It was a very hard move for me because it was a new place where I didn’t know anyone and a different lifestyle, but I realized it was the time for me to become independent and understand God’s calling on my life.

Akila ministers to Syrian refugee children.
Akila ministers to Syrian refugee children.

In college, I studied physiotherapy, and right after my graduation, my husband and I got married. Prior to marriage, I shared with him the vision I had for years, and to our surprise, he was receiving the same call on his life. After we got married, God opened the door for our ministry in another country. Our first trip there was an evangelism trip for two weeks.

In 2010, we moved there and served at a discipleship school that prepares servants for ministry among their people. I was able to serve with my degree as a physiotherapist at a center next to the school. In the afternoons, my husband and I would go out for street evangelism among Muslims.

Throughout our ministry, we felt the need for more knowledge of the Word of God. People around us encouraged us to study theology, and then we met a person who told us about studying at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Lebanon. I am in the Master of Divinity program, and he is pursuing his Bachelor of Theology degree.

I love to study the Word of God, and the more I get involved in ministry, the more I realize how I need to grow in knowledge of the Word. Studying theology will also allow God to shape me as a servant.

The courses I took as a first year student were very important in the effectiveness and success of our ministry. For example, I was provided with very practical tools to use in preparing a Bible study meeting. I consider these tools very important, since my ministry involves carrying out Bible studies with young women. I also have the opportunity to access ABTS’ rich library. If I were to study on my own in my home country, I would not have had access to this variety of books, references and topics.

Coming to Lebanon with my husband to study theology or even giving time for theological education seemed impossible for us to do, but knowing that we are supported by an Overseas Council scholarship gave us the opportunity to be full-time students and have the courage to take such a step with two children. This training is allowing us to have a broader vision in ministry.

I treasure being able to have a ministry among Syrian children in refugee camps here in Zahle, Lebanon, as part of ABTS’ compassionate care ministry. I always heard about the devastating conditions in which the refugees lived but never experienced what it was like. I am very encouraged to see all the children so responsive to our message, “All are invited.” My husband and I have also been carrying out home visits and Bible studies with families.

When we go back home, I will return to serve among 20 young women at my church. The ministry includes Bible study, mentoring, prayer and discipleship. The girls build each other up in these meetings, and they take out whatever they learn at the meeting to share it with other young women at their high schools or universities. I will also carry out medical visits and relief ministry to rural areas with my church since I have studied physiotherapy. I work at a public hospital back home, and I know God wants me to be light at my workplace because I am the only Christian there. Since it is forbidden to share the Gospel with Muslims in my home country, I knew my actions had to speak of my faith; therefore, my ministry is to be a living example of God’s love and faithfulness.

Last year, a woman who wears the niqāb (face veil) in my department at the hospital came up to me and asked why I am so faithful to my job. She told me that everybody was wondering why I come on time and leave on time unlike everyone else. This had allowed me to tell her about my faith and my faithful God, so she was very touched and open to know more about Christ.

We are not certain where God is taking us after our studies, but we have faith that He is guiding us in every step for the coming three years of our studies. Please pray for a clear calling to our lives, be it in our home country or anywhere else, so we hear God’s voice clearly and not depend on what makes us comfortable. Please also pray for the Syrian refugees and others we are ministering to. Thank you!

*Name and identifiable details have been changed for security purposes.

 

Please take a minute to leave a word of encouragement for our friends in Lebanon and those humbly serving their communities all around the world.

 

 

 

Nanda Ministers to Drug Addicts and Their Wives

Nanda*
Nanda*

 

I was 19 years old when I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior. From that point, I submitted my life to the Lord and within me grew a burning desire to serve the Lord. I entered into full-time ministry 10 years later through my church. I was in charge of some ‘unreached’ villages and responsible for all spiritual aspects of the families of believers living there, as well as going house to house to share the Gospel. During this time, I began to be burdened to concentrate on serving neglected women.

