The ACSOP Story, Master's Classes, Farming And Preaching....

In 1998, the Kensington Woods church in Hattiesburg, MS launched a twenty-year plan, with Cy Stafford as the Coordinator, to build strong churches in Arusha and Moshi, major cities of northern Tanzania. Only two congregations remained from the original work of Andrew Connally and others—Arusha and Usa River. The philosophy was to convert the lost and equip Christians by three primary methods: (1) “Safari for Souls,” an annual evangelistic campaign, (2) Bible literature, and (3) Schools. Bible Schools were established in Arusha and Moshi to equip all Christians and to teach those who were not Christians. On March 15, 2003 the first class of nine graduated from the Andrew Connally School of Preaching. 

Northern Tanzania has proven to be a fruitful field for the gospel. Two examples reflect this. Stephanie, Cy Stafford’s wife, was present when several African women said to her: “Tell the teacher to give us more. We want to learn.” Stephanie then remarked: “What a pleasant surprise–people who were more interested in learning the word than watching the hands of the clock.” Phil Donaldson, a campaigner from Grandview, TX said, “I’m really having to get used to this. People here actually want to study the Bible.” 

The Safari for Souls evangelistic works, com- posed principally of native Christians supplemented by American brethren, sowed a lot of seed. In 2004, 600,000 Bible tracts and 10,000 correspondence courses were distributed resulting in 77 baptisms. This was followed in 2005 with 1,000,000 tracts and 200 baptisms. Jimmy Gee, ACSOP instructor, was a driver delivering workers to Zone Six. One day as he left the church building, a policeman motioned for him to pull over. Jimmy said, “I stopped and pulled out my license. However, he came up to the window and held his hand out...not for the license but for a tract.” 

American Christians who have participated in the evangelism of northern Tanzania have reaped more than they have sown. Many tell how they returned to their home congregations more energized and spiritually motivated. Seeing many people “hungering and thirsting after righteousness” reminds us there are people at home who have a spiritual vacuum though they may not recognize it. Johnny Ramsey, a former coworker, said, “We often care more for the souls of others than they care for their own souls.” 

Cy Stafford reminds us that the work of missionaries is not to Westernize but to Christianize. Christianity is indeed cross-cultural. Guilt is as real to Americans in gated communities as to Africans in a one-room hut. Jesus’ atoning blood will forgive the sin of the affluent as well as the impoverished. 

The principles of conversion and true worship translate into life in Africa as in America. Immersion in water, the obedience of a trusting faith in Jesus, which results in forgiveness of sins by the grace of God is the same in America and in Africa. Both in Africa and America the worshipper on the first day of the week gives of his little or his lot and praises God with the fruit of his lips, singing with grace in his heart to the Lord. This is the unity and universal application of the message and principles of Christ.

Master’s Class
During the last four years, I have taught in the Arusha Master’s Program in January. This is the summer, but unlike every other hot location in Africa, the 4000 ft. elevation of the Kilimanjaro plane is very comfortable. This year was different, however, in that rain came every day during a normal dry season. But it is God’s rain, so they are glad to get it. 

Nine men comprise the class. While two will graduate a the end of 2016, four others will begin in the August class. Those four will be from Kenya. Historically, ACSOP has had a good enrollment from Kenya, even though a fine Bear Valley Extension began there in 2012. 

Though I have taught Church Planting and Christian Education many times, this was the most immediately gratifying. I don’t know that I taught the best, but the students really added to these practical courses by their input and questions. 

Their assignments reflect the nature and purpose of the class—planting and maturing churches through Christian education. Jesus said in John 6:44-46 “they shall all be taught of God.” Also, after we have sown the seed through teaching and watered by encouragement and example, God is the One who causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-8). 

We serve a God who will not fail us. He will keep us in His love. The apostle Paul says even “if we do not believe, he abides faithful; he cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). We only need to be workers in the Word (2 Tim. 2:14-15). This is the message to these students. 

Farming and Preaching
I met Justin and Anna Maynard, a very exciting couple, who have been in Arusha only three months. Though married only six years, they are very mature Christians. The are both good Bible teachers; however, their primary reason for moving to Arusha, is to help develop a garden-farm on the property of the Andrew School of Preaching. Before Cy Stafford became ill, he envisioned this as a way to reduce the expenses of the school. 

This goal is being realized. Along with some African help, Justin is growing all kinds of vegetables, utilizing the technology of drip irrigation. Garden products including potatoes, corn, carrots, onions, greens are harvested regularly. Justin says they already have a bean crop to feed the students for months. They are planting double raised beds, with plenty of natural fertilizer. Much of this is done the old fashioned way—by hand. They do have a tractor break up the larger plots for corn and grain. In addition, the Maynard’s now have four milk cows as well as laying hens and meat hens. 

Justin said they contribute 150 chickens a month for the school, dressed and ready to cook. Of course, they provide all the milk and eggs the school needs. Virtually all the staples of the African diet are provided—vegetables, corn and grain. The one thing they cannot supply is rice because of the manner in which it must be grown. In only three months this garden-farm enterprise has reduced the cost of the school by approximately $1,000 a month. That is phenomenal in such a short time. 

This is definitely a team effort. Anna is as busy as Justin, doing what she can on the farm. Each of them was up as I was eating breakfast, going to care for the goats—two of their own personal animals. (One of the goats got away once during class-time, giving us an agricultural interruption). 

