Refocusing on Legacy
After 35 years in Africa, we recognize that the Lord has ordained a new season for our family and ministry, a season in which ‘going forward’ means ‘moving back’.
In May, we traveled to California to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from her ministry internship program. During a short visit to the redwood forests, I saw something that impacted me profoundly. A huge redwood, having reached the end of its life, had fallen sometime in the past. Growing on top of this fallen giant was a healthy young tree, its roots drawing life from its predecessor! As I marveled at this sight, the Lord ‘nudged’ me. For a couple of years, I have sensed that the Lord wants me to increasingly focus on ‘legacy’ projects – leader development and equipping processes, tools, and resources that will outlive me and continue to inspire, edify, equip, and encourage emerging Christian leaders all over the world after the Lord calls me home. Here before me was an outstanding natural example of this very process – one generation, now passed, providing a life-giving foundation to encourage the growth and development of the next.
In light of the direction in which the Lord Jesus seems to be leading us, I have been asking myself an important question. What ‘legacy projects’ will continue to facilitate growth and development among future generations of disciples and emerging leaders after I am gone?
Three specific focus areas come to mind.
1. A well-designed, systematic, cost-effective, web-based, resource-backed, multimedia, modular discipleship and leader equipping process that capitalizes on the rapidly increasing availability of the internet and smartphones in the Majority (nonwestern) World and targets undertrained Christian leaders who are unable to attend Bible school.
2. The creation and publication of books, ebooks, online articles, and multimedia resources that promote the maturing of God’s people and the development of emerging Christian leaders all over the world.
3. Continued involvement with SATS and other organizations committed to leader development in the majority world.
For us, there is another important development. As the Lord has made plain to us over the past two years, ‘going forward’ in his purposes means ‘moving back’ to the USA.
As I wrestled with this in prayer on a recent trip to Houston, the Holy Spirit prompted me to read the story of Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28. While meditating on this wonderful story, verse 15 jumped off the page. “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” When the Lord highlighted this verse, the issue was settled in my heart. I knew it was God’s plan to move our ministry base back to the USA and, in light of what he is leading us to do, this makes perfect sense. In addition, the entire LECM board has sensed for some time that this was in line with God’s purposes. So, after 35 years in Africa, we are relocating to the Houston area, hopefully around the end of the year. There are a number of reasons, but suffice it to say that the Lord has made this very clear. To move forward in God’s purposes, we need to be based in the USA. Since the immigration application for Surette and the relocation process are quite an ordeal, we will greatly appreciate your prayers!
You may be wondering what will happen to the work in Africa. It will continue. Even though we will be based in the Houston area, we plan to remain actively involved with SATS and leader development in Africa and the Majority World. Though we will undoubtedly make regular trips to Africa and beyond, we will begin the shift toward the legacy projects shortly after we arrive.
One of my greatest joys is seeing leaders I have had the privilege to train or nurture move forward in their calling and ministry. You will recall that, last year, the Spirit led me to connect two of the Biblical Leadership students, Lubabalo Matakane (a civil engineer) and Paul Bayliss (an art curator for a large banking group), who both had a similar vision and calling. Since that time, both Lubabalo and Paul have completed their studies at SATS and successfully planted a multiracial church together in South Africa. Paul contacted me two weeks ago to say that the Lord is blessing the work and the new church is doing well. It is wonderful to see these brothers put into practice what they learned. I want to thank those of you who prayed for them last year! Your prayers have born wonderful fruit!
Our third SATS Biblical Leadership course recently ended. We had 124 students, most of whom are already engaged in ministry. In addition to church leaders and missionaries, we had a medical scientist, two medical doctors, three specialists, three health workers, an engineer, a law enforcement official, a government official, two real estate managers, a professional hunter/taxidermist, and several other business people, including a pet shop owner! With students from eleven countries on five continents, this was a truly international class. We thank God that the Biblical Leadership course is proving to be such a blessing to students. One women’s ministry leader contacted me recently to say that this course has had a profound impact on her ministry. Others have expressed appreciation for the solid biblical foundation, transformational focus, practical application, and interactive learning process. I am still working on the development of the next course, Practical Christian Leadership. As you can imagine, deciding what NOT to include in this course is the greatest challenge.
In mid-April, SATS held its annual staff conference. Our guest speaker was Manfred Kohl, whose rather candid challenges were quite refreshing! The conference was immediately followed by the seminary’s graduation ceremony. This was my first time to participate as faculty. There were 249 graduates, 12 of whom earned PhDs. Several of our Biblical Leadership students also graduated. It was wonderful to see how the Lord Jesus was glorified throughout the ceremony!
SATS offers fully accredited degree programs at certificate, bachelors, honours, masters, and doctoral levels. The seminary currently has 280o students from more than 65 countries. 276 are in the MTh and PhD programs. Research by Dr. Evan Hunter, Vice President of Scholar Leaders International, indicates that, among all the accredited, majority world, private, evangelical seminaries, SATS has the most doctoral students. Currently, about 1 in 5 majority world doctoral students are studying through SATS.
In addition to our work with SATS, I was privileged to facilitate “Raising Up Leaders in the Local Church” for 100 church leaders during Progressive Pastors Training Week. PPT meets for four weeks spread out over the year. The Lord has really used this course over the years to bless many churches in southern Africa. During the same month, I also enjoyed teaching 120
Maranatha Theological Training students on the person and works of Jesus. In addition, I complied and taught a new three-part course at our local church called “Transformed by the Triune God”.
Thanking God, Thanking You
Surette and I are grateful for your prayers and support. Your partnership is such an encouragement and we thank God for you! Dr. Hendricks once said, “Spend the rest of your life doing what God prepared you to do.” By God’s grace, in the name of Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, and in partnership with God’s people, that is what we intend to do! We are excited about the vision God has placed in our hearts but face some very important challenges in the months ahead. Please continue to pray for us as we work together with the Holy Spirit and like-minded brethren to equip church leaders in the Majority World!
May the Lord richly bless you and make you a blessing to many!