Well, where do I start? Gary Fallis and I left for Ghana on November 4th. After an approximately twelve hour flight from Atlanta to Accra, the capital of Ghana, we disembarked to a hot and humid bright sunny day—thankful for having arrived safely. But, the journey was not over. After clearing immigration we were picked up by the brethren and driven to our hotel—a seven-hour drive due to heavy traffic. Eventually, we arrived safe and sound at a rather modest hotel that due to the lateness of the night seemed like a luxury suite to me. It became our home away from home during our stay in Ghana.
We spent the next two weeks in Takoradi, Ghana teaching classes at the West Coast School of Preaching. I taught the undergraduate students while Gary taught the graduate class. The first week I taught denominational doctrines while Gary taught New Testament theology. The second week I taught the Godhead while Gary taught the Gospel of John. Although I have taught both Bible classes and college level courses previously, this was my first experience teaching eight hours a day. Combined with ninety degree heat and high humidity it was very challenging.
There were twenty-eight eager students in my classes. They ranged in age from the mid-twenties to about sixty. All of them were not natives of Ghana as some were refugees from neighboring states like Liberia and Sierra Leone. It seemed like each of them had a story to tell about how he arrived at the school. They were a great group of guys.
For two weeks, eight hours a day, I was honored to share a classroom with them, and I couldn’t help but think what an honor God had bestowed on me to allow me to share His word with them.
Ghana is a nation rich in history for Black Americans. Many African slaves were sent from the shores of Ghana to North America. During my brief time in Ghana, Gary and I visited Cape Coast Castle, just one of the many forts constructed by the Portuguese during the slave trade. As an African American, I was moved by the inhumane treatment that men inflict upon others. May we all love as Jesus commanded us. At the end of our stay in Ghana, we encountered a bit of a surprise. As Gary and I were anxiously awaiting the check-in for our flight home, we discovered it had been canceled. You can imagine how we felt late at night in a foreign country having our plans go awry. But God was with us and we both eventually made it home safely, although we were separated that night at the airport. It just goes to show, be prepared for the unexpected when traveling abroad. It’s great to be home now, but I will miss Ghana and the wonderful work God is doing there.
I HAVE MANY SHEEP
The Sermon of the Good Shepherd in John 10 is especially addressed to the Jewish leadership (cf. 9:40-41). Several things in the sermon disturbed the Jews. One is that Jesus identifies Himself with the Father in heaven. He is the source of salvation. He is the Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep. A hireling would not do that (vs. 11-15). Another is that Jesus promises to extend His blessings beyond Judaism. Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock, and one shepherd” (vs. 15-16).
The flock of God in Christ has been gathered since the apostles preached the gospel of the risen and ascended Lord from Jerusalem in Acts 2. This gathering will continue until Christ comes again. Paul has this mission in mind in Eph. 1:10: "that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and on earth-in Him.”
In our generation, we are witnessing this gathering of the church, the flock of Christ, from every “tribe, tongue, people and nation” (Rev. 5:9-10). This is in fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures such as Dan. 7:13-14 and Is. 2:1-4.
One ministry that is contributing to this ingathering is the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. Gospel preachers are learning the Word of God in Denver, CO. This school, founded by Roy Lanier and others, has trained gospel preachers for 45 years.
Others are being taught in all the world through the Extension Program. Faithful men are learning God’s word in 15 schools in 12 countries on 4 continents. This ministry of the Bear Valley congregation is one work with one faculty, some working primarily in Denver, others throughout the world. I believe it is especially significant that every teacher at Denver has also taught in the Extension Program.
From 1998-2006 the Extension Program consisted of 3 schools in 2 countries-- the Ukraine Extension and the Andrew Connally and Chimala Extensions in Tanzania. These schools, which have been training preachers for over a decade, continue to bring growth and stability in the areas which they serve.
However, from 2007 to the present, 12 new schools of preaching have begun. Locations include 3 in East Africa; 5 in West Africa; 4 on the Asian continent, 2 in Central America and the Ukraine Extension in Europe.
In 2010 alone three new coordinators have been added to work with the preaching schools. One of these men, Keith Kasargin, is also serving as Assistant Director. An existing coordinator, Ralph Williams, has been appointed Director of Development to streamline curriculum and ministry training.
Dozens of congregations throughout the United States are offering up prayers and dollars so there may be one flock and one Shepherd. My experience is that once a faithful, evangelistic congregation or a dedicated Christian sees firsthand this work of God, they are interested and supportive when possible.
WHAT SHALL I RENDER UNTO THE LORD?
The Psalmist asked, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” (Ps. 116:12). His answer in the following verses is: “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people.”
All good things come from God (James 1:17). While this is true of every thing, animate and inanimate, the context concerns the word of truth by which we are saved and which we are to practice (1:18-27).
Every spiritual blessing is in Christ (Eph. 1:3). We can never deserve or be worthy of our salvation. Salvation is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9). However, we can serve God faithfully in gratitude for His unspeakable gift (2 Cor. 9:15). What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
I can call upon His name. Jesus’ name refers to His person, presence, power, authority. I call upon the Lord in obedience and submission (Acts 22:16). I can call upon His name for my personal needs, but I can also call upon Him in behalf of others. Supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks are to be made for all men because “(God) wants all men to be saved, and to come the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Paul says, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”
I can pay my vows to the Lord. To David and the Israelites, vows were sacred. God expected those vows to be kept and not taken lightly. God expects us to value our salvation. He wants us as Christians to have an active, obedient faith. The Scripture teaches, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9). This is in the greater context of Paul’s desire for all to be saved (9:1), how faith in Christ comes (9:13-17) and the gospel going to the end of the world (9:18).
Each of us can pay our vows to the Lord by helping our neighbors, friends and family to call upon the Lord. Our heart’s desire and prayer, like that of Paul, should be that they may be saved (Rom. 10:1). We can be agents of the grace of God to those around us by giving an answer of the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).
We can also help the gospel go to those who live far from us, even to the end of the world. We may go on a short-term mission trip and teach the lost or help those who teach. We can pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers and for hearts to be open to their teaching (Matt. 9:37-38; Col. 4:3; 2 Thes. 3:1). We can plan to give of our prosperity to help preachers teach the gospel and students learn the truth. We can do this when “we first give ourselves to the Lord and to the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:5).
Many of you are already involved in foreign evangelism through the Bear Valley Extension Program. You are financially supporting a student who is learning to preach the gospel or a Bear Valley teacher or coordinator who travels to teach in these schools. Your example encourages other members to help take the gospel to their immediate world and to the end of the world.
If you would like to help financially with Training Preachers In Their Native Land, please send your gift to:
Bridgewood Church of Christ, P.O. Box 8524, Fort Worth, Texas 76124
Please make a notation on the envelope or a note with the check “Gary Fallis Mission Fund.” A gift of $20.00, $50.00, $100.00 or more will help us in the training of gospel preachers.