Dear Praying Friends,
We trust and pray this update finds you well. We, along with members of our team, have spent hours and hours the past several weeks doing renovations (scraping paint from walls, repairing walls, tearing down walls, painting walls, laying carpet, etc.) at the new Knysna Hope Building. Amy did a lot of painting, and George laid many squares of carpet. Just two days ago the last stroke of paint was applied, and yesterday the final square of carpet was laid. It is a different building!
As we’ve recently celebrated being here in Knysna for six months, it’s amazing to think of all that God has done as we’ve settled into our new living environment and new routine. Yet while things move and change, there are a couple things that remain constant, dependable, and sure. – and for these we are thankful! First, God’s faithfulness and love for us is unchanged. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, He is with us, leading us by His Spirit, and patiently making us more like Jesus. This truth anchors us as a family and gives us assurance each day. Second, you – our faithful prayer supporters – have been by our side the entire time. We thank you for not giving up on us, not forgetting us, and consistently bringing us before God in prayer. In this way, you are a reflection and a reminder of who God is.
The specific task that is central to our mission is based on Ephesians 4:12 where the apostle Paul states that pastors and teachers have been given to the church “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” In accordance with this, the theme we have chosen for our ministry here in Knysna – which is displayed prominently on our website and prayer updates – is “Equipping Church Leaders to Reach Their World.” We seek to facilitate biblically sound theological education for people serving in or training for local church ministry. We have interviewed several local pastors and church leaders, taken survey trips to visit 17 different theological institutions in South Africa, and studied the rules and regulations related to offering formal ministry training here.
We’re thrilled to report that after months of preparation and planning, we have formally launched Biblical Leadership Institute – Garden Route! This Saturday, March 3rd, we will be hosting an orientation seminar for about 30 people, most of whom will be participating in our Institute in some capacity. Our plan is to begin our first course, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, on Saturday, March 24. We will actually be teaching this course in both Knysna and Sedgefield, a nearby town close to Knysna. The Sedgefield group will meet from 8AM to Noon every other Saturday, while the Knysna group will meet each Saturday from 6PM to 8PM. We are beyond excited to see what God will do through the teaching ministry here! Please visit BLI’s website at www.biblicalleadershipinstitute.co.za to learn more about what is happening.
In future updates, we will give more specifics on Biblical Leadership Institute and how it is working. We will also try to regularly highlight particular needs of students. But for now, here are a few things for which we need your prayers:
First, please pray that the orientation meeting goes well this Saturday. We need to be clear about who we are, what we’re offering, what our expectations will be of students, and what students can expect of us. Many people over the years have started similar programs, only to leave town within a year or two. So when we talk with local pastors about ministry training, there is an initial suspicion that is quite understandable. Over the past months, we have gained enough of their trust for them to come to our initial meeting, but now we must be clear in what we plan with and for them.
Second, please pray that as we develop course content and sequencing, we will do so intelligently and in accordance with the “industry standards” that exist here in South Africa. One of the worst things we could do is tell students that they’re earning real credit for their work, only to have that turn out not to be the case (believe it or not, this sadly happens in Africa – often at the hands of foreign missionaries – ALL the time!). A significant part of our task is to ensure that everything we do actually counts toward a degree or credential.
Third, please pray that our students will be faithful to their intention to pursue theological training. The vast majority of pastors here, especially in the African communities, are bivocational. This means that they work regular (often full time) jobs in addition to shepherding their congregations. This is why we must offer Saturday courses (at least for now) because for many of them, Saturday is the only day they are free. And as you can imagine, the rigors of theological education will add extra strain to their already full schedules. Please pray that they will endure and be faithful, and please pray that we are sensitive to their life situations.
As always, we know that none of this will happen without God’s help and your prayers on our behalf. The opportunity before us is great and at the same time humbling, because it brings us to our knees before God who alone can help us accomplish this work. Thank you once again for partnering with us!
Clinging to Him,
George, Amy, George David, Ashley, and Alyssa