Special Update: Nigeria

Rev. Victor Nakah ThDItinerary
Last month, I visited five training centers that Overseas Council collaborates with on varying levels. These centers include: Evangelical Churches Winning All Theological Seminaries (ECWA) in Jos and Igbaja, Life Theological Seminary (LTS) in Lagos, the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary (NBTS) in Ogbomosho and the United Missionary Church of Africa (UMCA) in Ilorin.

4 Things in Common
Upon completion of this visit, I identified four strengths these schools have in common:

  1. Each school has high levels of collaboration and camaraderie among the seminary leaders.
  2. The academic quality is high, without the usual associated costs (in Nigeria, schools can offer PhD programs without paying to become a state-recognized university).
  3. Each training center has rigorous academic qualifications for students and challenging experience qualifications for faculty.
  4. Every school I visited has the capacity to respond to the training needs of this populous country (166 million) through e-learning. Life Theological Seminary (LTS) has a Theological Education by Extension program. Each school has identified e-learning as a goal to be achieved in the near future.

Jos: ECWA Theological Seminary (JETSN)
Nigeria is a leading missionary sending country in the developing world. Nonetheless, there has been significant persecution of Christians. In Jos alone, the death of thousands, including pastors and the destruction of hundreds, even thousands of churches, have been consistent occurrences within the last decade.

This is the context in which the ECWA Theological Seminary (JETSN) is found. Operation World identifies ECWA in Nigeria by stating, “The dynamic growth of the Church continues to be impressively solid. This has been among…evangelical groups such as ECWA….” It also explains that ECWA is one of the church
networks that is working with the Christian Association of Nigeria to unite national Christians. It is essential that the churches in Africa work on the value of unity in Christ.

There are 29 full-time and 13 part-time faculty that teach 700 students. This training center has extension programs in five locations throughout Nigeria. They have focused programs to train administrators for the Church and other Christian organizations and a program to train agency leaders of ECWA. Their Center for the Study of Religion, Church and Society has shaped reaching unreached peoples in Nigeria. Operation World gave credit to this school for their participation as a “major research partner on the unreached in Nigeria: of 168 least-reached peoples in Nigeria, every group has been adopted for prayer and outreach.” Since inception, this program has planted 200 churches with alumni of JETSN. Students are also involved in this program through prison ministry and the film and theatre ministry. The seminary also offers computer training to the community and has attracted a lot of community attention through the launch of the HIV/AIDS screening and counseling clinic (the average life span in Nigeria is 47.7 years, according to Operation World). This is one of those schools that you can see has a larger perspective, making impact on its greater community today.

Igbaja: ECWA Theological Seminary (ETSI)
In Igbaja, ECWA has another theological seminary. There are 24 full-time and 15 adjunct professors that teach 700 students. Of this faculty, Dr. Stephen Baba is a recent PhD graduate that benefited from Overseas Council Professional Development funding. He recently published a book, “History and
principles of Biblical Hermeneutics for Beginners.” They have 200 students that attend their summer program and five extension programs with a total of 200 students. There are still at least 50-60 people groups in this area of Nigeria that are difficult to reach with the Gospel. It is pivotal that these programs exist to minister to these groups.

Lagos: Life Theological Seminary (LTS)
In Lagos, rural areas lack dedicated pastors because of the relative poverty. Life Theological Seminary (LTS) is training Christians to meet this need. This is an interdenominational Pentecostal seminary that is sponsored by Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria. Students come from at least 10 churches and denominations throughout Nigeria and surrounding countries. There are 21 faculty members at this training center with 550 students (200 of which are female). The campus church is pastored by the Provost who considers this role as an opportunity to model pastoral leadership to the student community.

52% of the budget for this training center is locally raised. They have a clear plan for sustainability, and they have purchased land to start a private Christian school to meet the growing needs for private high school education in Lagos. The center currently runs a preschool. With a Theological Education by Extension program, sustainable models in place and the recent land purchase, I am encouraged and excited to see the continued impact LTS has on the larger Lagos society.

