Thursday, December 28, 2017

FROM DEATH TO LIFE: The story of an HIV+ literacy student

Hi friends.  So much of my work is administrative these days and helping find support partners for our national teams and missionaries.  So I love to hear personal testimonies from the field that give a glimpse of how lives are being transformed through literacy ministry.  This is a story of Sunita Tiwari (alias), an illiterate and HIV positive woman in South Asia who was near death and rescued by a local church outreach.  This was sent to me by one of our full time national missionaries serving in that region:

Sunita's husband died of AIDS and left her alone with three small kids (all HIV negatives) and without any hope of survival. She herself was suffering from the HIV.  She was bedridden and waiting to die! In India, HIV/AIDS is still considered a stigma and curse! Sunita and her three kids were left alone with hopelessness! It was in such situation, that our local church's HIV/AIDS project team found them and started taking care of her. Our team guided her to get the proper medication, after which she regained her health! In late 2016 she joined one of our literacy classes. As of now, she has learned to read and write, defying the challenges such as negative stigma and discrimination of her society. She has joined the same HIV/AIDS project as staff and now earns a living through it! Her kids also go to school now. A great transformation has come to her life through literacy!

Monday, November 20, 2017

International ELM training in St. Louis

I love it when multiple worlds and cultures collide in a divinely-orchestrated way.

On Nov 17th & 18th, I drove to St. Louis and had the privilege of training a new group of English Language Ministry teachers using our Bible-content materials.  In this training, we had people from Africa, South Asia, America, and Central America.  The training was organized and hosted by a brother named Sam (not his real name) from South Asia who is finishing his doctorate degree at Concordia Seminary.  One of the couples at the training, Jason & Ana, are friends and long-time advocates for missions so it was great to get to connect with them again.

Here's an encouraging note I received from Sam after the workshop that highlights the beautiful multiplication effect of training and entrusting others with the work:

Dear Tedd,

Thank you very much for teaching us the ESL class. It was an awesome experience. It helped me a lot to understand various methods to teach the people as well as help them know Christ. And it opened a new way of thought to teach people in an effective way. I like your mode of teaching which is very apt to our people and will help the people read, write and speak with less effort. As we discussed in the class in our place education is an expensive thing and many of the kids are not able to get good education and your tools will help us to support these people and share the Gospel.I appreciate your help and kindness.

I will go back to India in December and will keep in touch with you. As I said my plan is to adopt 10 villages and will introduce this teaching method to them. I will let you know the further developments.

Friday, October 13, 2017

South Asia NIGHT - Fort Smith, AR - Oct. 17th

This Tuesday, October 17th, we are hosting a special promotional event in Fort Smith - South Asia NIGHT - where we'll be highlighting the work of LEI's national missionaries there and talk about how we as the American church can stand together with them.  It will be the first-ever showing of several mini documentaries about the work there, courtesy of 5 Star Productions. If you're local, we'd love to have you join us.  There's no cost for the event but space is limited so you must RSVP as soon as possible to secure your seat.

Africa Literacy Training Institute - Ghana, 2017

Besides seeing new readers discover God's truth for the first time in their mother tongue, the most fulfilling part of our work with LEI is training literacy leaders.  These are are the sergeants, lieutenants, and generals who are getting it done on the front lines, battling against relentless opposition and forging new paths.  This month, one of our sister organizations, Literacy & Evangelism Ghana, has been hosting a 3-week course called the Africa Literacy Training Institute to train new literacy coordinators.  I had the great privilege of getting to meet these leaders from different parts of the African continent and help train them in how to develop a literacy ministry and train teachers.  