About three years ago, the leadership of my church encouraged me to enter into seminary training at Colombo Theological Seminary (CTS) in Sri Lanka. As I engaged in my studies, that compulsion for neglected women grew stronger. I was going through an intense internal conflict. Although I had been involved in full-time ministry for over 10 years, I had a nagging feeling that I had not really embarked on the specific ministry to which the Lord had called me – ministering to neglected women.

However, through my studies at CTS, I came to the important realization that the Lord uses us for different purposes at different times and that my responsibility was to be faithful in whatever I was doing at any given season. This helped to strengthen my faith, released me from the inner struggle I was undergoing and helped me to continue to faithfully serve in the ministry I was engaged in until the Lord opened a new opportunity for me.

I got married about a year and a half ago, and that’s when a door opened up for this ministry desire on my heart. My husband ministers in a drug rehabilitation center. The center is run by Christians and is open to anyone. At the point when I entered this ministry, there was no initiative in place to minister to the spouses of addicts.

I started ministering to the wives of recovered addicts who serve in the center. By conducting a regular Bible study for them, I have been helping them to grow spiritually. More recently, I have joined the ministry as a full-time worker and minister to the male residents as well. Currently there are 49 male residents in the center with whom I work on a daily basis. In addition, I conduct a weekly Bible study for seven women who are spouses of reformed addicts.

My learning at CTS is of tremendous value as I minister to these men and women through the Word of God, helping them to overcome their challenges by developing their spirituality. The majority of those who come to the center don’t have any knowledge about God. I spend time introducing the concept of God to them and sharing the Gospel. This is an important aspect of helping them overcome their addiction.

By spiritually strengthening the wives of reformed addicts, I am helping to build up a support group for these men who are in danger of falling into their old lifestyle at the slightest temptation. To help these people grow in spiritual strength, I have been teaching them the power of prayer, especially as an important means through which to overcome temptation.

I have recently set up a prayer team. I believe that as they grow stronger in their prayer life, they will grow stronger in overcoming their addictions and in staying away from temptations. However, as many are very recent believers, they are still taking baby steps in this regard.

My hope is to one day set up a fully-fledged rehabilitation center that will focus on ministering to neglected women in society.

 

Praises

  1. After 10 years of going door-to-door sharing the Gospel, I now have the opportunity to daily meet with non-believers who desperately need to hear the Gospel, and many of them, after hearing the Good News, accept Jesus as their Savior.
  2. Since both my husband and I are serving in a faith-based ministry, it would not have been possible for me to continue my education if not for the Overseas Council scholarship. Thank you so much! I will graduate in 2017.

 

Prayer Requests

  1. One of the hardest challenges of this ministry is that the addicts backslide over and over again. Please pray for these 49 men that they will have the strength to overcome their temptations.
  2. For the prayer group to successfully negotiate the challenges of the initial stage and grow in strength and dynamism.
  3. Please pray for my physical health. I intermittently experience physical ailments that, at times, keep me from engaging in the ministry work.

 

*Name has been changed for security purposes.

 

 

 

Praying for Our Partner School in Ukraine

Donetsk Christian University | Overseas Council
Students and Faculty at Donetsk Christian University

 

The conflict in Eastern Ukraine has severely affected our partner seminary in the contested city of Donetsk. Please pray for Donetsk Christian University (DCU) whose campus was taken over by armed separatists for use as a military base. At present, the seminary is no longer in operation.

Here is a recent message from Oleksii Melnychuk, the DCU president, for your prayers, and then please keep reading for how you can help:

“Since Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and other cities north of Donetsk have been freed from pro-Russian separatists, Donetsk has become the stronghold of the separatist bands of armed soldiers in the region. A group of approximately 2,000 armed soldiers entered the city of Donetsk and have occupied the dormitories of universities, schools and hotels.

On July 9, a group of armed individuals from the separatists pro-Russian group, named ‘Oplot,’ came to DCU and demanded that we vacate the university’s student dormitory for their use. By the end of the day, they brought a written directive from their leader stating that they are taking possession of DCU buildings for temporary use to be given back to DCU when the war ends.