The Maynard’s committed one year when they came to Arusha, but seeing the need and success of their efforts and that of others, they have decided to commit for another three years. Justin has plans to eventually have 1,000 laying hens along with greater acreage in the garden field. With his expertise in building, Justin has built the cow barn, goat house, chicken house, and the nests for the laying hens. With my carpentry skill, I could only stare in amazement. 

The bonus is they are actively involved in teaching. Anna goes once a week to the Arusha Bible School where Bible materials are made available for area congregations. She also is teaching at the Kisonga congregation on the ACSOP property. Justin has been preaching in area churches. He and I went to White Rose, a congregation in Arusha Sunday. In addition, Justin is already meeting with the ACSOP native leadership along with Daniel Gaines, American missionary. I attended four or five meetings while I was there, having an interest and history in ACSOP, virtually from the beginning. 

Justin and Anna will be traveling back to the USA sometime this year to raise their salary and working funds for the next three years. They are already proving their value. The laborer is worthy of his hire. 

I can HIGHLY recommend this young couple, with years of experience packed into twenty-something bodies. I have not met anyone in a long time I have quickly developed a love for and confidence in. I know my knowledge of them is obviously new, but many others vouch for their industry, capability and maturity. Help this young couple that they may help the School and the Lord’s cause in northern Tanzania. The Maynard email: 

Cy Stafford
Many of you may know of the serious illness of Cy. He is being treated for a serious form of leukemia in Birmingham, AL. 

The doctors were extremely grim about his recovery a couple of weeks ago. However, he has made some improvement since that time. Doctors are currently trying to diagnose and treat a bleeding in his colon. After this, they can begin or return to his cancer treatment. 

He remains very ill, but we are thankful for a better prognosis. He is loved across the world, especially by brethren in Tanzania, Continue to remember him in your prayers, his family and the many Christians in Arusha, TZ where he has labored for fifteen years. “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (Ja. 5:16) 

Gary Fallis

Posted on February 28, 2016 .

A Visit To Cameroon's Two Preaching Schools...

Cameroon, a Central African country of twenty-two million people, borders Nigeria on the west and shares borders with five other countries. Sometimes called “Africa in miniature” because of its geological and cultural diversity, it is home to two hundred different linguistics groups. Natural features include beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, and savannas. The country is primarily divided into an English speaking area of approximately 20% of the population and a French area with 80% of the population. 

Cameroon is the home of two schools of preaching affiliated with the Bear Valley Bible Institute. The English school is located in Wotutu and the French school in Mbanga. David Ballard, who preaches at Pattonville, near Paris, TX, serves as the Bear Valley Coordinator of Cameroon. He has encouraged me to come to Cameroon to teach since 2011. Our daughter, Tonya, joked, “Dad, Cameroon is an invisible country.” However, after two eight hour flights from the USA through Paris, France, I found that the country really exists with many wonderful people and a growing church. 

Through the efforts of the students and staff of the Cameroon schools of preaching, more than 1050 have been baptized, 450 restored to the faith, and 27 congregations either established or restored to service. Forty-four gospel preachers have been trained with 21 students currently in the English school and 7 in the French school. 

The English program, which began in 2011, is overseen by the South Twin Cities church of Christ in Rosemount, Minnesota. Elangwe Esowe Gregory capably directs the school. Two classes have already graduated, and a new dormitory was recently completed. Wotutu is an extremely evangelistic congregation. Elangwe began the congregation ten years ago with 4 people. Recently, 217 attended. The acceleration of growth has been due primarily to the establishment of the school of preaching. A morning radio program from 5:30-6:30 reaches approximately 10,000 people. 

My assignment was to teach in the French school, which began in January 2011. Located on the edge of the French speaking section of the country, the school can appeal to those who are bilingual or who exclusively speak French. The overseeing congregation is the Main St. church of Christ in Frisco, TX. 

I taught “The Scheme of Redemption” (God’s Eternal Purpose). Ititi Benedict Mimending, the Director of the School, translated for me. Ititi, who speaks both French and English, is a graduate of the first class in the English school at Wotutu. While still a young man, he has been a Christian for a long time and is exceptionally gifted, while very humble in attitude. I can truly say the school is in good hands with Ititi. He is respected by students who know that he practices what he preaches. Students rise at 5:00 A.M., have a morning devotional and are active on weekends teaching and preaching in area congregations in addition to their seven hours of class time and night studies. 

I also taught a course concerning the “Godhead.” I recently taught this course in Paraguay. Emphasis is placed upon the work of the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—areas fundamental to what Christians believe and practice. Nkongwe Bekwike Norbert, who graduated with Ititi, translated for me. Both Norbert and Ititi finished first and second in their graduating class. An older man than Ititi, Norbert has more than twenty-five years teaching experience in public schools. Since he teaches the Mbanga students regularly, he could tell when they needed some further clarification of a scripture. I felt like I had a co-teacher as well as a translator in the class. Norbert teaches in both the French and English school as well as preaching in a local congregation. 

Since the school recently began, the facilities are small but adequate. Because the rainy season was in progress, we did have to move to the middle of the building at different times because of a leaky roof on one side (It was amazing how quickly we could shift to the other side). Like most equatorial countries, when it rains, it pours. I stayed in a hotel about a twenty minute walk from the building and waded through some mud every day, trying to skip around the waterholes. It was amazing how fast I could walk when the clouds were building up. 

Students frequently preach on Sunday in Mbanga, while others may travel two or three hours distance to preach. The schools are really “preaching and teaching laboratories” as men learn what to preach, how and why to preach. 

