Recently Pastor Steve returned from teaching for two weeks at the Bicol Center for Christian Leadership in Legazpi, Philippines for the fourth time. Pastor Dave has been here four times as well. Pastor Glen just returned from Kigoma, Tanzania teaching a preaching class at the Hope of the Nations Bible College. Pastor Dave, Pastor Steve and Jake McGregor have also been sent in the past by our church to Kigoma. Why in the world are we sending our hard working pastors so far away? And what do they do when they’re there?
Good question! To begin answering, have a look at Matthew 28:19-20 that we commonly call “The Great Commission”: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
At FBC we have strong feelings about taking these verses seriously. Their application is both to our everyday neighborhood lives as well as in the broadest of global contexts. So when opportunities to contribute to the training of pastors in less advantaged countries began to arise some years ago, our pastors, with the blessing of the elders, began to prayerfully advance on being available.
Pastor Steve invested 6 years full time in this area as he taught at Singapore Bible College in the 80’s prior to coming to FBC. During that time he saw the intense need for adequate theological and practical training for the men and women serving the church in SE Asia. The ready availability and many opportunities for training that we take for granted here in the US is virtually unparalleled elsewhere in the world. In many countries, a pastor with only very minimal training will serve 2-4 churches. This leads to churches which often have inaccurate teaching, and pastors that are spread so thin they cannot possibly minister with effectiveness. The great need is for theological Bible education available locally for these dedicated men and women.
Here is the scene September of this year in Legazpi, Philippines at the Bicol Center for Christian Leadership (BCCL): A group of 12 men and women begin to arrive for evening class at around 6 pm. They have all put in a long day of work already, and several of them arrive a little late due to the distance they must travel, usually by motorcycle. The classroom has open windows and fans running, no air conditioning here! The oppressive heat and humidity does not seem to bother the students much, but it is surely felt by their American teacher, our own Pastor Steve. The students are enthusiastic and engaged in the class on Romans, energizing their teacher. When they are finished at 9 pm, the students head home to see their families briefly before bedtime.
During the day in Legazpi, the challenge for the visiting teacher is to fill the hours and fight boredom while waiting for class to begin. The Center is in a busy area of the city of 250,000, and along the street sit a dozen pedicabs, bicycles with sidecars, waiting for someone who needs a ride. A food cart sells fresh noodles and spring rolls, and Pastor Steve sometimes ate breakfast there for about 50 cents!
Guest quarters for the center are on the second floor where the balcony has a beautiful view of Mayon Volcano only 5 miles away. A steady stream of smoke rises from the top of this perfect cone.
Although the weather is always hot and humid and the days are long, Pastor Steve feels the investment into these students is valuable enough to make up for it. They give him grateful feedback for the many ways they will use what they are learning in preaching and leading Bible studies at their churches. He feels his small sacrifices to be there are nothing compared to what the Lord has done for us.
We at FBC are truly partnering with these students and those in Tanzania as they get trained to be able to serve their churches effectively. Thank you for your support and prayers that make this possible.