We have been advised that disagreement with their demands will be severely punished. Although DCU leadership explained that the university is a religious organization and that its property should not be used for war purposes, the argument did not help. Staff members and all students have evacuated.”

Taras Dyatlik | Overseas Council
Taras Dyatlik, Regional Director of Euro-Asia

Our Regional Director for Euro-Asia, Taras Dyatlik, says, “The separatists promised to turn Donetsk into the second Stalingrad, which they have been successfully doing so far unfortunately. Thousands of people are leaving Donetsk every day because of the war. All workers and faculty members had to flee from the campus, leaving most of their belongings at DCU which has one of the best Protestant theological libraries in the former Soviet Union.

These people of DCU who are very dear to my heart really need your prayerful and, if possible, financial support until they find a new place to live and work. It may take a couple months.” DCU is very special to Taras as he spent 11 years there: three years as a student and eight years in various capacities as chief librarian, professor and academic dean.

DCU Needs Your Help
The school is seeking to raise at least $30,000 to help during this displacement time as their income has been seized. Donations can be made via:

1) www.connect-inter.com/form/donations with the designation to Donetsk Christian University

OR

2) PayPal: The organization is DCU International, and the PayPal ID is
dcu@connect-inter.com

Please join us in lifting up our brother, Taras Dyatlik, his family, all our partner schools in Ukraine and the Church. We pray they sense the Lord’s presence during this time.

You can read more on DCU in this Christianity Today article.

 

Prayer meeting in Kherson during the revolutionary events in Ukraine
Prayer meeting in Kherson during the revolutionary events in Ukraine

 

 

Filipino Partner School Ministers to Thousands After Catastrophic Typhoon

Due to their limited expression of words, drawing enables children to better express themselves
Due to their limited expression of words, drawing enables children to better express themselves

 

Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) brought widespread devastation and immense human suffering to thousands of people in the Philippines last November 2013. It was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded and devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, with strong winds, heavy rains, flooding and landslides. It is the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing over 6,300 people there alone. 4.1 million people were displaced and 1.1 million houses were damaged or destroyed in the Philippines.

Our Filipino partner school, the Asian Theological Seminary (ATS), immediately responded by mobilizing trained volunteers to minister using a special kind of counseling (psycho-spiritual support) modeled after Jesus who was fully present, caring and compassionate. This kind of psychological first aid is most important in the immediate aftermath of disaster. Survivors usually experience emotional distress such as anxiety, depression, grief, trauma and other stress-related problems. They needed assistance to cope with the loss of loved ones, property, and most importantly, with the experience of trauma and despair.

Between November 2013 and January 2014, ATS deployed 10 teams consisting of 66 volunteer counselors from the faculty, staff and students. The teams of trained counselors gave primary importance to listening attentively and providing space for people to share their feelings. As a result, over 4,000 people were counseled and ministered to by the team. Here are some of the stories of the people they helped:

 

Flowers for the deceased loved ones
Flowers for the deceased loved ones

Stories of Pain

In between sobs, Rosa* whispered, “Thank you for coming over to listen to me. No one wants to listen here. All are hurting. I can’t believe someone will care to listen to me.”

Rosa, a young 22-year-old mother, was able to save her two children but witnessed how the treacherous sea waters swallowed up her grandparents. They thought they were safe on the roof of her grandparents’ two-story house, but the powerful waves, a rolling cargo van and a ship smashed their abode like a house of cards. She only had two hands to grasp her children and so was not able to protect the two other important people who took care of her in the absence of her parents. The words of her grandparents would forever ring in her head, “Take care of your children!” as she helplessly watched the waters engulf them.

After the typhoon, Neneng* finally found the courage to go back home but found her mother dead. “When will the grieving stop?” she wept. She blamed her aged father for not being able to save her mother. With anguish in heart, she resented that only her father remained alive. She then uttered, “We were too busy looking out for our children, we didn’t know who to save first,” pointing to her kids playing.