Ogbomosho: Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary (NBTS)
This is one of the oldest seminaries in the country. Started in 1885, this is the main training program for the Nigerian Baptist Union. Over 50% of the students are from the Baptist denomination. In this training center, 19 faculty train over 800 students. There are also 10 affiliate Baptist denomination Bible colleges that collaborate with the school, training 100 students each, raising the total students to at least 1,800.

This school is working through the challenges of sustainability in innovative, income-generating ways. I am energized to continue to come alongside them and help in this process.

Ilorin: United Missionary Church of Africa (UMCA)
This training center is found in a predominantly Muslim city and is the only seminary found there. It is trategic to outreach in the city. UMCA is the main training institution in the denomination that offers Higher degrees. They are already in the process of introducing evening classes. There are 18 full-time and 17 adjunct faculty that train 600 students, 50% of which are from Pentecostal or Charismatic churches. We are looking into ways to partner in faculty PhD studies as well.

This was a successful trip, and it encouraged me to see the work being done to train effective Christian leaders who minister to the local Church and society. I continue to draw your eye to the faithful faculty in these schools, working hard to train a significant number of students compared to the ratio of faculty to students in other regions of the world. Praise God for His work in this region!

Special Update: Argentina

Street_web[1]FIET Theological Institute in Argentina is a Christian leadership training center that is committed to serving the Church, ministering with excellence and staying relevant to the Church and society. They have thoughtfully created a community outreach project this year that targets a major need in their society and offers to influence change in 10 cities found in Argentina.

The use and abuse of drugs, such as alcohol and cocaine, is not new and affects the whole of Argentina. In one way or another, churches have tried to confront this problem. However, in recent years in the country, the situation has been aggravated. It has affected Argentinean politics, laws and even into the churches and communities. The youth succumb to this quick solution to issues surrounding poverty. FIET says generally speaking, drugs are present in more than 80% of crimes in Argentina. There are poor government programs, and though churches have attempted to work in this area, often they do not have sufficient preparation or training.

FIET has been asked by more than 100 programs working together to help them in the preparation of volunteers to work with addicts, their families and the prevention of addictions. Today this issue is a priority in the agenda of the churches, and FIET has a unique opportunity to affect the ministry of the churches to society. Their plan lays out work in 50 churches, teaching 200 students who have had problems with drug abuse and preparing 100 of them as therapeutic assistants. They also plan to launch 10 Prevention Centers and open five recovery centers this year.

Along with the Council of Pastors, FIET has selected five cities in which to open centers of addiction study. They will send 16 teachers to act as professional specialists on issues related to addiction. Students will receive tools to start prevention and recovery programs at the addiction centers.

Against All Odds: Women in Christian leadership in the Arab world

Salwa Haddad and Smyrna Khalaf Moughabghab are members of a growing group that consists of three previously incompatible categories: 1) Women 2) in Christian leadership 3) in the Arab world. Times are changing. Salwa and Smyrna share what it is like to be an Arab woman in Christian leadership in this part of the world.

Salwa works with World Vision International as their People and Culture Business Partner focusing on the areas of Organizational Development and Change Management for the West Africa region, based in Dakar, Senegal. Smyrna has a Master’s Degree in Family and Marriage Counseling, is a practicing psychologist in this field, leads the Family and Couple’s Ministry at Hadath Baptist Church and serves in the Sunday School Education Ministry. Both Salwa and Smyrna serve as members of the Board of Trustees at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS), Lebanon.

“What I like about the board is that it includes a wide array of different skills. Theologians, pastors, professionals…and the female board members add ‘soft skills’ that are essential for the board’s overall,” Salwa says.

Paul Sanders, ABTS International Board member, agrees, “It is not common in the Arab world to see women compose 40% of a board of trustees, and yet that is the case for the ABTS local board. Salwa and Smyrna are both highly trained professionals. Not only do they bring a ‘feminine’ perspective to the issues discussed, but they bring their own distinctive contribution through their training, intelligence and experience. They are a real blessing to the ABTS board, and I believe that other Middle Eastern boards would do well to avail themselves of capable women as board members, an amazing resource.”

