Thursday, 26 June 2014

A Few Photos!

 Greetings All! Here's a little photo update of various goings-on of your friendly neighborhood Cameroonian missionaries! :D We hope you enjoy the pictures and will continue to pray for us.
Dinner with friends. Mary Forju is a good friend and sister in Christ, so it was a joy to get to meet her daughter, nephew and son-in-law. Mary's family live or have lived in the US for extended periods of time.  
Working on our school classroom! Brother Tambe from Mile 16, who is a mason, has been helping us enclose our garage to transform it into a classroom. 
Special donations from some brethren in the States have made it possible for us to start this work. There is still much to do, so if you would like to get involved, please let us know. 
We tore the rotten ceiling down and are now working on replacing it. The window bars are up, and hopefully the door soon. We still need to get glass windows, painting and so forth.
Rainy season is rolling in, and with it even higher than usual humidity, fog, dampness, and thus mold. We have put light bulbs in all our closets to help stave off the mold. Franklin is a good electrician with an interest in spiritual discussions. Without these lights, all our papers and clothes would rot.  
We constantly have guests and visitors over- the Takem kids came over recently for a day of play. 
Take time for family! It's easy to get so absorbed in ministry that you forget your number one ministry- your family! We enjoy eating breakfast together and reading Psalms, Proverbs and a chapter from the Gospels. 
Kate, who helps out around the house, is tremendous. Her attitude and hard-work are excellent. We are happy to also help her family out. Brittney taught one of her daughters, Mary, how to make a cake recently. 
We gave the cake to a sister in the Church for her daughter's birthday.
Who is learning to walk? ME! Carys has been taking her first steps!
Holiday classes have started! Our first Cameroonian student, Nyallum has started coming for part-time classes during the summer break. She will be joining Jonathan for kindergarten in September. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Matthew 23:8-12?

  Last week, I taught a lesson in one of the local congregations here in Cameroon on Matthew 23: Why were the Pharisees Jesus' greatest enemies? We looked at the faults and attitudes of the Pharisees. One section of that chapter got me to thinking and researching. Here is the lesson that I will be presenting out of that.

Question: How do we explain Matthew 23:8-12?
  Matthew 23 is a chapter of the Bible that takes on the Pharisees, exposing their faults and their wrong attitudes. In this passage, Jesus makes a statement about leadership.
      “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”        (Matthew 23:8-12 NASB).

  What is the problem or the question here? The issue is that this teaching of Christ seems to be contradicted by other passages in the Bible. In Ephesians 4:11, we see that God gave the Church, amongst others, teachers. Again in Hebrews 5:12, the author of Hebrews admonishes the readers that they ought to have already been teachers. Teachers thus is used a number of times in the New Testament- so was this in disregard for Jesus’ teaching?
  We see the other terms appearing in the New Testament as well. In 1 Corinthians 4:14-16, Paul says that in Christ Jesus he became the Corinthians’ father through the gospel. In Hebrews 13:17, we are told to obey our leaders, who keep watch over our souls. Again in Romans 12:8, Paul says that those who lead are to lead with diligence. Thus, one might see a contradiction- Jesus said don’t be called Teacher, Father or Leader, and yet in the rest of the Bible, these terms are used. How do we reconcile this seeming difference?
To start, we need to remember a basic principle of Bible interpretation or understanding- always look at the context! Many times, when people have trouble understanding a verse, it is because that verse has been taken out of its context and is being looked at in isolation. The case of Matthew 23:8-10 is great for teaching the importance of looking at the context and broader picture to fully comprehend the point that the speaker or author was making.

  If we will start reading Matthew 23 from the beginning, what is the picture or context within which Jesus is speaking? We see that He is addressing the issues of the Pharisees, and is specifically looking at the attitude of the Pharisees towards being leaders. The issues of leadership that the Pharisees had were many:
1-     They had assumed a position of authority not given them by God. (Vs 2) They had seated themselves in the chair of Moses. Moses spoke with authority and gave commands to the people- because God had told him to do so! The Pharisees had no such authority from God, but had simply assumed it for themselves.
2-     They did not lead by example, but rather laid burdens that they couldn’t even carry on the people (Vs. 3-5). By weighing people down with a preposterous list of laws, they kept people down and under their power.
3-     They loved the honor and respect of being leaders (Vss. 6-7). They were especially enamored of the honorific titles- “Rabbi.” In a banquet, they loved to be seated at the high table; in the markets, they loved to be given special greetings; in the synagogues, they loved the seats up front.

  We see then that Jesus was responding to these attitudes of the Pharisees when He spoke in Matthew 23:8-10. The issue was not so much these titles, but the attitude of desiring such titles. Jesus was kicking back at a system of hierarchy. We can see this especially in the word that He uses for leader- kathegetes- which contrasts with the word used in Hebrews 13 which is hegeomai. Both of these words have the root hegeomai, but the word used in Matthew 23 also has the prefix kata which means “down.” We see then that this leadership was especially a leadership from someone in a higher position- a hierarchical type of leadership.

