My time at NETS was a blessing! I learned so much and am very appreciative to the staff and faculty for instilling in me sound biblical teachings.
Since graduating in March, God has led me to be the chaplain of the Anglican Students’ Federation (ASF). This ministry is geared towards enhancing the spiritual lives of students at secular universities. As chaplain, I work with the other members of ASF to hold prayer services, Bible studies, church services and other spiritually-enriching activities. ASF has a presence at five different institutions in Namibia. I do my best to visit each campus once a week. It is truly wonderful being a part of such a great organization!
My dream is to one day be a school chaplain because I love working with young people. I pray someday God will bring my dream to fruition! In the meantime, I am enjoying applying my biblical skills and knowledge to my work here at ASF.
Jo-Marrie Fortuin became a Christian when she was 17 years old. “I will always remember that year because it was the most difficult time of my life. God met me at the lowest point of my life. I became very ill. I was in and out of the hospital, seeing many different doctors, but none of them could identify the problem. Hospital bills were piling up.” Thankfully, she says, she grew up in a Christian home, so she and her family prayed earnestly for a breakthrough from the Lord. “I was getting worse by the day, and doctors had lost hope. I started doubting God and questioning Him. Finally in His goodness, He enabled a doctor to make the right diagnosis. The problem was connected to my inner organs. I had to undergo a major operation which really scared me as a young person, but it was very successful.”
Following her operation, Jo-Marrie’s church had a visitor from South Africa. As the woman preached, Jo-Marrie was very touched by her message. “It made me think of the time I was in the hospital. I realized that our lives are so short on earth, and God wants to use us to do His work while we are here. If it wasn’t for God’s grace, I would not have had a successful operation.” That evening, she decided to give her life completely to the Lord, follow Him and do what He wants her to do.
She credits her Christian parents for her faith and how they raised her. “My parents always encouraged me and taught me the Word of God. The fact that they always put God first and trusted Him for everything in their lives had such a big impact on me. After my conversion, they continued to share the Word of God with me, and that made me grow even stronger in the Lord.”
With a great passion to serve God, Jo-Marrie decided to study theology. “I love sharing the Gospel with young people and would really love to see more young people giving their lives to the Lord.” She has already earned a Certificate in Evangelism and Christian Counseling. She is now in her final year at the Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS).
“Being at a Bible school is the most wonderful experience one could ask for, to study God’s Word in depth and be equipped for ministry. But being at a Bible school is not all about information but also transformation. Being part of the NETS community helps me to grow in my character and in my Christian walk with the Lord.”
“One of the subjects I love is ‘Contextual Theology.’ It helps me grow in the knowledge of African cultures and contexts which is of utmost importance for African leaders. It shows me whether I hold to or challenge traditional African religions and beliefs. I believe in the inspired and infallible Word of God and don’t want to compromise it in order to fit the context.”
Equipped to serve, Jo-Marrie is a member of the Evangelical Mission Church. She serves as a deaconess on the church council and will be inducted as an elder soon. She teaches confirmation classes and recently started a youth group. She also has a great passion for music, so she’s a member of the worship team. “Since being at NETS, my ministry has become much more effective because I have been given a good foundation for teaching the Bible.”
After graduating, Jo-Marrie’s church will appoint her to be involved with youth work and other pastoral and leadership roles. She wants to use her Christian Counseling certificate to serve the Lord with her counseling gifts. “Many of our young people contract HIV/AIDS. Others drink too much alcohol, and the suicide rate among teenagers is very high. They need good role models and Bible teaching. Challenges, trials and hardships will always be there while we are on this earth, but I always remind myself that ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength.’ We are always to seek the Lord’s face in whatever we are facing. And when everything is going well with us, we should give glory to God, for He is good all the time.”
Raised under Communist rule in Ethiopia, Seblewengel Daniel had the blessing of growing up in a Christian family and accepted Christ at an early age. Evangelical churches were scarce, and it proved difficult for Christians to find a church with a pastor who had a Bible and preached from it. The churches that fit this description were packed. Seble recalls arriving at church by 7:30 am every Sunday and waiting outside the church doors with her family, so that when the doors opened at 10 am, the family could find seats together.