Smyrna says, “I would like to see more women equipped for leadership, not just in Christian settings but also medical, teaching [and other] areas.” A specific area she sees as important is providing women with adequate theological and ministerial training. “At ABTS, I still see a majority of men, although I know the ABTS leadership works to recruit both men and women. I would like to see more churches encouraging their women to study theology and putting an emphasis on equipping them for ministry.”

Salwa says she believes it is important not to let hurdles hold women back from that which the Lord is calling them. “I encourage Christian women in our region to step out of their fears and comfort zones and be courageous to move into leadership roles in relevant ministry areas. By God’s grace, they can excel, shine, make a difference and glorify the Lord.”

For stepping forward into the full calling of God upon their lives, Salwa and Smyrna are indeed two women of courage and strength who are active laborers in their local contexts against all odds!

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Disaster relief, rebuilding 1,000 families

Disaster relief, rebuilding 1,000 families | Overseas CouncilThousands of homes were leveled in the historic and tourist city of Yogyakarta after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit, leaving thousands of people homeless, injured or killed.

Church planter Thomas Maspaitella was part of a multi-church rebuilding effort to adopt 1,000 families and provide for their basic needs. Tents, food, camp stoves, dishes and children’s school kits were given to each family. After three months of developing relationships, Thomas, a graduate of Nusantara Bible Seminary (NBS), Indonesia, began leading a team to plant a church. Three house meetings and Bible studies launched, and Thomas hopes to start more in the future.

NBS students also joined together with mission groups and churches to help meet the needs of the people after the disaster. They cleaned up rubble, distributed tents and food, counseled and evangelized. Every week for over two months, a new team of people from NBS drove eight hours to the area for disaster relief work. Students saw the horrors of this type of disaster up close but also saw what individuals can do to help rebuild lives. NBS called the disaster a “unique opportunity to really see how the family of God can pitch in and help one another.”

Africa School of Missions home based care for AIDS patients

Africa Aids Relief | Overseas CouncilGeorge and Carolyn Snyman are graduates of Africa School of Missions (ASM), South Africa. After working with Mercy Ministry for two years, they returned to run ASM’s Home Based Care project for AIDS patients. In 2000, the project was voted “Best Practice” by UNICEF. A mandate was provided to duplicate the ministry, and Hands at Work was birthed.

Currently, several projects exist in South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Swaziland and Democratic Republic of Congo. Eighteen schools have been opened in Zambia alongside the home based care projects as well. Thousands afflicted with AIDS are being helped. The ministry hopes to take care of 100,000 within the next 10 years.

ASM has been very active in the local community for eight years and has started projects in six countries in southern Africa. Students participate as part of their practical ministries and internships. Practical ministries are a very important part of the ASM training program. Many students are involved in the school’s AIDS program where skills are learned in home based care, community development, bereavement counseling and psycho-socio support to orphans. Other practical ministries include running a mobile clinic in communities with no access to medical facilities, working in rehabilitation centers and ministering in local prisons.

Middle East Musalaha – “Forgiveness and reconciliation”

Forgiveness and Reconcilliation | Overseas CouncilThis is an example of how one OC partner school is influencing their community for Christ

“We have no other choice but to be one because ‘He is our peace, and He is our reconciliation’…Together we can bring real hope of the real peace for our nations.” These are the words of John*, a Palestinian Christian and pastor who has allowed the ministry of Musalaha to work in his heart for good and for change.

As conflict in the Holy Land persists, Musalaha seeks to be an encouragement and facilitator of reconciliation. This ministry, founded in 1990 by Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) Academic Dean Dr. Salim J. Munayer, works to produce forgiveness and relationship between Palestinian Arab Christians and Israeli Messianic Jews. How does it happen? On the basic foundation of their faith in Jesus Christ – following Biblical commandments and the life and teaching of Jesus to love their neighbors and even their enemies.

Musalaha’s ministry brings people together through youth and women’s activities, summer camps, conferences, theological seminars and desert encounters, where participants must communicate, build relationships and rely on each other through the journey’s challenges. A willingness to share stories and personal pain from the conflict leads to a deeper understanding of each other and a friendship that could have never existed before. Transformed, they “return to their communities committed to salting their context with the reconciling love of Jesus Christ.”1

“My relation with Jewish friends started with Musalaha, but it did not stop there,” John continued. “What these programs did was motivate me to be more active in making the effort to build relations together. It is true that in every step I took, I discovered that we are different, but also I believed that we can still enjoy our unity in our diversity.”