  Jesus was introducing a different and a new perspective on leadership. The Jews’ perspective was one of levels- leaders come in levels and are above their followers. The perspective was one of masters and servants… the leader being the master and the followers serving the leader, obeying what he says. While Jesus was talking about the Gentiles, this model is well described in Matthew 20:25-28 and Luke 22:24-26.
           Matt 20: 25-28 “But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  

  Jesus perspective of leadership is one in which someone’s influence is not based on them being in a position over others or having a special title, but rather it is of influence that stems from the utility provided- in other words, someone is a leader in Jesus’ view if they are of service to others. Those who would provide the greatest service would be the greatest leaders.

  This is a widely acknowledged understanding of Jesus’ view on leadership, but a rarely applied concept. If we were to apply it though, we would look at the titles that appear in the New Testament- such as teachers, evangelists, pastors, and leaders etc… not as positions of hierarchy but rather as terms which describe the capacity or the mode of service that is provided. Jesus had a functional versus positional perspective of leadership.

  With this perspective, let us reexamine those passages mentioned earlier on teachers, fathers, and leaders.
Ephesians 4:11 and Hebrews 5:12 talk of teachers, but both passages focus on the function and not position. Ephesians 4:12-13 gives us their function: to equip the saints for the work of service and to build up the body of Christ. Hebrews 5:11-14 refers to the function of teachers, as being those who move beyond elementary things.

  Paul calls himself a father to the Corinthians, not because he had a title or position as their father, but because he admonished them (1 Cor 4:14) and he was an example to them (1 Cor 4:16). Paul’s use of the term father is because he fulfills two important functions of fathers; admonishing and providing an example.
Leaders, as defined in Hebrews 13, are those who spoke the word of God, and whose conduct and faith were worth imitation (Hebs 13:7). Again in Hebrews 13:17, leaders’ functions are given: they keep watch over souls as those who will give an account.

  SO to come back to Matthew 23:8-12, the point of this passage is that we should not bestow on people hierarchical titles. True leaders are not those who have the title; rather they are those who serve. We can apply this principle then to all issues of leadership in the Church, and I believe we will find that it helps us deal with a lot of the problems and issues of leadership.

  Let’s take an example. Generally, in the hierarchical leadership systems that predominate in the Church, leaders control finances. Much of the time, this is a problem, as men often misuse finances, overly concentrate on giving in teaching and preaching, show preference to the wealthy in the church, and many more such problems. If we instead take a functional view of leadership, we would look for those who already manage finances well, who are not greedy, who are generous and transparent, and then recognize their service and yield leadership to them in financial issues. We would not give them financial control because they are leaders, but rather give them leadership because they fulfill a vital function financially.

  Another area of control that causes problems is in the area of teaching/speaking in the congregation. In the hierarchical leadership system, the leader passes through some sort of seminary or school or group affiliation (such as belonging to the Pharisees) and then is given control over the teaching and preaching in the congregation. Because they are the Preacher, they determine who is allowed to speak and what is taught. Sometimes, they may do a very poor job of teaching and preaching, but they are still given that control because that is their position. By contrast, consider how this dynamic would work in a functional system of leadership. Rather than giving teaching control to someone because they are a leader, someone would be considered a leader because they provide a vital service in the function of teaching and preaching; such that people are edified, encouraged, and equipped for the work of service.

  We can continue to see how helpful a functional view of leadership is if we think of issues such as salary or support. With a functional system, we would not base someone’s support or salary on how much such and such position should pay, but rather would ask the question, “How much is needed to enable this person to best provide the service or function that they provide?” There would not be ill-feelings over some leader getting paid too much or too little because it would not be the person that was being supported, but rather the vital service that was being enabled.

  Time will not permit us to consider all the applications and implications of this change in view of leadership, but I believe that the more that we look at the issue of leadership, the more we will find that this view, which Jesus, the Great Shepherd, put forth, would eliminate so many problems in the Church and would in fact lead to far greater leadership, the leadership that Christ desires for His church. Greatness in the church should never be an issue of who has the highest title, but rather who humbles himself the most, who lowers himself the most and serves. "Matthew 23:11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant."

Questions? Comments? Corrections?

Thursday, 12 June 2014

School Prep Progress!

Faith Builders Educational Ministries Starts!

Greeting Friends, Family, Supporters, and Saints!

We are very excited to share with you some progress in our efforts to provide quality Christian education in Cameroon.  As you know, we home-school our children, Hannah and Jonathan.  Many have been impressed by them, especially Hannah whose reading and writing skills are far advanced for her age.  Recently, a number of Cameroonians have expressed the desire for their children to be educated in the same way.  So, our home school has the potential to develop into a school in our home. We have four parents who are interested in us educating their child, and they have also told of us others who have expressed interest to them. With Hannah and Jonathan, we have between 4 and 8 potential students!

