Seeds of Hope are Growing Rapidly in the Desert

Eman Confidential Final 2I came to know the Lord when I was 15 years old. A few years later, I felt God calling me to do something with my new faith. The Holy Spirit inspired me to start working with children in my community. I joined the “Association for the Salvation of Souls” and have been ministering to children 5-15 years old.

As time passed, I realized I must have additional training in theology in order to better teach children and to continue growing spiritually. Through a series of miraculous events, the Lord opened the door for me to attend Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS).

I have excellent professors who have taught me many new things. I have changed these past two years. My communication skills have improved, I better understand myself, and I see God refining my character. Furthermore, I have learned a better approach to teaching children. I know these tools will help me fulfill my passion of training this generation of children to be compassionate missionary workers for Jesus.

When I am not studying, I enjoy being a part of two of ABTS’ outreach programs. I love that both focus on ministering to children! These past couple years, I have specifically been serving 200-250 Syrian refugee children. During our regularly scheduled time together, we read and talk about Jesus, sing songs and do crafts. I take the opportunity to love them and to show them that I care. I know God is working on their tiny hearts. My prayer is that they see Jesus in me and will make the decision to follow Him.

After I graduate, I plan to return to my home country and to continue serving in children’s ministries. I also hope to start a support group for divorced and separated women. There is a tremendous need in my country to support and encourage women in these situations. Please pray for me as I continue fulfilling the Lord’s calling in my life.

“My communication skills have improved, I better understand myself, and I see God refining my character.”

Tragedy Inspires Growth in Asia


Jcil Bagtasos 3In 1996, my uncle was shot and killed because of his faith. I was six years old and was terrified when I heard the news. I wondered if I would get shot, too. My wise mother took the opportunity to use my uncle’s death to point me to Jesus. It was then that I accepted Christ into my life. Coincidentally, my uncle lost his life, but through the tragedy I found mine!

Perhaps because of the traumatic death of my uncle when I was a child, I desired to become a counselor to help others through tragedy. I prayed for months that God would provide me with the means to study counseling. I was eager to learn the appropriate theories but from a biblical perspective. God answered my prayers with a “yes” in 2013 when I applied and was accepted to Asian Theological Seminary. The campus was a long distance from home, and I couldn’t afford the tuition. I asked God to grant me the faith that I needed to believe that He would provide for my needs. To this day, He has never failed.

ATS has exceeded my expectations! I expected answers; my teachers have taught me to ask the right questions. I wanted easy fixes to problems; they instilled in me the value of process. I entered with the eagerness to finish in no time, yet they helped me realize that the journey is something to be savored as much as the joy of finishing. I came to ATS hoping to make a change in the world, but I realized I had to change first.

Jcil teaching the youth in Zamboanga ATS
Jcil teaching the youth in Zamboanga ATS

I have two passions – children and the Muslim community. Through my studies, God has taught me lifelong lessons I will be able to use in my future ministries. Currently, I am doing mission work among Muslims in the Philippines and am busy working as a counselor (intern) for two non-governmental organizations. After graduating next year, I plan to return to my home town to start a counseling ministry in my community.

“As one of my professors put it, ‘If first and foremost we cannot change society, then first and foremost, we must change ourselves.”

– Jcil Bagtasos

The Word shared by Jacob Kimathi is bringing Families Together in Nairobi

Jacob Kimathi 3I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home. I spent most of my high school years heavily involved in ministry and loved every minute. One day at my mentor’s house, I heard a clear and distinct voice asking me to serve the Lord in the ministry. I was 17 years old, but it wasn’t until I was 31 that I quit my job and went to Bible school. After my schooling, I became a full-time pastor in my local church.

Three years ago, I felt called to continue my studies. I applied to AIU’s PhD program and was accepted. I have appreciated my professors and the applicable knowledge I am acquiring.

NirobiAfrica International University (AIU) is a private Christian institution.The university is located on 53 acres of land in Karen, a suburb on the outskirts of Nairobi. AIU was founded in 1983 and was formerly known as Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST).

In addition to teaching part-time at AIU, I work to develop discipleship materials and programs for churches in my area. I also do a lot of pastoral counseling.

Recently, I counseled a young couple who had been married for 6 years. Many bad decisions were working to destroy their marriage. I worked with them for a long time, and praise be to God, they have reconciled! In fact, they are referring other couples who are struggling in their marriages. My work is not always easy, but it has been greatly rewarding!