On the personal side, I always take plenty of food in case the circumstance require it, but I was well fed in Mbanga. Ititi’s wife, Mary, is an excellent cook. She spoiled me with chicken or fish every day at noon. However, in spite of my regular and hearty eating, I lost five pounds due to the extreme heat and humidity. However, I did have weight to lose as my wife reminds me. 

I learned quite a bit about African marriage customs from Ititi and Mary. Ititi and Mary have only been married sixteen months. They had both a tribal ceremony and a religious ceremony. The husband pays a dowry or “bride price” for his wife. Ititi told me he would still be in debt quite a while for Mary. I told Ititi that I did not have to pay a bride price for Sarah, though I have been paying for her for fifty years. 

I was thankful that David Ballard and his wife Nancy were also in Cameroon at the same time. David taught for a week in the English school in Wotutu and was active in evangelism. Nancy, his wife, conducted a Ladies’ Day on Saturday with more than 150 ladies present. 

Cameroon really does exist and is becoming ever more a beacon for the gospel of Christ throughout the country and in time throughout Central Africa. 

—Gary Fallis 

I began work the Bear Valley Bible Institute in 2011. Bob Turner, Extension Director, asked me to replace Josh Austin as Coordinator of the country of Cameroon, Central Africa. At the time I was teaching mathematics at the Chism School System near Paris, Texas and preaching at the Pattonville church of Christ. My wife, Nancy and I both retired from teaching June 2015 to devote our time more fully to this ministry. 

Since 2011, Bear Valley started two preacher training schools in Cameroon. The Bear Valley Bible Institute Cameroon: Wotutu began in 2011. Wotutu is an English speaking preacher training school. It is overseen by the South Twin Cities church of Christ in Rosemount, Minnesota. The school is in need of $1000 in monthly funding. If you can assist, please contact me at the Pattonville church of Christ, P.O. Box 5, Pattonvile, TX 75468. The Bear Valley Bible Institute Cameroon: Mbanga, a French program, began January 2015. Both of these schools are affiliated with the Bear Valley Bible Institute. 

Students are taught to use personal Bible studies in evangelism as well as mass evangelism. Each student gains experience in radio ministry and the use of Bible literature. A brother traveled the whole night to Wotutu to receive tracts from Mission Printing. He said, “Many will import what brings them physical gains to Cameroon, but these tracts are amazing and will touch the lives of many in their community.” 

Outreach of the students also includes prison evangelism. A prison ministry in Wotutu began in 2014 when one of our students, Vincent, was wrongly imprisoned there. During his stay, he continued his studies and also converted many inmates. After he graduated, he become the minister of that congregation. He has baptized over 25 into Jesus Christ, and about 80 inmates attend worship each Sunday. The Mbanga Prison ministry began in 2015 as a part of our ministry. A baptistry had to be built in the prison as 20 have been immersed into Christ. Most of the prisoners attend worship. This is an outreach that is sometimes overlooked even in our own country. 

We will begin to do quarterly training of wives of Wotutu students by teaching a series of short courses that are being developed by Robin Martin. Robin was a part of the preacher’s wives program in Denver, while her husband, Randy, was attending the Bear Valley Bible Institute. Robin will teach the first course in December when she and Randy travel to Cameroon. Randy is an elder and the minister of the South Twin Cities church of Christ in Rosemount, Minnesota. We know that the preacher’s wives will do much of the teaching of the children in the congregations, and we feel that it is important to prepare them for this work as well. 

Efforts to promote basic education—reading and writing are conducted. We know the value of Christian education and are doing all within our ability to make it known in the communities around Wotutu. We started with the very young and empty minds of the kids in Brightland Christian Academy and now we are taking it gradually to the parents with what we call Adult Literacy Classes. We are teaching people for free to come and learn how to read and write in the evenings after they return from their farms. Through this media we are being able to help people improve their lives, but more important to know about God and His word. 

Evangelism is our Mission and our Mission is Evangelism. We continue to transplant into the heads of our students the 4 Gs, which stands for Gaining, Grounding, Growing, and Glorifying. This goal can only be attained as we go out to share the message—strengthening, developing leadership, and praising God for all His goodness. 

—David Ballard

Posted on November 29, 2015 .

The Fruit Of Two Bible Schools In South America...

The Instituto Teológico Latinoamericano (ITL), or Latin American Theological Institute, began classes on April 13, 2009, under the direction of Hawatthia Jones and Byron Benitez, missionaries in Guatemala City, Guatemala for eleven years. After serving as missionaries in this Central American capital city for many years, brethren Jones and Benitez saw the need for a school to teach faithful men to preach the Gospel, and began working with Bear Valley to make this dream a reality. The first class of students graduated April, 2011. 

The Asuncion Bible Academy began classes on March 11, 2013. It is a work of the Avenida Sacramento Iglesia de Cristo in Paraguay, South America, which is dedicated to training faithful brethren how to preach, teach, and become better servants in the Lord's kingdom. The school opened as a result of the brethren in Paraguay having recognized a real need for biblical training in their own native language and cultural setting in order to be better equipped to carry the Gospel to their fellow countrymen. With this in mind, the church in Paraguay begin working with Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver in March 2012 in order to develop and open an extension school that would help train brethren how to plant and develop more congregations in Paraguay. 

The school is currently under the direction of Troy Spradlin, missionary to Paraguay since February 2010 and graduate of Southwest School of Bible Studies in Austin, Texas. 