We are progressing through the governmental paperwork steps necessary to take advantage of this opportunity:

  1. .     We are registering as a Literacy Center/Tutoring Program.  The requirements for registration as a school requires land, a building, and Cameroonian teachers and curricula, all of which run counter to our objective of a Christian education model that can be reproduced by Cameroonians after having been trained by it.
  2.      We are forming an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) to provide legal structure for the school, the gym, and other programs we may develop.  This greatly simplifies our visa status.

In addition, we must assemble the educational materials, equipment, and location:
  1.     Our garage can be transformed into a classroom.  Presently, we are using a 12 x 12 room in our house as a school room for Hannah and Jonathan.  The garage is 15 x 18.  Further, the garage can be entered from the outside, so students, parents, and visitors will not be trooping through our living space all day.  This also appears more official.  And, we will be able to reassign the present classroom as an office/guestroom.  A month does not go by without visitors staying with us, sometimes for weeks at a time.
  2.      Equipment will be needed.  Presently, Hannah and Jonathan write in their lesson books.  The cost of shipping that much paper for our school is prohibitively expensive.  We can run the school more cost-effectively by having a copier.  (The ACE program allows missionaries to copy their materials without charge.  Don’t try this at home!)  We would like to have a computer so that the students can become literate in that skill.  Of course, the children will need desks.  A scoring table, teacher’s desk, a white board and flooring are also needed.
  3.      The stock of curricular materials must be maintained and expanded over time.  We have the materials for the first semester.  We need to begin stocking up for the future before the need arises so that we do not come to an abrupt halt due to the uncertainty of delivery in this part of the world.  Further, although we will re-use many materials, the humidity and mold takes its toll much faster here than in the US.  Also, we would like to add some classes not offered by ACE such as French and Cameroonian History and Geography.

Our vision for the school is small in terms of capital but big in terms of impact.  The focus of our education is the building of character – the character of Jesus.  West and Central Africa are rich in natural resources, yet remain desperately poor due to a lack of character.  We intend to build leaders, those who make a difference both in the Kingdom of God and in the country of Cameroon.

So, we are seeking partners in Christian education.  To begin in the Fall of 2014 will require many prayers and cash.  We ask that you pray specifically for our paperwork as it negotiates a notoriously corrupt system.  Also pray for wisdom as we determine which students to accept and in putting into practice our educational philosophy.

When we first proposed to move to Cameroon, our prospectus included two budgets: start-up and education.  We have been assisted and supported by a great number of people and groups for our start-up phase.  We have become rather well-known in the area and have developed many quality relationships.  We have assisted many congregations through preaching and teaching and have been able to study the Bible with a large number of individuals.  Through the gym ministry, we have a constant flow of new, non-church people with whom to develop relationships.  Now it is time to start the school.  Here is a list of some of the things we have identified as part of starting this up. We appreciate your prayers and support and are excited that God has brought us thus far. 

Desired Start-up Items
Masonry for garage into classroom renovations.
Carpentry for garage into classroom renovations.
Metal door and windows for garage into classroom (for security).
Painting of classroom.
Student Offices (Learning carrels to minimize distractions).
Floor rug or carpet (helpful considering the dampness here in Buea)
Dehumidifier (essential to keep books from molding).
Teachers desk and chairs
Curriculum (We will buy on a year-by-year basis). Some of this cost we will offset from the parents, as they have the means.
Miscellaneous School Materials and Equipment
Total of Desired Start-Up Items
Wish List Items: (Dreaming big here- one day we hope to be able).
Playground equipment- Swing and Slide Set
Cementing of a half-size basketball court (for PE and also for afternoon neighborhood outreach).
Renovation or construction of an outside bathroom for school kids.
School Van for field trips and pick up/drop off of students who live farther away. Would also see double use whenever we have visitors come to see the ministry, helping to carry them around.

We have already started work on some things: here are a few pictures.
We've gotten these student offices made... Hannah has already started using one already for her homeschooling. The isolation and minimizing of distractions from having an office as opposed to just a desk is very helpful.

The first step of many in our paperwork process. This is our application letter that was stamped as received. 
Our bookshelf/library. Note the dehumidifier- books get moldy very quickly because of high humidity. 

This is our garage that we hope to transform into a class room. We will block up the double doors (hang freely and don't work) and put a double metal door down here. You can see that it leads outside right to our front gate. It is also a good 5 feet or so longer and a little wider than our current classroom. We think we could fit up to 12 students in here. 

There's a lot of work to do if we want to transform it into a classroom... the windows, the ceiling, and the floor, but we can see the potential and hope to start working on it as soon as we have the funds. Estimates are that it could be done in 2-3 weeks of work. Maybe you can help us out? 

We'd like to eventually renovate our boys' quarters, particularly the bathroom for the use of the students. 

Our house was built by the British back in the 60s or so- note the old style squatty potty with flusher. It doesn't work anymore, so we will need to replace it. 

The path back to the garage. We already put bars up on the windows of the garage for security.

Thanks for taking the time to read this long post, and thank you for your encouragement, prayers and support. We are super excited and pray God will continue to open doors and opportunities to see young people's lives transformed.