Dr. Seble trains hundreds of Ethiopian ministry leaders to face contextual challenges biblically

Called.

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.

Trained.
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.

Multiplied.
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.”

Agnes’ counseling centers serve more than 1,000 people


Called.

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.”

Trained.
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.

Multiplied.
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 equips 12 Maasai pastors who impact over 1,000 church members in Kenya

Called.
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-2568_250 Trained.
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.

Multiplied.
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.

Elie is equipping church leaders throughout the Middle East and North Africa

Called.
Elie is equipping church leaders throughout the Middle East and North Africa | Overseas CouncilBorn 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.

Trained.
Elie is pursuing a PhD in Missional Ecclesiology through another Overseas Council partner school, the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) in the Czech Republic.

Multiplied.
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.]

TEACH Programming | Overseas Council

Judith sought training to better shepherd her slum church

Called.
Judith sought training to better shepherd her slum church | Overseas CouncilAt 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.”

Trained.
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.”

Multiplied.
“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.

 

Judith-2112_250

 

Judith sought training to better shepherd her slum church | Overseas Council

After hitting rock bottom, Blessing met the Rock of Ages

Called.
Blessing met the Rock of Ages | Overseas CouncilBorn 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).”

Trained.
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.”

Multiplied.
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 ministers to sexually abused women, helping them heal from their painful pasts like she did

Called.
Ayshe ministers to sexually abused women | Overseas CouncilAyshe 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.”

Trained.
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.

Multiplied.
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.

Josphat ministers to hundreds of slum children where he grew up

Called.
Joshpat Ministers to Hundreds | Overseas CouncilJosphat Kinyingi was born and raised in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya, one of the largest in the world. Conditions in the slum are extremely poor with immense pollution, waste, illness and disease. Most residents lack access to basic services like electricity and running water. Josphat’s parents were unable to take him to school due to their high poverty level. He says he almost became a street child due to his lack of hope in life and the daily conflicts of his dysfunctional family. “My dad would come home drunk late in the evening and beat every one of us,” he says. “I could spend several days without food, so I thought surviving on the street could possibly help.”

Josphat accepted Christ after attending a youth conference organized by a local church within Kibera. “The preacher spoke to my heart and told me how much God loved me and the wonderful plans He had for my life. I almost wept because I knew the kind of challenges I was going through, but I decided to believe what he said.”

Josphat attended children’s Sunday school at a church in the slum. Visitors from the West came to visit one Sunday morning. During the lesson, he emerged as the winner for memorizing verses of Scripture. “I was rewarded with biscuits and sweets. With all these gifts in my hands, that day was my turning point.” When the visitors learned that he was not in school, they asked if he would like to go. He was enrolled the next day.

By the time Josphat started high school, he was an adult; his parents had moved north because they were aging. While in high school, he was taken in by a children’s home and stayed there throughout his school life. After school, the children’s home asked him to accompany visiting missionaries from the West to help with translation. He spent much of his time translating for them in churches, home visitations and school fellowships. One of the missionaries realized that Josphat had ministry potential that needed to be polished and encouraged him to join a Bible school. Josphat chose the Nairobi International School of Theology (NIST).

Trained.
Under the missionary’s support, Josphat pursued a Diploma in Counseling and graduated. He is now in his third year pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Education, Counseling and Psychology.

“It has taken the hand of God to be where I am today,” he says. “Throughout my education, I have been studying under the support of different scholarships. I am amazed because I never thought it could happen, but God is faithful because He always brings the right people into my life to help.” Josphat says every semester, he has a different story of how God provides.

Multiplied.
While still in school, Josphat serves with Children Refuge Centers International (Kenya Hope) in the Kibera slums and other parts of the country. The organization runs a feeding program through its nine Hope Centers throughout the country, feeding hundreds of children. They help put children in school, and medical care is provided through a clinic run by a Christian doctor who treats the children for a small fee. Saturday Clubs allow the children to learn about Jesus, and the Special Ministries staff does home visitations. “I am working with children in the Kibera center because this is the place where I grew up.”

