Friday, December 7, 2012

First Class of NLTS

It's such a strange and awesome feeling to see something through to fruition after such a long time.  As I shared in an earlier post , we've been dreaming of the HUB for 3 years and now it's here.  Besides that, we've just completed our first class of our NLTS oral theological education program.

NLTS is where our leaders (who live in the bush and are almost all illiterate) will come 6 times a year for a week at a time over the next 2 years.  They will receive training geared towards oral learners that will help them as they lead and start churches all across Songhai lands!

I've been wearing my "Happy, Happy, Happy" T-shirt that Parx bought me for my birthday all week as it seems to sum up how I'm feeling!  I told someone "I just can't stop smiling!"  It's truly been an awesome week as we trained 17 men from 10 different villages and have now sent them back out.  The HUB is being used how we always dreamed it would: as a launchpad!

As I look at this picture of all these men I can't help but think of you. So many of you have faithfully prayed for these men and their villages.  Some of you were the ones who shared with these men, some were there when they believed.  Some of you took those initial steps in discipleship with these men and some of you have come and fanned the flame.  The point is that you've been such an integral part of this journey and we are forever grateful!

We were also blessed to have Living Hope here who came and helped teach this first class.  I shared with the team that some missionaries (at least in our part of the world) never get to be a part of what they've been doing this week: discipling a room full of believers who have a heart to reach their people with the Gospel.  It's not because we have a great strategy, it's not because we're super-faithful, it's because in God's Sovereign plan, He has chosen to call the Songhai people out of darkness. 

The first course we offered at NLTS was Old Testament Survey.  In 9 lessons we covered the Old Testament and how it was pointing to Christ on every page.  

At the closing session we had a presentation to all our first class attendees and those who helped make this week a possibility.  

Cephas got a case of some local energy drink to help keep him working so tirelessly!

Randy got a bottle of milk and some honey.  Let me explain.  The day before the conference began Randy said he felt like Moses.  He went on to describe how he’d led us to this pinnacle moment.  So much work, so much prayer, so much effort had led to this very point.  However, as Randy reflected back over the journey he saw some flaws in his own life and wondered if God would allow him to see this through.  In other words, as he stood atop the mountaintop peering into the promised land he was afraid that this was as close as he’d get and that he, like Moses, would not be the one to lead the people just when it’s starting to get good!

And so I gave Randy the milk and honey to remind him, he’s not Moses, he’s Joshua.  He has faithfully been serving in every role he’s ever been in.  He’s had faith when no one else did.  He’s listened to God.  And now, he’s taken us into the land and it’s time for him to enjoy some milk and honey!  

The guys all received a certificate of completion for the course, a box of tea, and some work gloves.  The first item is obvious but the last one, maybe not.  I started the class out on Monday morning with an example.  I told them that when I lived in Ayorou, Ibrahim showed me how to farm and I went with him almost everyday and learned how to plant, grow, and harvest millet.  I told them that even now, I own all the tools necessary to farm. 

And then I asked them “but do I have any millet?”  They all laughed and said “no.”

“Why not?” I asked them.

It's because I'm not farming they explained to which I responded that they were absolutely correct.  Knowing how to farm and even having all the tools you need doesn't mean anything if I don't put them to work.  I then explained that these classes were not just about acquiring knowledge (although knowledge is good).  These classes were not just about understanding the tools needed to harvest and farm (although they are helpful). I told them that if you want to have a harvest you have to put your knowledge and your tools to work.  Hence the work gloves.  I told them that you put on these gloves when you’re about to work hard.   I told them that they were about to work hard as we send them back out into their mission field. 

Each member came and received his things and then shared with the group the person or people that he intended to share with once he returned home. 

Thank you for praying for us, our ministry, and the Songhai people! 

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