“My scholarship has been extremely critical. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for your financial support. Thank you!”

– Jacob Kimathi

Rizzo Turns Inspiration into Elevation in Uruguay

There are times in life when God plants a mission upon our hearts that seems greater than anything we ever thought we could accomplish. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Four years ago, a young man from the country of Uruguay by the name of Santiago Ezequiel Fernández Rizzo had one such mission planted upon his heart. A mission to take on a project much bigger than himself that could change the community he lived in for generations to come.Santiago Rizzo 2

Rizzo’s passion for spreading the Word of God inspired him to take on the challenge of reopening a church that had been closed for seven years. “There have been discouraging circumstances with members of the community and economic hardships, but each situation has created an opportunity to grow as a church and community,” added Rizzo.

Growing up in Uruguay, Rizzo felt the calling to serve God at a very early age. “I can remember when I was only nine years old and I was told about the history of American missionary Jim Elliot,” said Rizzo. In the 1950’s, Jim Elliot devoted his life to an effort to reach the indigenous tribes of Latin America who had not come to know Jesus. Eventually giving his life in an effort to spread the Word of God, Elliot would go to great lengths to learn the language, customs, and move many times throughout Latin America in order to break down barriers for Christianity. “It inspired me and I felt the calling of the Holy Spirit to serve as a pastor,” continued Rizzo.

As Elliot’s story stirred his heart to take action in his own community he saw an opportunity to serve his community that was stifled by drug and alcohol abuse, violence, and poverty. But most importantly, Rizzo began to see hope in the promise of Jesus Christ. His thirst to serve the Lord continued to grow, as did his desire to have a greater impact on his community.

It was at the age of 19 that Rizzo, a budding young soccer star, set aside the cleats that could have led to a way out of poverty and personally invested in his community. Rizzo understood that in order to have the type of impact that he had dreamed of having on his downtrodden community he would need to be trained. He enrolled at Seminario Teológico Hebrón in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia and would see the impact of his training almost immediately.

“I have been trained in various areas and provided tools that have proven to be very useful,” said Rizzo. His concentration has been in the areas of leadership, biblical counseling, and planning, but where he has experienced the greatest spiritual growth and development has been in his ability to effectively deliver the God’s message to the people in his community. Rizzo continued, “When teaching and preaching, others have remarked on how differently my message comes out and has made an impression on them.”

Since beginning his journey as a member of the pastoral staff of his church, Rizzo has led services, worked as the youth and sports minister, served as soccer coach, and operated as the lead pastor for discipleship. This is increasingly important as his service provides hope through the promise of Jesus Christ to a community troubled by suffering, dysfunctional families, alcoholism, rampant violence, and children living in the streets.

Rizzo asks for your prayers and support as he leads his church into a new endeavor. They have opened their doors as a safe haven and shelter for women and children who have experienced abuse.

Because of your donations to the ministry of Overseas Council, leaders like Santiago Ezequiel Fernández Rizzo are able to rise up in the face of overwhelming odds to serve God’s people in powerful ways.

A Celebration of Christ Moving in MENA

Overseas Council is thrilled to announce the graduation of six students from our Middle East North Africa (MENA) Region. The Program for Theological Education by Extension held the ceremony in Cairo, Egypt with great attendance from the community, as well as members of the Egypt National Committee. The awards that students can earn range from a 12 course Certificate of Theology to a 36 course Bachelors in Theology.

PTEE FrameA Bachelor of Theology award winner, Rasheek Saleeb, was thrilled to have completed his program and looks forward to the ability to have deep and lasting impact in his community.
“I learned a lot about the Bible in courses such as New and Old Testament survey, which made me understand how to study the Bible. It gave me insight on how to search for the text’s historical background. Also, it helped me to understand the context.

Saleeb was most excited about the chance to share the Word of God with others in a much deeper way. “Another course that inspired me is ‘Principles for Understanding the Bible Today.’ I learned how to have a dialogue with the text and how to apply it in our modern age. I became more understanding of what is written in the text–which made me minister in a different way than before–and this study made me not only a minister in the church, but in my home, my job and my surrounding community. I ask God to extend this program, and make me use all that I’ve studied for the glory of His name and to serve others.”

The story of Saleeb and his classmates, who have become trained in the Word of God and are now on their way to multiply His Kingdom, are a result of so many talented and brave teachers around the world who face adversity to share the Gospel. But they are also made possible by your generosity!