 

Stories of Hope

Someone said, “Here! They’re alive!” Gemma*, with heart pounding, immediately ran and found her family. Somehow they found their way atop a floating refrigerator through the ceiling vent, crawling on roof beams towards other houses on higher ground until Yolanda subsided.

Twelve-year-old Mina* held on amidst the storm surge while witnessing her father being hit by a metal roof sheet. Afraid for her own survival, she was more terrified not to see her father again.

When the storm subsided and seeing her father alive and the rest of the family survive the horrific experience, Mina managed to hope and look at the brighter side of life. “There’s no need to blame anyone. We just have to learn from it,” she said.

 

These stories of pain, hope and survival are among countless others in the devastated areas of Typhoon Haiyan. ATS’ unique counseling played a crucial role in working through people’s psychological, emotional and spiritual distress, instilling faith and hope in an otherwise dismal situation. In the midst of wrecked houses, wounded hearts and broken spirits, the volunteer counselors provided this ministry to the marginalized survivors of the typhoon, resulting in strengthened inner beings, hopeful outlooks and enriched lives.

*All survivors’ names have been changed.

 

Click here to read more about ATS’ special counseling ministry to those in need.

 

The counseling team from ATS who ministered to 4,000 people
The counseling team from ATS who ministered to over 4,000 people

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to Colombo Theological Seminary

Colombo Theological Seminary's chapel service
Colombo Theological Seminary’s chapel service

 

Congratulations to our Sri Lankan partner school on their 20th anniversary of ministry! Colombo Theological Seminary (CTS) held its first class May 30, 1994, with the commitment to train theologically-grounded leaders in Sri Lanka and South Asia.

Some highlights from their history:

  • Over the past 20 years, over 250 leaders for the Church have graduated and been commissioned for ministry.
  • In 2013, the seminary had over 1,000 students enrolled in classes all over Sri Lanka. Students represent over 150 church congregations.
  • The seminary has published over 70 books.

“Our students have continued to serve God effectively in mission,” says Principal Ivor Poobalan. “Some have led churches; others work with children, youth, widows and the poor. Some write materials for Christian education or for evangelism. Some have pioneered missions in Uganda, East Timor, India and Pakistan. One leads the unique work of global impact that trains Sri Lankans as missionaries to unreached people groups in the world.”

Ivor says while it’s great to think about the past 20 years and the success they’ve had, “it’s far more important to think of the next 20 years or even the next 200 years and ask what we must do today so that the Kingdom of God is established in the hearts of people in a way that transforms society for God.”

As CTS looks ahead to the next year, he says, “Let us want nothing but the glory of God.

 

Enjoy this video about Ivor Poobalan’s story.

 

 

 

 

Rev. Lamri Served as a Light in a Very Dark Part of the World

Rev. Lamri with asljflsjflkajsldkfjsalkjf
Rev. Lamri with children from his village

 

God granted me the privilege of studying theology at the Tyrannus Bible Seminary (TBS) in Indonesia. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in 2004. Since then, I have been abundantly blessed in my work for Him.

Throughout the past 10 years, I have served as a seminary teacher, state civil employee, an ordained pastor and an evangelist. I will never forget the first church I pastored. It was located in a very bad town. The environment was oppressive and evil. Our little congregation was literally a light in that very dark region where paganism, prostitution and gambling were prevalent. It was hard to evangelize there.

Looking back, those were very difficult years, but God taught me important lessons I needed to learn. He challenged me to walk by faith and not by sight.

Today I am a pastor of a small local church. The culmination of the past 10 years of my experiences in ministry has proven to make me an even more effective leader and worker for Jesus. I am grateful for all I have learned in the classroom at TBS and outside of the classroom serving as Jesus’ hands and feet.

 

“Thank you for taking part in the special work here in Asia!”