Josphat says the slums are plagued by social issues: rape, dysfunctional families, extreme poverty, drug abuse, premarital sex and early teenage marriages. “These are things I normally find myself addressing while dealing with the children. I have set up a Bible club for spiritual growth for these children every Saturday afternoon, trusting that God will protect them from the daily evil happening in this slum region.”

Sometimes Josphat says he handles cases of attempted suicide from the children. “I thank God for the counseling skills I learned through my diploma courses. I have been counseling both boys and girls on different issues….I have also been talking to the children’s parents on how to respond to some of their psychological needs and empowering them with information based on my relationship with their children.” Josphat says it is amazing that “God is preparing me for a very special task that I never thought of in my life….Thank God I never got lost in the slums, involved with drugs and other evils. God preserved me for a special assignment….I thank God for who I am today. I have so much more hope than before, bearing in mind that I am a child of the Most High.”

After graduation next year, Josphat hopes to continue to the Master’s program if financial support is available. As far as ministry plans, “I would love to work with Kibera people, especially the youth….The organization I’m currently serving is slowly growing [as it] meets the needs of many needy children and their families. I may have my own ministry in the future. Who knows? The God who spoke to our early fathers is still the same God on the throne today, so it’s possible.”

Junette’s training has transformed her to reach the lost

Called.
Junette Reaches the Lost | Overseas CouncilJunette Galagala-Nacion was raised in the Church, “not devout but God-fearing. I had my unorthodox concepts of God when I was younger, although I did not question His existence. Coming from a dysfunctional family, I had emptiness in my heart, a desire to belong and a yearning to be loved.”

During her freshman year in college, Junette prayed to receive Christ after attending an evangelistic concert. Through a dorm fellowship group, Bible study and a campus church, she was nurtured in her faith. “I began to develop a love for the Word and found warmth, friendship, and most of all, the nearness of God….Through the years, I came to understand the gravity of my sin and grew in my understanding of God’s grace.” She took a leadership role in the dorm fellowship group and also served as coordinator of a music team.

“My own Christian walk has been marked with seasons of personal struggle, but I am thankful that God remains sovereign and merciful.” After going on mission trips in college, Junette says, “God continued to give me a heart for the lost.” She took the Kairos course, looking at the world from God’s perspective, and says her outlook on life changed permanently. “The desire to serve in career ministry developed in my heart.”

After a long journey of prayer and seeking His will, Junette joined an organization that reaches indigenous communities through contextualized church planting and transformational development. Her husband, Herbert, also served in the same organization as a missionary sent by his church. Junette decided to pursue theological training in order to be better equipped for ministry.

Trained.
She enrolled at the Asian Theological Seminary in the Philippines. She is in the third year of her Master of Divinity in Biblical Studies program. She says her studies have helped her understand God’s Word better, including each author’s angle in communicating who Jesus is and how to minister to different people. “Studying at ATS has not only resolved my curiosity to know more about God and the Bible, but it has taken me on a journey of personal transformation. I have also been changed through the proper knowledge and handling of Scriptures. At ATS, I have had the privilege of undergoing holistic training, which touches both the cognitive through biblical studies and the practical through service and participation in the community. This has helped me become a better minister of the Word and a more faithful steward of Christ’s love to my family and community….Kindly pray for wisdom, physical strength and tenacity as I undertake courses that are shaping my life and also pointing me toward the direction the Lord wants me to go.”

She says her training has greatly influenced all other aspects of her life, including her writing and media-related work. “I have become more discerning and conscious as I engage in Bible-related work. Although I still have a very long way to go in terms of becoming more like Christ, I believe that the teaching and counseling skills I have learned have also helped transform others into Christlikeness. It is such a privilege to be transformed and then become a channel for biblical transformation in the lives of others.”

Junette received an Overseas Council scholarship to complete her studies. “We are thankful to the Lord for allowing us to have Junette as one of the best scholars at ATS,” says Professor Noli Mendoza, Dean of Student Affairs.