Seble served in child and youth Sunday school programs and led the choir. She says she “longed and prayed to serve the Lord on a full-time basis.” The church leadership observed her teaching skills, and knowing the great need for biblically-educated ministry leaders, they asked her to consider an education in biblical studies to serve the church.
Seble and her church leaders explored training opportunities, though there were few private schools due to Communist laws. The public schools were extremely competitive because there were so many students and no private universities to help bear the burden of educating Ethiopian youth. Throughout this time of research and exploration, the Evangelical Theological College (ETC) sent brochures to Seble’s church, and the following year in 1993, she started her course work.
Seble earned her Bachelor’s degree in Theology and then returned to serve in her church. She utilized her skills and ministry gifts with another church as well as Serving In Mission (SIM) which helped establish the denomination in which her church is associated. She also taught at an Amharic Bible school that offered two-year certificates. In 2002, she earned her Master’s degree in Systematic Theology from the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST).
While working on her Master’s thesis on the view of women and women’s ministry, she returned to ETC to serve as Registrar and faculty member. She also taught in her church’s higher-level Bible school. The ETC leadership continued to see her natural skillset for mentoring students and training staff, so they sent Seble to Ghana to complete her PhD in Theology.
In January 2012, Dr. Seble returned to teach Systematic Theology courses at ETC full-time, including the Doctrine of Christ and Salvation, the Church and the End Times, Ethics, Theological Matters in Africa and the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. This semester, she teaches 83 students in three of these courses. The students are focusing on theological truths and applying them to their region and context.
One of her students recently presented on “The Church and Divorce in Ethiopia.” The student shared, “45% of Ethiopian marriages end in divorce. Some contextual challenges to marriage specific to various people groups in Ethiopia include, for example, women who are married against their will or who are kidnapped and forced into marriage.” Discussing these Ethiopian contextual challenges to marriage, the student approached the topic and its challenges using the biblical approaches and Christian moral ethics Dr. Seble taught.
Dr. Seble plans to serve at ETC for at least another six years, training hundreds of Ethiopian ministry leaders to approach Ethiopian challenges theologically as they study the Bible and apply it to their contexts. Her students love her classes and the challenging conversations she encourages.
She also teaches part-time at her other Ethiopian alma mater, EGST. Dr. Desta Heliso, EGST Director, identifies a critical aspect of Dr. Seble’s multiplication. “She has made significant strides in the area of campaigning against female genital mutilation in our country. She was the major voice behind the development of a declaration against it for the Evangelical Fellowship of Ethiopia, which has since disseminated the declaration and even took time to read it aloud at their General Assembly. This is important work. It is making a difference.”
Born in a church-going family, Agnes Odero says being mentored by a female missionary led to her faith becoming her own at the age of 12. “I gave my life to the Lord by myself when I saw a book that had pictures of Jesus’ crucifixion. It reminded me of [the missionary’s] teachings, that I was a sinner and Jesus died in my place. I cried and asked Jesus to come into my heart.”
As an adult, Agnes’ ministry began after she lost her husband to a random act of violence in 2000. She had left to go work in another town and was to return the following day. While away, she received a call from her brother-in-law, explaining that her husband had been attacked and was in critical condition in a Nairobi hospital. She drove two hours straight there, but he passed before she arrived. This traumatizing event reshaped the focus of her life. Her pastor and his wife were the only pastors nearby who had experience in counseling. They walked her through the stages of grief. As she processed this event and experienced healing through the counseling they provided, Agnes became interested in helping others in the same way and decided to take up the mission of multiplying counseling services throughout Nairobi. “After the tragedy, I purposed to serve the Lord in counseling [in order to help] people who go through [traumatic events] like I went through. I joined the counseling ministry at church, but I really needed training.”