- Reverend Lamri

 

 

 

 

God Had Plans for Kambauh Beyond Prison’s Doors

Kambauh, teaching in prison
Kambauh teaching in prison

 

My journey through life has been unordinary. Thankfully, Jesus was there for me at my lowest points and truly turned this murderer into a faithful servant of God. Here’s my story:

I was born and raised in Namibia with my sister and four brothers. Like many Namibians, we did not have a lot of money, and so my younger brother resorted to stealing. One day I confronted him and was pleading with him to stop stealing from others when we began to fight. Our arguing escalated very quickly. My brother was very angry, so with a big stick in his hand, he began to attack me.

In an attempt to get him to stop fighting, I pried the stick from his hand and hit him. One blow to the head. That’s all it took. Shocked, I looked down at his lifeless body and realized the horrific thing I had just done. I had killed my brother.

In 2004, I was convicted of murder and sentenced to 17 years in prison. My girlfriend and I had two babies at the time. I was facing the realization that I would not see them grow up. Up until then, I had professed to be a Christian but did not even know Jesus. I thought it was cool to be a Christian, so that is why I labeled myself as one. Surprisingly, it took living in prison for me to find Jesus. It was there that I wholeheartedly accepted Christ into my life.

Shortly after becoming a true believer, I learned about the distance education program at Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS). I enthusiastically enrolled and was thrilled when not only I was accepted but was given a scholarship that made my education possible. I was eager to learn God’s Word and get to know Jesus, the One who had saved my life. I longed to be a true disciple of Christ’s. I began sharing the Good News with fellow inmates. I taught them how to read, write and study the Bible. Many of them enrolled in the NETS’ distance education program too!

Kambauh, Theology student at NETS
Kambauh, Theology student at NETS

Although God was using me for His glory, He had plans for me beyond prison’s doors. Since my brother’s death was ruled accidental, I was given the chance to appeal the conviction. I was not allowed an attorney or anyone for that matter to help represent me. Looking back, I believe God wanted it this way, so He alone would be glorified for my release. On March 16, 2012, I became a free man. Praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow! That same year, I married Martha, the love of my life and the mother of my children. We recently welcomed a little boy into our home who we named Forgive. He is a constant reminder of how miraculous God’s love and forgiveness is.

In my current ministry, I am helping former prisoners reintegrate back into society and their families. Being able to relate firsthand to these prisoners tremendously helps me to reach them for Christ. I often provide counseling for the prisoners and their families to encourage reconciliation. It is a work filled with many challenges, but I am happy to be serving the Lord.

Now I am in my third year of Theology at NETS. We live on campus as a family, and we continue to be blessed by scholarship support. In the future, I hope to establish a Community Rehabilitation Ministry that will be located in a rural area. The purpose will be to help rehabilitate people from crime and addictions such as domestic violence and alcohol abuse. I am excited to see where the Lord leads me next!

My life is a perfect example of how God is able to use even the worst situation and the most sinful of persons to multiply His Kingdom. God is good!

 

 

“Thank you so much for your support in making this life-changing education possible for me and so many others!”

– Kambauh Thaddeus Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Staff Playing Key Roles at Global Gathering

Dr. David Baer, President of Overseas Council
Dr. David Baer, Overseas Council President and CEO

 

Overseas Council is privileged to have a significant voice in a major conference in Brazil this week. Sixty-five key decision makers from all over the world are participating in the Lausanne Consultation on Global Theological Education in São Paulo. Five of our staff, including our President Dr. David Baer and four Regional Directors, are playing key roles in these discussions.

The Lausanne Movement started with evangelist Dr. Billy Graham. Celebrating their 40th anniversary alongside Overseas Council, Lausanne’s mission is Calling the Whole Church to take the Whole Gospel to the Whole World. Consultations like the one this week pull together key church and missions leaders to look at specific concerns for the mission of the Church. Together they come to a deeper understanding of the issue and develop action steps to change the future of that issue, in this case theological education, around the world.

The key issues addressed this week are

1. Successful Missional Biblical Partnerships – how can seminaries in different parts of the world with their unique challenges and resources assist one another in the global task of theological education  

2. Contextualization in Theological Education – how does a seminary address the unique needs of the Church and community in its context? 