Thank you for your continued support and prayers for these amazing Christian leaders!

Namibian Minister Uses Music to Inspire Youth

Ever since Jerome Jansen was a young child he found himself frequently impersonating actions of a preacher. In his home country of Namibia, a country whose major religion is Christianity and has enjoyed stability since gaining independence from South Africa in 1990, Jerome recalls not exactly knowing what he was doing as he would preach out loud to an invisible audience, but he imagined his congregation rallying behind his inspirational words.

“I personally believe that all those years God was preparing me, even though I did not realize it,” shared Janson.

He became involved in ministry in 2003 in an effort to meet God’s calling with open arms, but it was not until 2012 that he saw that the best path for him to have the most impact for God’s Kingdom was through theological training. Though he was able to provide a positive presence for those he ministered to, his words and actions lacked a depth that he sought.Jerome Janson preaching Final

“I would often preach ideas based on what people went through in their lives. This training has helped me understand what the bible meant for its original readers. This helped me to think about sermons biblically and spiritually. I also now know that the Kingdom of God is about God and not about your personal feelings especially when it comes to preaching.”

Thanks to your continued support, the aspirations of those who seek to grow His kingdom are coming to fruition.

“Money for many of us at the school is a problem. This scholarship made it possible for me to gain more training in the concepts of preaching. I do not think of the money as the most important thing. Trusting God is. (Your donations) make things so much easier for us when it comes to the training we are getting. We need it to help us not worry about finances. Simply because we are often worried about our school work.”

Currently, Janson works as a member of the worship team in his home church and loves not only the opportunity he has to sing praises to God, but also how music can be used as a tool for over 300 of his community’s youth.

“I believe music is an important aspect in the church today. Young people love contemporary music and I need to learn how to sing contemporary so that we win them for Christ.”

Along with your continued support, Janson requests prayer for his future plans. “I don’t know what God has in store for me, but please pray that I will be obedient to go no matter where he sends me.  Also pray that the Lord will bless my wife.”

Valery Combats Cancer While Building Disciples for Christ in Asia.

The story of Kuban’ Evangelical Christian University student Valery Rogach is an amazing journey in which not only he, but his family were called to serve the Lord. Through the toughest of odds, he and his wife leaned into Jesus for strength. In situations where faith could have faltered, Valary and his wife persevered in faith and have begun leaving a Christian legacy for their children and community.

“I was involved in my church’s ministry, but in 2000, immediately after my wedding I was invited to go to North Osetia as a missionary. I was expecting something like this from the Lord, that’s why it did not take my wife and myself long to decide to move to Vladikavkaz where we spent the first three years of our married life.”Valery Rogach 2

“Almost immediately after I came to know the Lord, I realized I needed some training. First, in 1994, I took a correspondence Bible course in New Life school. Later, I took various Bible courses, like in Spiritual Revival Association (Moscow, Russia) missions program (Project-250). This training made a huge impact on my life and walk with the Lord.”

“I have three children, so my budget is limited. In addition to that, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I have recently had a tumor removal surgery, but that was an unexpected and considerable expense. Without the scholarship, I will not be able to afford to complete my training.”

“I think that one can influence others first of all, through his personal walk with the Lord, because this is contagious. In terms of my ministry, my first and foremost task is to disciple faithful dedicated leaders, like Jesus and His Apostles did. One of my favorite Bible verses, 2 Tim 2:2 calls us to training leaders.”

Your gift has allowed the fire to continue to burn for students like Valery who are called by the word of God, trained in scripture, and seek to multiply His kingdom. 

School President Grateful for Student Growth

The Overseas Council’s Indianapolis staff recently received a visit from Trivelious Institute President, Tony Lelav, who took time from his visit to Chicago area churches and ministries to share his views on Overseas Council and the lasting legacy that we have had on his students.Tony Lelav Framed

“Over the years, Overseas Council has been a vehicle to help local schools achieve greater goals. It is a lot more difficult for local schools to get funding for big causes and Overseas Council, over the years, has been able to help.”

Your gifts have enabled the growing Bulgarian community to complete a much needed project for Tony’s seminary in Bulgaria. Accompanied by a matching grant with generous donor, Trivelious Institute assembled a fully functional computer lab which gave students the ability to communicate via the internet, enhance their study efforts with more diverse sources, develop more intensive thesis work, and utilize bible software to boost their educational experience.