Eliezer Perez, who graduated from ITL in Guatemala in 2013, is now serving as a teacher in the Asuncion Bible Academy (as his article states). In addition, he began a mission congregation in Paraguay. However, before that, students from Guatemala were helping the church in Paraguay to establish a beachhead for the Lord. 

This is an example of how God can use caring, committed Christians from different nations who are involved in training faithful preachers and missionaries. The church is one body of the saved under the headship of Jesus whether meeting in Guatemala or Paraguay or any other country in between. American congregations can learn from our brethren “south of the border.” 

May all of us who are disciples of the Lord, whether in North or South America, Asia, Europe, Africa or beyond, join our hearts and minds, time and talent, money and muscle to speak of the Lord to those who have not heard or do not understand! This is actually what the Bear Valley Bible Institute is committed to. Join us in this mission of mercy! 

-Gary Fallis

My name is Eleizer Perez. Gonzalez, born October 7, 1988, in the province of Colon, Panama. My father has been a Christian forty years. I became a Christian February 25, 2005 at age sixteen. I attended the Rio Rita congregation in Colon. The congregation had no preacher all the time. Men in the congregation taught the church. After I began to study, I had the ability to help others with the preaching, evangelism, and basic teaching. All this was of vital importance in order to begin my studies in the Bible Institute. 

In 2010, I traveled to Guatemala to visit with Darvin Alvarez, who had spoken to me about the Theological Institute of Latin America (ITL). I met Hawatthia Jones and Byron Benitez who founded ITL. I was accepted as a student and began studying in 2011. My studies required much effort and sacrifice, but I graduated from ITL in March, 2013. The Institute greatly helped me understand the Bible. During that time, I worked with congregations in other cultures. 

June 12, 2013 was the beginning of a new stage in my ministry. I now serve as a missionary of the church in Paraguay. I had learned of the church in Paraguay while attending the Bible Institute. Several students and I from ITL were involved in evangelism there in 2012. After graduation, member of the Sacramento Avenue congregation in Asuncion asked me to work with them for two years with the goal of planting a new congregation in the country. At that time, only two assemblies of churches of Christ were meeting in the country of Paraguay. 

A new church was planted in Newby July 7, 2013. A group of Christians who traveled to the city of Asuncion to worship desired to begin a congregation near where they lived. The church first met in the house of Vicente Martinez with his family. The new church began to grow with the help of capable, generous brethren from the Sacramento Avenue in Asuncion. Soon, we began to build on that foundation by preparing men for local leadership. Raul, William, and Vicente were involved in preaching and Bible study. Growth was not only among the men but Patricia, Zully, and Natalia Osorio began teaching the ladies. 

Between August and September we also rented a building where members could meet. The brethren then made the decision to move the congregation to another more central zone. Those who lived in different areas now had greater access to the place of worship. During this time, I also participated in evangelism in the zones of Pilar and Encarnacion. 

During my ministry in Asuncion, I was also privileged to teach in the Bible Academy of Asuncion, which was started by the Sacramento Avenue congregation in 2013. The Academy is a two-year course of Bible studies, affiliated with the Bear Valley Bible Institute, to train faithful men and women to better serve God and teach His word. I teach the Prison Epistles (Philippians, Colossians and Ephesians), the Epistles of John, the Minor Prophets, Genesis and the Gospel of Mark. 

The people of Paraguay have a strong interest in religion. Catholicism, with its deep roots in society, is ingrained in the culture. Many of our brethren who have been baptized into Christ and His body, the church, face rejection from their families for having left Catholicism. Yet, we thank God for those who are willing to study God’s Word for themselves and examine their faith. In spite of the difficulty of working in a culture affected by war and past dictators, God continues to give the growth as we sow the seed of His kingdom and water it, sometime even with our tears. 

My Personal goals are: 1) To make the local brethren capable of supporting the congregation; (2) To establish firm leadership, which can teach others; (3) To strengthen families and the youth of the congregation.; (4) To establish a program of help to people with benevolence, teaching. 

—Eliezer Perez 

My wife, Sarah, has always been equally involved in teaching the gospel to others. In fact, she attended the first World Mission Workshop in West Monroe, La. in the spring of 1964 before we were married.

Throughout most of the year, Sarah is studying to teach the Ladies Bible Class at the Bridgewood Church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX where we attend. In recent years she has been writing a resource book for teachers entitled “The Drama of Redemption, Walking with Jesus from Creation to Canaan.” She is now writing a second resource book entitled “The Drama of Redemption, Walking with Jesus in the Prophets.” It should be completed by the beginning of 2016. Each of these grows out of more than forty years of study, contains promises and pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament, and is designed to aid teachers of children. However, many teachers are also using it in Ladies’ Bible classes as well.

Additionally, in the words of a pioneer preacher, Joe Blue of Arkansas, “she is taking care of the stuff.” When I began this mission work with Bear Valley, she was working full time with Tarrant County College to provide a financial base to make this effort possible. In her spare time, she took care of the home or “the stuff.” 

For the last ten plus years, Sarah has also accompanied me during the summer to locations where the Bear Valley Bible Institute has schools of preaching. We have been together in the “Safari for Souls” at the Andrew Connally School of Preaching in Arusha, Tanzania for a half dozen years. Along with others, Sarah has walked the streets of Arusha and taught women and children about the Savior that many knew little or nothing about. During this time, Sarah also taught Ladies’ Seminars. 