Agnes began her studies at the Nairobi International School of Theology (NIST), Kenya, to acquire the necessary training. In her studies, Agnes said God taught her to serve Him with her whole heart. She grew to love Him more and matured in her faith. “He also taught me that there are very few laborers and much work,” she says. In Kenya, Agnes says there is a growing need for counseling of both the young and the old. “The rate of suicide is increasing among the youth. The cause is unknown since suicide notes are not left, but most parents suspect it is either failed relationships or academic performance. Adolescence is a difficult developmental stage for some people. Due to the many changes taking place in their bodies, they can become depressed because they are overwhelmed. Some find it difficult to open up to anyone when struggling with a problem. I felt God calling me to minister to the youth. As I studied theology, I saw more clearly the problem of the fallen nature of man and how it is only God who can help. Psychology and counseling theories help me understand people better. What I studied has helped me sharpen my counseling skills and made me more proficient as I minister to God’s people.”
Agnes graduated with her Master’s degree in Counseling Studies in 2008. She benefited from an Overseas Council scholarship. “I believed that God would provide my school fees, and He did. Glory be to Him alone.” The long-term impact of scholarships is the multiplication of godly leaders like Agnes who are equipped with theological and responsive contextual knowledge in order to lead the Church and society through the issues and problems they face with vision, integrity and competence.
While still studying at NIST and since graduating, Agnes established three counseling programs in churches throughout Nairobi. She manages the counselor training sessions and returns regularly for quality assessment and improvement at all three churches. Together these programs have served more than 1,000 individuals specializing in HIV/AIDS diagnosis, tribal/ethnic blending of families, peace and reconciliation, grief, addictions and pre-marital, marital and depression counseling services.
In addition, Agnes leads a ministry to single mothers and widows. Her ministry seeks to comfort the women and meet their needs through personal one-on-one visits, group prayer meetings, guest speakers and social outings.
She also still volunteers for the counseling ministry at her church in Nairobi. She hopes to teach counseling studies in institutions of higher education.
Kennedy is a born again Christian. Ten years ago, he says he was called but refused. “I just didn’t see myself doing ministry. Someone told me, ‘I just couldn’t see you anywhere but the pulpit.’ I laughed inside. For seven years, I went to church and sat in the back, so I could get out quickly. Finally I was asked if I’d like to help at the church, so I said I’d usher. One morning in the early service, the pastor was late, and someone asked me to teach. Afterward, the church leaders asked me to get theological training in order to preach again in the future.”
Kennedy studied at Africa International University (AIU) in Kenya. He already had a degree in business management, so he inquired about a degree in theology.
Kennedy is thankful to God for His provision. He didn’t have the funds to get an education when he arrived but was able to complete his studies through various scholarships, including one from Overseas Council. He graduated in 2011 with his Master of Divinity degree in Biblical Studies.
Kennedy is passing on his theological training to other pastors who have none in order to help them have a deeper understanding of the Bible and Christianity as a whole. He trains pastors in the Kibera slums and Maasai churches (the Maasai are an ethnic group in Kenya). “The Maasai believe that men need to be very macho, so I had to help them see that Jesus was not weak on the cross but rather strong. He was also smart because He won in the end!” Kennedy says his training has helped in a number of ways in ministry, including showing other pastors how to teach the Bible in context and the power of forgiveness.
Kennedy says his story is an example of how investing in one leader impacts multitudes. The pastors he is training today will teach others in various churches tomorrow. By equipping a group of 12 pastors, he is reaching over 1,000 of their church members with the true Gospel message due to his training from AIU.
Kennedy also works at AIU as a project officer in fundraising. His wife passed away in December 2011; he is a single parent to their seven-year-old daughter and four-year-old son.
Born and raised in Lebanon, Elie Haddad immigrated to Canada toward the end of the civil war in Lebanon in 1990. He worked for 15 years in Toronto as a senior Information Systems & Management consultant.
During this time, Elie felt called to ministry, so he enrolled at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto to earn his Master’s degree in Theological Studies. He was also involved with the Middle East Baptist Church in Mississauga, Ontario, where he served as an elder and a member of the pastoral team.
Despite leaving Lebanon with no intention to return, Elie and his wife, Mireille, felt called by God in 2005 to return home. Elie took a missionary post with Canadian Baptist Ministries and then served as Provost of Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Beirut, an Overseas Council partner school. He became President three years later.