“That was a huge advancement! We were probably the only school in the country to get such a good computer lab.”

Donations further funded the development of a student library for Trivelious Institute, which provided space for even greater opportunities in educational and spiritual growth.

We ask for your continued prayers and support for Tony

and many others in his community who are

called by the word of God, seek to be trained in His word, and work to multiply His Kingdom.

Helogeen Helps Hurting Children in Jamaica

God has given me an immense passion for children. It all started a few years ago when I began attending Miracle Open Bible Church. I joined choir, but it didn’t take long until I was branching into other ministries of the church. It wasn’t until I began volunteering for children’s church that I realized God’s calling on my life. I was certain that working with children was my life’s work!

Helogeen Hepburn (left), is studying for a Master of Counseling and Psychology degree at Caribbean Graduate School of Theology
Helogeen Hepburn (left), is studying for her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology at Caribbean Graduate School of Theology

Since then, I have earned a degree in Child and Adolescent Development and am now studying at Caribbean Graduate School of Theology (CGST) for my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. I am sincerely appreciative for CGST expanding my horizons and teaching me so much thus far in my studies. I am grateful to God for providing for my financial needs, even when it seems I won’t have enough funds to meet my school expenses. He’s in control of my future, and I know He will be faithful to complete this work in me!

In addition to my studies, I am president of the Children’s Church Ministry at Miracle Open Bible Church and truly enjoy ministering to all my kids. I love teaching them from the Word and showing them how to apply it to their own lives. I use fun and creative ways like songs, dance and dramas to reinforce what they’re learning in our Bible studies. When I look around, I see such an incredible need in our region to love and support our children. There are so many little ones hurting. We simply can’t turn a blind eye to them. They’re our future, and we must help lead them to the Savior.

Because children are the foundation for the future of God’s Kingdom, it’s imperative we impart the knowledge of God to them. It’s now in these formative years that we have the privilege to train them to be powerful little evangelists, intercessors and worshipers. I’ve witnessed the Holy Spirit changing some of these children as they have come to know Jesus through Children’s Church. I am blessed beyond measure to be working for the Lord in this capacity. I look forward to His continued blessing as I finish my studies and grow this children’s ministry.


“Please continue supporting students like me who are answering a Heavenly call on their lives. We need your prayers and encouragement as we help multiply God’s Kingdom!”

                                              – Helogeen Hepburn



God Called Khalil Out of Satanic Worship into the Ministry

Although I grew up in a Christian family, God wasn’t important to me. I started hanging out with some new friends who were into satanic worship and rituals.

Khalil Moussa, Bachelor of Theology student at Arab Bible Theological Seminary
Khalil Moussa, theology student at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary

In 2008, a Christian friend invited me to visit his church’s youth group. One evening at the meetings, the pastor challenged us in a very unique way. He asked us to stand if we believed we would go to Heaven if we died. The question shook me to the core. I knew I was not a child of God.

That evening was a turning point for me. I prayed, ‘God, I have made the decision to follow you, but I don’t have the power to become more like You. Please help me to become more like You.’ Since then, I have felt God calling me to ministry. Shortly after my conversion, I started working with Syrian refugees. For two years, I visited them in their homes and studied the Bible with them.

I sensed the Lord wanting to spiritually grow me and my ministry, so I applied to Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS). I have tremendously grown in my walk with Jesus and in my understanding of the Bible. Throughout my schooling, I have continued visiting and studying with refugees. Some of them have even joined me in my ministry now!

Take Ahmad, a convicted criminal, drug addict and alcoholic. When I met him, he was terribly unhappy and very abusive toward his wife and three children. I felt impressed to visit with him and to form a friendship. For the first week, I did not mention Jesus. I simply listened to him and laughed with him. After the first week of regularly visiting together, Ahmad shared with me, “I see Jesus in your life and in your wife’s life. I want that too.” Ahmad is now serving with me in the men’s meetings and is studying with two families who are seeking the Truth. Praise the Lord! He works in mysterious ways.

After graduating this summer, my wife and I plan to continue building a ministry team among the Syrian refugees. Our ultimate goal is for our team to work with Middle Eastern Muslims in need of a Savior. Please pray that He will show us where we need to serve Him in the Middle East.

“As God has led us in the past, we know our future is in His hands.”

                                              – Khalil Moussa