We have also been on mission trips together to Peru, Cambodia, Paraguay, Tanzania, Canada and Ukraine. In fact, every time I have taught in Ukraine is during the summer months when she has been with me. While I am busy teaching the students in the Schools of Preaching, she is working just as hard, often spending as much time teaching wives of the students or other Christian women. 

During the last two years, Paraguay has become an adopted country where we both enjoy teaching the gospel. Sarah has taught as many as 25-30 ladies on numerous occasions. I recognize that I might be exiled if I traveled there without her. 

The Scripture describes the worth of many worthy women servants and teachers. Some are named such as Dorcas, Lydia and Phoebe (Acts 9:36; 16:14; Rom. 16:1). Other prominent women are described as “chief” or “leading” women (Acts 17:4). Husband and wife are mentioned together, most notably Priscilla and Aquila (Rom. 16:3; 2 Tim. 4:19; Acts 18:2; 1 Co. 16:19). 

I am thankful to be a part of this team-effort—a teammate in study, evangelism, rearing our children, and taking care of the home. I know I am speaking not just for myself, but for other men privileged to teach the gospel in a full-time way, and for every Christian husband who is fortunate enough to have a faithful Christian wife. May God give us more faithful “soul-mates.” 

—Gary Fallis

Posted on August 30, 2015 .

Training Men On The African Continent...

ACSOP was established in the year 2001 for the purpose of training Africans who can take the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in to all the world. The school is holding to the motto, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2). 

ACSOP began with 9 students in 2001 and has now graduated 140 students. A small room was rented and later replaced by a permanent building in the Iliboru area of Arusha. Through the providence of God, brethren purchased 19 acres in the Kisonga area of Arusha where the school is now located. The new facility has dormitory space for 48 students. The school began teaching in the English language but now offers classes in English and Swahili. The same material is taught to both classes. Students study 48 courses over a two-year period. Graduates receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies from the Bear Valley Bible Institute. Students are also able to continue their studies through the Bear Valley Master’s Program. Twenty-one have completed their Master’s degrees. This includes those who are currently working in the Andrew Connally School of Preaching and the Kenya School of Preaching. 

The dream of training faithful men who can teach others is becoming a reality in northern Tanzania. The plan was to have local teachers, preachers and evangelists teach and direct the school of preaching by the year 2018. Now we have men who are in different roles here at ACSOP who were former students of the school. Michael Losotwa serves as Dean of Academics; Godfrey Mngoma serves as Dean of Students. Ahimidiwe Kimaro and Charles Heberth are Assistant Directors of the school. These are only a few of the graduates of ACSOP who are working hand to hand with missionaries to teach faithful men. Our current director is Daniel Gaines whose main focus is to continue to train the Assistant Directors so that they may be ready to fully take that responsibility. 

ACSOP has been a great help to the Lord’s church both in Tanzania and East Africa. Through our graduates the Northern Zone which only had one congregation, now has more than 40 congregations. Thousands have heard the truth; many have become Christians and are faithful to the Lord. During 2014, 458 were baptized, 25 congregations established, 13 erring congregations restored, and 93 individuals re- stored. 

Yes, the purpose of ACSOP is to train preachers, but it has also been able to establish several Bible Schools which have helped strengthen the Church in this area. These schools serve as an evangelistic tool for the surrounding area. The school teaches anybody who is ready to learn from the Bible (this includes pagans, Muslims, denominational people and members who cannot attend ACSOP). Many have been converted to Christ through these studies. Countless others have become more capable servants and more devoted to Christ. One of our graduates, Desdery Massawe, directs Arusha Bible School. The Kisongo Bible School is directed by local evangelists, Ibrahim Mrutu, Michael and Ahimidiwe. Classes meet late in the evenings to allow those who are employed to attend. 

ACSOP has been organizing several seminars in the surrounding congregations so as to assist in their growth. Faculty members plus several graduates are going around to 13 congregations teaching a series on “Spiritual Disciplines for the Purpose of Godliness.” This series will be finished on March, 2016. 

ACSOP is sending her students every weekend to local congregations to assist in teaching and service to God. This ministry benefits the church as well as the students because they are practicing what they learn in the classroom. From February of this year, 45 Bible studies have been conducted, 10 have been restored and 6 souls have obeyed the Gospel through a burial in baptism. 

ACSOP is also helping the Church in Tanzania by conducting the Annual Leadership Conference on her premises. Leaders from the Lord’s Church around Tanzania and East Africa attend the conference. They are cared for physically, and their minds are sharpened so as to be better husbands, wives, teachers, evangelists and preachers. This year’s conference will be held October 8th-11th of 2015. The theme of this year is “Jesus and the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John Maxwell.

Due to the fact that the Bible addresses the youths as those who have strength against the devil, ACSOP established “Future Preacher Training Camp.” Its primary purpose is to train young men from the ages of 11-22 so that they can go back to their congregations and help in conducting services, being able to prepare sermon outlines and conduct personal bible studies. 

Every summer, the ACSOP conducts Gospel campaigns in the surrounding area known as “SAFARI (JOURNEY) FOR SOULS.” Visitors from America and members from the surrounding area join their efforts to reach lost souls. Hundreds of souls have come to Christ through these efforts. 