Elie is pursuing a PhD in Missional Ecclesiology through another Overseas Council partner school, the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) in the Czech Republic.
Elie has a heart for the mobilization of the Church, and under his visionary leadership, ABTS has become a missional educational movement, seeking to expand and impact local and regional communities.
He also serves as the Executive Director of the LEARN Project, one of two components of a strategic initiative known as TEACH/LEARN. Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, people are embracing faith, sometimes through unlikely means like dreams, visions, satellite television and the Internet. Overseas Council invests in seminaries in this region where it’s possible to do so. However, in many places, it is impossible to teach a theological class openly, and therefore, believers will never be able to receive quality theological training to fulfill their calling.
The TEACH/LEARN initiative is a program that has the potential to transform the future of theological education in this region. It allows theological training to transcend political borders through satellite television (TEACH) and Internet delivery (LEARN), offering over 30 courses. It has been highly effective in sharing the Good News in restricted-access nations, offering sound defense of the Gospel in the face of Islam and providing solid discipleship for believers. People are embracing Christ in places where the call to prayer punctuates the air five times a day, where sharing the Gospel is illegal and where conversion is punishable by imprisonment, torture or even death.
Overseas Council estimates that TEACH/LEARN will impact millions of viewers and equip thousands of emerging church leaders. It disciples the called and trains them, so they can multiply the Kingdom. Our prayer is that we may witness the rapid growth of the Church in this challenging but key region in our lifetimes. There is new hope for the Middle East and North Africa through TEACH/LEARN.
[TEACH stands for Theological Education for Arab Christians at Home, and its principal delivery medium is satellite television. LEARN stands for Leadership Education And Resource Network, and its principal delivery medium is the Internet, using multimedia instructional technology.]
At 12 years old, Judith Simiyu accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior and grew in her faith through church involvement. As an adult, she worked as a Sunday school teacher, Women’s Ministry Department leader and elder. For the last several years, she has served as associate pastor to a slum church in Mukuru kwa Njenga, a very challenging and large slum area in eastern Nairobi. “I felt a need to know more about Jesus Christ. I realized that I must go to school even at my age of 58 in order to reach my world for Him.”
Judith came to the Nairobi International School of Theology (NIST), Kenya, to be better equipped in her ministry work. She is in her second year of her Diploma in Counseling Studies program. “I have learned that without proper education and correct teaching procedures, you cannot effectively impact your world for Jesus Christ….Since I came to NIST, I am more confident of what I am teaching and preaching.”
Judith received an Overseas Council scholarship for her studies. Describing what it means to her, she said, “I can now concentrate on absorbing what I am being taught as opposed to worrying half the time about where I am going to get whatever shortfall there is in my school fees.”
“The work of God in the slum areas has proved to be extremely challenging,” Judith says. “People are very poor, and therefore, one needs to minister to the physical needs of the people before talking to them about the love of God. People do not own Bibles, so they are not able to read the Word for themselves. Parents and children all share a single room without proper bathroom facilities, and the rate of crime and promiscuity are very high. Diseases such as HIV/AIDS are prevalent.”
With God’s help, Judith intends to start a counseling center for those infected and affected with HIV/AIDS. She also plans to start a self-help project where women can learn the skills necessary to run and sustain small businesses for the benefit of their families.
Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Blessing Chishanu says his teenage years were filled with self-indulgence. “I felt an undeniable and almost physically tangible void in my life. I sought solace and fulfillment in drugs, nightclubs, relationships and parties. My desires had the wrong role models driving them. Hollywood and the global music powerhouses like MTV were fueling my ambitions and perspective on life. I was also trying to escape the harsh realities and pressures of life at home.”
The economic situation in Zimbabwe led Blessing’s family into real financial struggles. His father grew sick, physically deteriorating in front of his eyes until he passed away. Blessing’s mother passed away shortly after, leaving Blessing in heartbreaking pain and with intense pressure to provide for his family. “Then came my breaking point, but my usual methods of escape were not giving me the boost they used to. I desperately needed something more. Life was only a mere existence for me. Deep down, I had a longing for more meaning and purpose. I knew something had to change.”