Rev. Samuel, Director of Literacy & Evangelism Ghana
I have to hand it to L&E Ghana.  Organizing and hosting such an institute is very demanding and they've done a tremendous job.  Today, they will be graduating a group of 14 literacy leaders from Nigeria, Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Togo, Guinea Bissau, and Benin.  We appreciate your prayers for each of these graduates as they return home and continue to serve the Lord in the area of literacy ministry.  They will undoubtedly face a myriad of challenges as they put their training into practice - sometimes from the government, local leaders/chiefs, and even local churches where the pastors are apathetic to the plight of their illiterate.  
ALTI Class of 2017
Very few people will ever know the real sacrifices that these literacy coordinators have made and will make to bring the Word of God to their people.  Nearly all of them are doing this work as volunteers and put in long hours without any financial compensation.  I wish I could tell you the full story of each literacy worker I got to know in Ghana.....but I'll just choose one to illustrate their level of dedication:

Usman Gandu
Usman Gandu, from Jos Nigeria, is in his early thirties.  He his pursuing a master's degree in Missions and Evangelism from a local seminary.  He is married with three children.  About 5 years ago, he was at a church office in Jos and saw an LEI literacy book (primer) for sale in the Hausa language.  He had no prior experience in literacy and didn't know anyone in Nigeria who was involved in literacy ministry.  A normal person would have looked through the primer, found it mildly interesting, and then set it on their shelf to (maybe) use in the future. Not Usman. 
Usman began diligently reading the teaching guide, which is first 20 pages of an LEI primer.  The teaching guide is not meant to be a standalone resource for literacy teachers; they need to go through a teacher training workshop and be certified by an LEI least in a perfect world.  But Usman simply studied the guide and then immediately began teaching his first class.  

He was moved and inspired by the transformation he saw in his literacy students.  He was also troubled by the fact that no one else around him was doing anything like this to help the poor and those most in need.  He decided that he would go to the churches and offer to train volunteer teachers. He did just that. Seeing the great need and the positive response from many churches, he went a step further and started his own organization called Top Hill Literacy & Evangelism International.  

He eventually discovered other LEI workers in Nigeria and they joined forces to create Literacy & Evangelism Nigeria.....but not before he had singlehandedly trained over 300 teachers who were teaching their own classes.  He had no formal or regular financial support to do this work but told me many stories of how God provided for his family through neighbors, friends, and fellow church members.  I marvel at the exponential growth and impact that have stemmed from one single man called by God.  Now that Usman has completed this training institute, I have no doubt that this work will continue to flourish in Nigeria.  


Pastor Seco travelled 6 days by bus to attend this training!!!  Pray for him as he leads literacy ministry for the Fula people. 
Our good friend whom we trained last year was also there!  Pray for her as she works in a closed country. 
Solving the worlds problems in the summer hut. 
I team taught with these dynamic duo - Rev Sila (left) with 25 yrs. experience DRC and Dr. James, LEI's Africa Director
Service at Rev. Samuel's church

Rev. Carey Jo, director of LEI Canada led the 3rd week of the training  
Inductive Bible Study

Additional proof of intelligent design.  

Making the Card Holder

Helena is part of the L & E Ghana team and was one of the instructors at the training.  
Teaching How to Train Teachers and Developing a Literacy Ministry
I guess we still need work on ways to make the training more interesting 

Boro from Burkina - standing next to a small termite mound (others were over 10 ft tall)  
My friend Rev. Joseph teaching Inductive Bible Study. We met back in 2003. He's been an inspiration to me ever since. 

Teaching the 5 Steps of reading
 Pastor Sila has is currently supervising around around 30,000 literacy classes!  He led week 2 for the Francophones. 

Wilberforce from L & E Ghana and Pat, an LEI missionary serving in Benin who led the first week of the course.  

Learning how to make the word card holder to practice putting syllables together

Tope and Nanklin from Nigeria.  The last two days of our course was a Teacher Training Workshop Practicum where participants trained real people from the community interested in starting their own literacy classes. 