Multiplied.
Junette’s multiplication is widespread. Through her church, she facilitates two Bible studies, one for couples and one for young women; serves as a discussion leader for a series of evangelical Bible studies; and speaks in church teaching sessions, camps and fellowships. “There is unspeakable joy whenever I share what the Lord has taught me and listen to the life stories of my students.”

She serves as a devotional writer for Scripture Union and is part of a translation team that will translate the Bible into urban Filipino (or “Pinoy”) through the Philippine Bible Society. She is involved in editing a children’s Bible in Cebuano, another language in the Philippines, as well as translating a prisoners’ devotional.

“These ministry involvements continue to train and encourage me in pursuing [theological education]….Should the Lord will it, I intend to pursue further studies so I can eventually teach in a Bible institution….I continue to experience the daily goodness of God, His provision, His presence and His wisdom. I look forward to knowing Jesus more as I integrate my formal seminary education into my varied ministries, church life, family and personal journey of faith.”

Formerly a Buddhist, Va says Cambodia is spiritually hungry like he used to be

Called.

Va says Cambodia is spiritually hungry like he used to be | Overseas Council

Va says Cambodia is spiritually hungry like he used to be | Overseas Council

 
Va Vachna was born and raised in a large Cambodian family, one of five children. “I heard the Good News even before a church was established in my town, but I was not interested in a new religion. I was a committed Buddhist and vowed to die one.” More than 95% of the country’s population adheres to Buddhism; Islam dominates certain minorities and about one percent identifies as Christian.

When Va was in junior high school, he heard the Gospel again. Missionaries from the capital, Phnom Penh, came to share in the city where he lived. He was invited by a Christian friend to join a small group at his house where worship service was held. While there, he found out that the missionary team had started a music class and soccer team. “I was interested in those programs very much, so I kept attending the service. Being young, I was merely interested with the activities, but my heart was not yet stirred by talks of faith.” Va kept hearing the Good News every time the music class and soccer team met. “I did not understand the Scripture clearly, but somehow one time, I heard the Gospel very clearly. The message pierced my heart, and I started meditating and wanting to know more about Jesus. It was a momentous conversion.” Va attended church every weekend where he learned the foundation of the Christian faith. When he was 17 years old, he prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior and was baptized.

“My belief in Christ started from a deep spiritual need, one I didn’t know existed. I was hungry spiritually and so is my country and its people. Thank God that He has given me a vision to become a pastor.” Va started teaching children in Sunday school. “I thought that if I desire to see changes in the spiritual climate of my country, a great fertile starting ground would be young Cambodian children.”

Initially Va wasn’t sure if God called him to be a shepherd to His people, so he started praying. “I believed if anyone from my family came to know Christ, then it would be a great sign that God is indeed calling me. God answered my prayers. Graciously and faithfully, my brothers, one by one, came to know Christ. The greatest moment of confirmation came when my parents finally accepted Christ. From many tears and prayers, the Lord made it certain to me that He is calling me indeed to take up my cross and follow Him.”

Trained.
Va decided to pursue a biblical education at the Asian Theological Seminary (ATS) in the Philippines. “I had no idea what a Bible school was, but I came to the Philippines to see ATS. After arriving on campus, I was so sure this would be my school and my unique place of learning. I felt very comfortable with the people and felt at peace and in harmony with the environment.” Va is pursuing his Master of Divinity degree to be a pastor. “At ATS, I am continuously learning, not just purely academic information but substantial life lessons that affect my character development.”

Multiplied.
Before arriving at ATS, Va committed to work full-time as a pastor in his Cambodian church. When he returns home, he will be teaching at a local seminary as well. “There is a great need for the contextualization of biblical values, principles and issues in my country. With the help of ministry friends and local ministries, I plan to start a training center in my church, just like what ATS is doing in its Center for Continuing Studies program. The purpose is to equip laymen and pastors to acquire biblical interpretation skills and more effectively reach the hearts of the Cambodian people.”

“It is a great honor and privilege to work on the frontlines for God. He has chosen me to be His disciple. He has opened the way for me, and I believe He will sustain me to be a faithful servant of His. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn, teach and preach the Good News. To God be the glory.”