Through a series of events, Blessing found himself attending a church conference. “I had never been to such a gathering and had never heard preaching about God. I had never seen so many young people with a real sparkle in their eyes and genuinely happy. They were radically in love with Jesus.” Blessing says as he listened to the speakers talk about their relationship with God, all he knew was that he wanted what they had. “I wanted to know this Jesus as intimately as they did. It was then I realized I wanted to commit my life fully to God, and I confessed Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior….After hitting rock bottom, that’s when I met the Rock of Ages.”
Blessing says from that moment on, he felt his heavy burdens lifted. His associations and passions changed. “My desires and affections were turned toward God. My outlook on life was no longer self-indulgent but Christ-centered.” He attended a weekly Bible study where he was discipled in his Christian walk. He began serving in different roles in his church, and over time, he felt called by the Lord to enter ministry. “That’s when the Lord led me to the Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS).”
Blessing completed his first year at NETS in November 2012 and looks forward to digging even deeper into God’s Word as he joins the Diploma of Theology program in 2013. “I am deeply grateful for the sponsorships that are helping students like me to have this opportunity to learn more about God’s Word. I have learned so many things about Jesus’ saving grace during my time at NETS. I have come to know God more intimately and understand His Word more fully. I endeavor to be well-equipped and give the best of my abilities to Christ’s cause as I embark in my studies. I believe through God’s Word, we can change the focus of our internal compass which directs our worldview and outlook on life.”
Blessing leads the missions department at his church in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. The department focuses on community outreach programs and targets the less privileged within the area. He is part of the prayer and praise/worship teams and has also led the youth ministry.
“God has given me a real passion to empower young people with the hope and life found in the Word of God. I want to offer Christ-centered solutions to the pressures, frustrations and challenges young people are facing in this generation. Suicide rates are higher than they have ever been in recent history. Abortion figures are staggering. Sexually transmitted diseases, unemployment rates and many other social pressures are choking the dear life out of the leaders of tomorrow.”
“I hold to the core my deepest conviction that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life that needs to be infused into our frame of thinking as young people growing up today. I believe God has given me a special calling and has placed me in my community to bring hope to this hopeless generation. God has given me this incredible light to illuminate the path of others as we walk together, bound for our heavenly home.”
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2 (NIV)
Ayshe Hurlyova has been through many difficult times in her young life of 22 years. Her father, she says, “was a thief with no intention to care for us.” Her parents divorced when she was young, leaving her mother struggling to provide for Ayshe and her brother. Though not a believer, their mother took them to an evangelical church where they attended Sunday school.
When her mother lost her job, they went to live with Ayshe’s grandfather and uncle in a village. Ayshe traveled to town to study, and later as a teenager, she started visiting a Baptist church there. “It was a safe place for me because home was not safe at all. I became a victim of abuse from my uncle, and my mother did not believe me when I told her. I lived in fear for several years. I dreamed of running away from home, but I was afraid for my little brother, so I stayed. I used every possibility to escape from home and visit the church. There I heard many times about Jesus’ love and forgiveness, but I felt too sinful because of the things that were happening to me.”
Ayshe’s breakthrough came when she attended a summer camp at 16 years old. “There for the first time in my life, I realized the great power of God. He can forgive me everything if I allow Him to live in my heart.”
After finding God in her darkest hour, Ayshe is now pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Theology at the Trivelius Institute (TI) in Bulgaria. She has been helped through an Overseas Council scholarship.
Soon Ayshe will be equipped with the necessary skills to minister to other young women who are searching for a safe haven to help them heal from their painful pasts, just as Ayshe has. “In the last five years, I have been working with psychologists to discover and prevent the domestic and sexual abuse of children and teenagers.”
Ayshe volunteers for a nonprofit organization that works with high school students to prevent early sexual activity and HIV. She also serves as a youth leader for teenagers in her church and volunteers with Young Life, working with non-believing teenagers on social projects and witnessing to them through relationships. She looks forward to where the Lord leads her next.