3. Global and Missional Sustainability in Theological Educationhow does a seminary fulfill its mission and provide for an effective educational program in a way that is sustainable now and in the future?

4. Formal and Non-formal Training  how can the formal and non-formal approaches to Christian leadership development work together to both equip the Church with thought leadership and equip multitudes of pastors who are needed?

Lausanne_Meeting
The Lausanne Consultation on Global Theological Education in São Paulo

 

Overseas Council is represented this week by President Dr. David Baer and four Regional Directors: Dr. John Jusu, Dr. Ashish Chrispal, Dr. Marvin Oxenham and Dr. Abraham Najjar*. David co-led the planning of the program, while John, Ashish and Abraham are presenting sessions.

 

*Name has been changed for security purposes.

 

 

 

Oliver Helps Transform Families Through His Ministries

 

Meet Oliver Cruz, a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Studies student at Asian Theological Seminary (ATS) in the Philippines.

Oliver and his family
Oliver and his family

I am thankful to God for the privilege of studying at ATS. After finals, I will officially be in my last year of graduate studies! I am blessed because I am continually learning and growing as a student at ATS. The culmination of academics, fellowship and outreach has made me a better person. The things I have learned are readily translated into my ministry context, and I am excited to apply this knowledge in whatever capacity the Lord asks me to serve.

Over the years, I have enjoyed church planting, premarital counseling, discipleship, teaching and other ministries. Last year, I organized an evangelistic mission trip to help in church planting and discipleship where many people were led to Christ. I was in Field Education when I was promoted as the Dean of Students of a Bible college where I taught Small Group Dynamics. I also taught Values Formation at a secular college where I evangelized and discipled students.

Today I am still leading couple’s cell groups and am active in premarital counseling. I am glad to see fruits of this ministry, particularly in the transformation happening with each family as they devote themselves to God. I am not sure what plans the Lord has for my ministry next year after graduation, but I know God will lead in my future just as He has faithfully led in the past.

Aside from church ministry, my family is also fruitful. My love relationship with my wife is continually deepening. My eldest daughter excels in school and is one of the top in her class, and my youngest daughter always brings a smile to people’s faces because of her happy disposition.

Balancing ministry, graduate studies and family responsibilities is a very hard task. But God is gracious, sustaining me and using people to encourage and sustain me. It is also through your generosity in providing my needs that lessens my concerns and has enabled me to remain focused. I really thank God for your goodness and faithfulness. I pray that He may continue to bless you. May He return all the favor to you! Thank you for continuing to invest in advancing the Kingdom of God by helping me and others at ATS with our studies.

It is because of your faithful support that we can share the Good News with so many! I hope and pray that He may find us faithful, and all our offerings and sacrifices are a sweet aroma to His throne. His Name will be praised forever and ever! Amen.

 

 

 

An Important Moment in Poland

EWST Educational Center
From left to right: Marek Kucharski, Chancellor; Dr. Wojciech Szczerba, Rector; and Dr. Piotr Lorek, Academic Dean

 

Previously the Evangelical School of Theology (EST), our partner school in Wroclaw, Poland, has recently rebranded themselves as the EWST Educational Center.

Chancellor Marek Kucharski said this change is “an important moment” for the school in which they could openly state for the first time that they are no longer just a school of higher education, offering mainly Bachelor’s degrees in Theology.

Instead they will now be called the EWST Educational Center, offering various degrees, academies, projects, workshops and conferences.

The school held a rebranding ceremony in April to celebrate the announcement. Marek said, “I can honestly say that it was one of the best events that I remember in the 24-year history of the school. The chapel was absolutely full with our faculty members, students and many guests including leaders of churches, universities and city officials.” Even the former vice-minister of Education in Poland came to celebrate.

With God’s blessing, they are prepared to march on as the team of the EWST Educational Center.

 

Click here to watch the new promotional video for the Educational Center!