Colossians 3:13 – Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
*Name has been changed for security purposes.
1 David W. Shenk, “The Gospel of Reconciliation Within the Wrath of Nations,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 32.1 (2008): p. 5.

Vaccination against Abuse: Street ministry serves Brazilian children at risk

Vaccination against Abuse | Overseas CouncilMaria and Denise recently earned their Diplomas in Mission from Evangelical Missions Center (EMC), Brazil. Their practical ministry placement took them to Uruguay to work with Youth for Christ for a month and a half. Both ladies feel called to serve children at risk, and their main project sought to educate society, churches, families and children on how to prevent abuse.

During their placement, the ladies served several churches, taught children and were involved in a project called “Vaccination against Abuse.” The project was presented to leaders at the Senate and Legislative Palace in order to launch a parliamentary defense on child and teenage rights. Street programs were also used to spread awareness and attract attention to the project. The ladies’ ministry leader noted their joyful attitudes, flexibility, hard work and creativity. They developed good relationships with Uruguayans and were very sensitive to their needs.

Both are now working with the Rebusca Christian social ministry in Viçosa, Brazil.

“It is exciting to see the children’s lives positively affected”

Positively Affecting Children's Lives | Overseas CouncilIn response to Russian societal challenges such as substance abuse, street children and orphans, St. Petersburg Christian University (SPCU) students and graduates have been on the forefront of social ministry through university projects, conferences and training.

Social projects include hosting youth events and multi-day children’s camps, remodeling a rehabilitation center, street evangelism and handing out Bible studies to children. One group will travel to Yakutsk to organize an eight-day service/worship camp for teenagers.

Other students have compiled an outreach plan including a 10-day Christian camp, fellowship conference for new believers and church youth and a unity trip to Mount Pidan. In addition, some students will partner with Tajikistan Christian organizations to provide a youth summer camp, complete with bible lessons, activities and fellowship. Tajikistan believers comprise less than .01% of the population.

Nearby churches are taking notice and have asked the students/graduates to host similar activities and trips. Student Nikita Rezyukov says, “It is exciting to be able to use what I am learning and to see the children’s lives positively affected.”

Update: Russian youth ministry projects successfully completed, many were reached

Update: Russian youth ministry projects completed successfully, many were reached

In the June 2008 eNewsletter, OC shared how partner school St. Petersburg Christian University (SPCU) in Russia was on the forefront of social ministry, specifically their efforts with youth and children. Here is an update on their recent youth events and children’s camps.

One group of SPCU students planned to travel to Yakutsk, the capital of Yakutia in eastern Russia, to organize an eight-day service/worship camp for teenagers. Because of unsafe conditions in the building where the team wanted to make their camp, it was cancelled. However, they held several evening youth gatherings in Mohsogolloh, a nearby city. Activities included a cinema-café, paper party, panel game, “black-and-white cinema” and a picnic. The team particularly prayed for a young group of men to attend the gatherings, and their “leader,” a local criminal named Vitaliy, “attended every evening meeting and was the most active among others.”

This group also arranged a church-based children’s camp in Mohsogolloh with 10-17 children attending daily. Each camp day had its own name, including “The day of full combat readiness,” “The main enemy” and “The winner.” Activities included worship, interesting assignments, games and Bible lessons. The team says they are thankful to God for this trip and pray that all the youth and children were touched by what they saw and heard.

Another team of SPCU students traveled to Tajikistan to partner with Christian organizations there and provide short-term youth camps, complete with bible lessons, activities and fellowship. Tajikistan believers comprise less than .01% of the population. More than 150 children and youth attended the camp and learned about Jesus. The team received many thanks for their assistance in providing the Christian camps and for training Sunday school teachers while there. SPCU has now reached a tentative agreement on the organization of distance learning programs for leaders of Tajikistan churches and Christian organizations.