Much can be said about ACSOP, but nothing could have been done if not for our brother Cy Stafford and his family who had this vision from the beginning as well as supporters and sponsors who are making everything possible for the school to exist. The daily activities of teaching and mentoring are made possible through generous donations of its benefactors. And above all, we thank the Almighty God who gives us life and strength to serve in His Kingdom. TO HIM BE THE GLORY! 

Charles Heberth Mwanga
Assistant Director, ACSOP
An extension of Bear Valley Bible Institute. Arusha - Tanzania 

The Master’s Program of the Bear Valley Bible Institute in Accra, Ghana is contributing to the preaching of the gospel and strength of the Lord’s church in West Africa. Experienced gospel preachers, who have proven their faithfulness to the Lord through years of service and prior education, are further equipping themselves through a study of God’s Word. Several are themselves teachers in Bear Valley Extension in West Africa. Two of the students began their Master’s studies in Takoradi, Ghana. These brethren are thankful for the opportunity to gain a level of Biblical education available in the Western world. 

I taught the courses of Old Testament Theology and Christian Apologetics. While I have taught the Old Testament course many times, this was the first time in a few years to teach Apologetics or Christian Evidences. The Old Testament course began with an expose of liberal scholarship which is critical of the inspiration of the Old Testament and the sovereignty of God. The study then continues with a look at important themes in the Old Testament and a brief analysis of the prophetic writings. I utilize a set of charts and outlines that discuss these subjects. The Apologetics course can be so vast that I centered our study on the existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible, the proof of prophecy, Deity and the resurrection of Christ. My appreciation for this course has increased greatly due to skepticism and unbelief. The Biblical documents themselves provide more than sufficient evidence for our faith in God, Christ and the church, He. 11:1. 

My power-point was a white board. The charts and outlines are equally adaptable to blackboard, transparencies or power-point. Class discussion was rich because of the observation and questions of many of the students who have decades of preaching and teaching experience. I always consider myself first a student and then a teacher. Therefore, I was learning as well as teaching. Students know they will be graded on their notebooks, tests, sermons and research papers. Therefore, they normally pay close attention, even when the mid-afternoon lag hits them. 

I had an unusual opportunity while there to attend a meeting with directors of five of the Bear Valley Extensions in West Africa. Directors and teachers included Willie Gley, Togo; Matthew Accah, Takoradi; Baah Okyere, Alex Jabado, Tamale; Seth Larbi, Accra; Makinde Ebenezer, Southwest, Nigeria. Steven Ashcraft, West Africa Regional Coordinator, planned and hosted the event. Steven recognized that directors and teachers of four of the five schools were already present for the Masters class. The central area of West Africa has experienced the most rapid growth of Bear Valley Schools of Preaching over the last several years. 

Reports were presented, strategy shared, problems and successes discussed. Each director and teacher had an opportunity to speak regarding evangelistic efforts and mission methods. Obviously, the message of Christ does not change but ways of communication the gospel may. When meetings can occur on the mission field with the native men who teach and operate these schools, much good is accomplished! 

The meeting was conducted at Hans Hotel and Restaurant. This was convenient for me as this is where the visiting teacher stays while teaching in Accra. It is located only two blocks from the Ghana Literature Center where the classes are conducted. The hotel has air conditioning when electricity is working. That means part of the time. The hotel had a generator, but a cranky one at that. I actually spent Sunday afternoon outside studying as the local electricity was off and the generator had blown “something.” Outside was cooler than the room. Fortunately things improved late in the day. Special experiences such as these go along with teaching God’s word around the world. However, the value is worth whatever inconvenience occurs. 

Ten of the eighteen Extension Schools are on the African continent. The church in Africa now is believed to have more Christians than America. This is the reason for the increasing number of preaching schools in Africa. The purpose is two-fold: 

First, the need to save as many as possible, Many countries in Africa compose a receptive area. The field of souls “is white unto harvest,” (John 4:34-38). More trained workers are needed to teach a multitude of Christ and His church 

Second, the need to keep them saved. The purpose of the Parable of the Sower is to show that two of the three grounds which receive the seed, the word of God, will not continue to bear fruit. The thorny ground, which represents worldliness and material things, will choke out the Word of God. Likewise, the rocky ground represents persecution and causes one to be ashamed of the gospel and therefore unfruitful. Therefore, more trained, productive Christians and more organized congregations are needed to help these new Christians to grow. Babes in Christ need to be nurtured and to have mentors and role models. 

The Bear Valley Bible Institute with its allies, scores of congregations and thousands of Christians, is committed to helping people be saved and stay saved. You can pray for all those involved, those who go and those who send. You can also be one who goes or one give financially to help others to go. 

—Gary Fallis

Posted on May 24, 2015 .

The Fruit Of God...

2014 marked the 11th year of my ministry with the Extension Program of the Bear Valley Bible Institute. My first five years (2003-2007) were principally with the Andrew Connally School of Preaching in Arusha, Tanzania. I served as the Bear Valley Coordinator, making three trips a year to teach, counsel with the students, director and staff. I was also responsible for recruiting other American preachers as short-course teachers and communicating with BVBID in Denver, CO. 

During those years, Sarah went with me every summer to participate in the Safari for Souls evangelistic mission. She regularly taught in the Ladies Seminar, VBS, and Bible studies. Several ladies were baptized into Christ. This obviously brought joy to her heart and was the highlight of her summer. 

During the same five year span, I taught in Ukraine each June, both in the undergraduate and graduate programs. Sarah also traveled with me, teaching ladies classes in Kramatorsk, Sylvanask, Ilivisce, Gorlovka, and Donetsk. 