TTW Practicum
The last day I was there we went to a rainforest reserve and walked high up in the canopy in a web of drawbridges.  As we started the walking on the bridges, the sky opened up and we were soaked with a  torrential downpour.  We went straight from the park to the airport and so I arrived wet.  Because of some killer traffic I arrived late and there was no time to change.  By the time I reached London I think my pants were nearly dry.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

English Language Ministry in Fort Smith

Last November, we hosted a small literacy teacher training workshop in our home (this is the post about it).  It was clear that one of the trainees, Zach, had a strong burden to reach the international community in Fort Smith.  During the literacy training I mentioned ESL ministry as another branch of LEI's ministry.  Zach caught the vision and began to mobilize his church, Northside UPC.

Zach and I met several times over the past 8 months and cultivated a friendship.  It was great to see how the church leadership got behind him and helped to promote this new English Language Ministry with both their English and Spanish speaking congregations.

I led a 3-day training from August 17-19th.  The group of volunteer teachers was absolutely exceptional both in their skill and desire to serve the non-English speaking people in our city.   We also had around 16 students show up to help us have a more realistic training environment....this was way more than what we were expecting and a good sign for things to come.

Yesterday, Sept 7th, was the first day of class.  Zach said that they had a great first session and can't wait for next week.  Praise God for this new outreach.  Let's back them up in prayer for God's love and power to pour out through the teachers and touch the lives of their students.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

COMIBAM's IV Ibero-America Missions Conference

I've been traveling A LOT lately.  So when I found out about COMIBAM's fourth decadal Ibero-America Missions Conference, I was torn.  Because of all the traveling, I was reluctant to go.....but I knew that it would be a great opportunity to network with the missionary community.   Most people don't know about Literacy & Evangelism International, so the first battle we face is to get the word out there.  Our founder, Rev. Bob Rice, always said that literacy is the blindspot in missions.  I talked and prayed about it with Emily and we agreed that I should go to Bogotá, Colombia (she's an amazing woman of faith!).

So, here are some definitions that will help:
COMIBAM - (Cooperación Misionera Iberoamericana) - An international congress to promote the development of the missions movement within Ibero-America

IBERO-AMERICA - Basically this means Spanish and Portuguese speaking Latin America plus Spain, Portugal, and Equatorial Guinea (the only African country where Spanish is the national language)

IV CONGRESO MISIONERO IBEROAMERICANO - This conference is like the "Urbana" of Latin America, but it's wider in scope and occurs less frequently....just once every ten years.

This missions conference was a spectacular experience and a tremendous opportunity to connect with over 400 different mission agencies and 2000 missionary candidates.  I started each day by praying, "Lord, lead me to the people who need to know about literacy and ESL ministry."  That simple prayer produced countless divine appointments that ultimately led to invitations for materials-development and training workshops.  I am also dialoging now with several other agencies and talking about how our two organizations can form a mutually-beneficial alliance.

This brother from Equatorial Guinea has just finished translating the Bible in his mother tongue.  I asked him if he was doing literacy. He said "Not yet, but I want to start & have been looking for someone who could help us develop a primer"

I also got to spend time meeting with LEI Canada's missionary - Carolina Perdomo.  She has been doing great work as a literacy consultant for a number of different groups, including our partner organization in Guatemala, LAMP.

Carolina (red jacket) with leaders from Colombian organizations whom she's trained in literacy ministry.
Carolina's host family - Diva and Alfredo - also hosted me during the conference.  They were extremely kind and generous. 
One of the tasty Colombian breakfasts I had - scrambled eggs w/ corn, arepa, fresh cheese, and perfectly ripened papaya.
In the 15 years I've been in Latin America, I've seen the steady transition of Latin America transforming from a mission field to a missionary force.  Latin missionaries are now in all regions of the world.  They are uniquely equipped for transcultural ministry; their culture, appearance, nationality, and values all make them arguably more suitable and effective than their western missionary counterparts.  It's nothing short of a slow revolution in world missions.

We appreciate your prayers for God's continued guidance as we attempt to work together more effectively to accomplish the mission our Lord gave us - to make disciples in ALL NATIONS.

Every afternoon, there were 3 different rounds of seminars and lectures on pertinent missions topics. 

The director of COMIBAM (and also Carolina's pastor) - David Cardenas


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