Our First Graduation in Asia
We arrived in a major city in central East Asia late in the evening.
Like every city here, the streets are constantly bustling with activity at all hours – cars new and old pressing through the throng of scooters, three-wheel trucks and pedestrians flowing around them like water. They are unused to seeing foreigners here, and we did seem to draw some attention. The air is warm and very humid, but the recent rains have cleared some of the ever-present smog. Our hosts greet us with warm smiles and embraces. Neither party can speak the other's language, but the heartfelt fellowship has no barrier.
Harvesters is here to complete the final phase of training with the first group of pastors we started with three years ago. But the training will not be happening in the city. Being a Christian is still dangerous here, and actions against members range from assault to imprisonment.
Because of this, we’re being taken to a secure location out in the countryside that has been arranged, so that the student pastors who are traveling long distances do not risk exposure.
Once inside the compound, we are asked to remain within its walls, out of sight, emerging only to fellowship and take meals, and when we commence training.
This final week of training is very significant to these pastors. Upon completion, they will be the first Harvesters graduates in Asia. And as we fellowship and hear their testimonies, it is humbling to realize how much this means to them:
“I was a Christian but I did not really experienced the Lord in some supernatural way, I think I am like a little child of the Lord but now I am starting phase F, and I praise the Lord for this opportunity to study systematically theology so I can know the Lord more. I experienced the love of the Lord and know I can say I am a real Christian, a born again Christian.”
“I lost the meaning of my life, I was thinking ‘Where is God?’ That was the turning point of my life. On a Sunday I suddenly I heard songs of praise and worship, and I followed. The praise and worship led me to a church, but there was no one singing, it was the leading of the Holy Spirit. I prayed to the Lord that he would restore peace and joy to my life, and when I began to study I found that for 20 years I had wasted my life.”
“I was a preacher in a village, so I always regretted never being to a bible school. But praise the Lord that he placed a pastor with us so that we could study theology in Harvesters Bible School. I am so happy we are studying the systematically theology, now I have the strategy and the way to do the ministry more effectively, I’m so thankful for this beautiful training. I feel so sorry our African brothers are coming to share the gospel with us, what we should do is send the missionaries to Africa!”
These men and women are risking their lives to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ all throughout Asia. It is an immense challenge. And knowing that the Pastor Training and Church Planting strategies they've learnt will greatly increase the effectiveness of their ministry brings a great sense of joy.
The graduation was a powerful, moving experience. How much it meant to the graduates is apparent: Full gowns were arranged, with sashes and academic caps, and a choir even sang a stirring rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ as the certificates were handed out. Afterwards there was much laughter, tears and fervent embraces. It was incredibly humbling.
Praise the Lord, for the first Harvesters Ministries Graduates in Asia, class of 2016!