Beginning in 2007 I was asked to serve as the Director of the Master’s Program. A part of the vision of the Extension Program was to provide additional training for those who would serve as directors and teachers of the Extension Schools. Other exceptional students could also enroll in this advanced program after they had completed the two-year school of preaching. The Master’s Program has complimented the two-year course of study throughout the world. In Tanzania alone, teachers who attended the Andrew Connally Master’s Program are now teaching in Bear Valley Extensions in Arusha and Chimala, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. 

Through the years, Master’s Programs in Nigeria, India, Guatemala, Ukraine, Ghana, and Tanzania have helped produce mature Christians and qualified teachers for Bear Valley Extensions and other faithful programs. My participation in the Master’s Program has led me to teach in many more locations than if I had continued to serve as the coordinator of one school. Memory may fail at this point, but I have taught in Central and South America in the nations of Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru and Paraguay. In Africa, I have taught in the countries of Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria. Other countries include India, Nepal, Cambodia and Ukraine. After I had made 50 trips, I quit counting. I say all this boasting only in the Lord and being blessed to participate in this worthy work of God. 

The extension ministry, which is spearheaded and led by the Bear Valley elders, has partners among scores of congregations and hundreds, if not thousands, of individual Christians. Graduates of many faithful American Schools of Preaching and Christian Colleges serve or have served as directors, coordinators, and teachers in these 17 schools of preaching that are found on 4 continents and 14 countries. 

In my early years with the Arusha Extension, Mark Hooper and Ralph Gilmore brought students from Freed-Hardeman University to participate in the Safari for Souls evangelistic campaign. Cy
Stafford, evangelism coordinator in Arusha, Tanzania, can name dozens of congregations and hundreds of American Christians who helped the light of evangelism burn more brightly in northern Tanzania. 

Coordinators of other Bear Valley Extensions have their own story of the fruit of God over these past 15 years. One with whom I worked closely and admire is Terry Harmon, who served as the Coordinator of the Ukraine Extension for ten years. 

Paul, an apostle who spoke by inspiration, also knew by his own experience that after we have sown the seed, the Word of God, and watered it with time and tears, God Himself has given the growth. The apostle who shunned to exalt himself, said “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” (1 Cor. 3:7). 

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Early in his ministry, Paul selected Timothy to work with him in the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman world (Acts 16:1-3). They would work together for the rest of Paul’s ministry. Near the end of Paul’s life, he reminded Timothy to live for Christ and to conduct himself as a faithful Christian and evangelist. An incentive that Paul uses is that Timothy is “in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 

As a pillar or column supports a building, the church supports the truth of God. The church of the Lord is entrusted with preaching the truth to all the world and defending it from the assaults of error. This was true of the church of Christ in the first century, and it is true today. Jesus, who redeemed the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28), commanded it to preach the gospel to all the world until the end of the world (Matt. 28:18-20). Those whose sins are washed away by the blood of Christ in baptism are added to that church (Acts 2:36-47; 22:16) and have the responsibility and privilege to teach it to others. 

The house of God is not the temple of Diana, which stood there at Ephesus in the first century, erected by artisans of silver, who superstitiously believed the goddess Diana fell from heaven (Acts 19). The splendid temple of Diana is no more, for God does not dwell in a temple made with hands (cf. Acts 19:23-27; Acts 17:24-29). While the temple of Diana represented pagan worship, the church supports true worship of God and Christ. 

Neither is the church today built upon the traditions of the Hindu writings, Buddha or Mohammad. Rather, it is built upon the deity of Christ (Matt. 16:13-19). Christ is the fulfillment of Old Testament promise and prophecy (Acts 3:18-26). The Son was eternally present with the Father be- fore the world was created and then manifested in human form in the fullness of time (John 1:1-3, 14, 18). He is both God and man (Matt. 1:18-23). 

Neither is the church built upon a human foundation of an apostle such as Peter or one of the renowned Reformation leaders. The apostles whom Christ chose to preach the gospel were ordinary men also in need of salvation. Peter, who was aware of his human weakness and fallibility, was a servant, not the Lord (Luke 22:31-34; 54-62). The reformers, even if courageous and well-intentioned, were subject to error. This is why we wear the name of Christ, not Luther or Calvin. 

Paul reveals to Timothy the mystery that God has revealed to us in order to make us godly: “God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16). The mystery is not something incomprehensible; the hidden wisdom of God is revealed in the gospel. This is the truth the church of the living God is to preach to the world. MAY GOD HELP US TO DO JUST THAT WITH FERVOR AND COMPASSION! 

I first met Perry B. Cotham in 1973 when I was preaching in Idalou, Texas near Lubbock. He preached a gospel meeting for us. This began a friendship and working relationship of more than 35 years. 

Very much a novice in the mission field, I went with Perry to Surinam in South America, formerly known as Dutch Guiana in 1974. We took several hundred of his tracts which had been translated into Dutch, the national language. We preached each night for two weeks at the Red Cross building in Paramaribo and distributed Bible tracts during the day downtown and in the suburbs. 

I traveled again with Perry to Hawaii in 1978 for a gospel meeting and VBS on the island of Oahu. This time we took reinforcements. Students from Southwestern Christian College along with other Christians accompanied us. 

Perry preached at a congregation near the Schofield Barracks Army base. I still remember his lessons on the Bible subject of marriage and divorce. The next weeks he also preached at the Wahiawa congregation where we also conducted a Vacation Bible School. Both congregations were primarily composed of American military forces and their families. 

Many Bible studies were conducted and con- tacts made for Christ. The relationships that we made with the Southwestern students continued for years. 

The following year in 1979 most of us who worked with Perry the year before joined other Christians to teach the gospel in Scotland and Ireland. On this occasion, Sarah was also able to go. The main group left a week before we did. When Sarah and I arrived in London, we had to literally run to thrown our bags on the train for the all day trip to Peterhead, Scotland. 

The city of Peterhead was the largest fishing port both in Scotland and the British common- wealth. Therefore, the congregation was primarily composed of fisherman and their families. All of us lived with the local Christians and joined them in going from door-to-door throughout the town. Per- ry preached, and the church was greatly encouraged. 

Last of all, we went to Belfast, Northern Ireland and evangelized for a week. Our work was with the congregation in Newtownards, a suburb of Belfast. 

Perry was our leader both in sermon and action. He walked every mile we did and challenged us to walk a few more. He was a mere 69 years old then. He would live to be 102. Sarah and I visited him when he was 101, his mind as as sharp as ever. 

Perry was the consummate missionary mentor, not only to me but to thousands more in the USA and around the world. 

—Gary Fallis

Posted on January 18, 2015 .

International School of Theology...

It was approximately 5:00 PM on Monday, February 8th, 2010, as I was walking through the lectureship display area at the Freed-Hardeman University, that I was asked, “Can you lead a team of workers to the country of Haiti?” I said, “Okay.” It is amazing how your life can change with one word such as, “okay.” Wednesday at 6:00 A.M., I boarded the plane and we were on our way to Haiti. The earthquake of 2010 left about 300,000 people dead, 30,000 businesses destroyed, over 1,000,000 people living in tent cities, and thousands of children were without parents. The destruction, chaos, hurt, and task of helping seemed overwhelming, but God already had a plan. God was going to take the greatest tragedy in the world at the time and use it to His glory because He knew His children would respond with overwhelming love. 

Christians from around the world sent financial aid for the people of Haiti. Approximately 2.5 million relief dollars were sent to the Estes church of Christ in Henderson, TN, and I was asked to help coordinate the distribution of funds. Thousands of people were fed and clothed, homes were rebuilt or repaired, church buildings and schools were given aid to help with reconstruction and medical aid was provided for thousands of people. God’s hand was working to open doors for the gospel to move forward. 

Because God and His family, the church, heard the cry of Haiti, many had the opportunity to see Christian love in action and hear the gospel call of salvation. While many were looking only for the food, medicine and other types of aid offered, some were longing to know more about salvation. Thousands gave their lives to Christ coming to know that in Him, there is a better hope for tomorrow. To God be the glory for all who came to Christ! 

I met regularly with some of the Haitian preachers to be sure all their needs were met. We found quickly that the needs were not being met for their spiritual growth. While it is great to report thousands were coming to Christ, the question arose, “How will we help educate and bring to maturity the new Christians?” While a few of the preachers had received some formal training, most had not. A plan was then formulated to begin a school of preaching in Port-au-Prince, the capital, a city of more than three million souls. The seed was planted, and the doors of International School of Theology (ITS) opened August 11, 2014. We have twenty-four students who are ready to learn and eager to teach others. We could have several more students but limited the number to give more individual time to each student. We offer forty-nine courses in the two-year program. Many of the students were hand-picked, and we hope to use some of them as teachers in the future. 

International School of Theology is under the oversight of the elders of the Broad Street church of Christ in Lexington, Tennessee and I, Larry Waymire, serve as the American director along side a team of three Haitian directors. What makes IST so unique is the partnership we have with the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver and Freed-Hardeman University of Henderson, Tennessee. 

Both of these schools will help provide teachers and serve as advisors for the school. This will help to ensure the highest quality of education will be provided for the preacher students. Representatives from both have visited IST and have addressed the student body; this has been such a motivation to the students. 

While we have students who are eager to learn and teachers who are willing to give of their time, energy, and talent, there is a missing component – YOU. We need you to partner with us to keep the school growing. To pay rent, electric, Internet, and food for the students and to help aid the students with transportation money, school supplies, and other needed items require about $300 per student per month. So, we need congregations and/or individuals who will help us with monthly support or a one-time donation. 

I appreciate brother Gary Fallis, who has been to Haiti and taught at IST, for allowing me to share this information with you. If you would like to partner with us or would like more information, please contact me at 731-798-0136 or email me at You can send support for this work to: International School of Theology – c/o Broad Street church of Christ - 131 North Broad Street, Lexington, TN 38351. May the Lord of creation continue to use each of us and may we continue to say “Okay” when the door of opportunity is presented. 

Larry Waymire

Meeting a Biblical Need
The International School of Theology is an example of adapting the training of preachers to fit their particular situation. Like any country, Haiti has a critical need for greater Bible knowledge and for well-taught gospel preachers. Students in other Extension Schools live in a dormitory and study the Scriptures seven hours a day for Monday-Friday. The Bible school in Port-au-Prince is composed of older men who are employed in providing for their families. For this reason, their classes begin at 2:00 P.M. and continue until 7:00 P.M. four days a week. They also meet on Saturday from 9:00 A.M. until 1:00 P.M. 

The willingness of these men to commit this amount of time per week indicates a holy yearning for the Word of God (Matt. 5:6). They are at different stages of spiritual growth, but each one recognizes his need to increase his faith and service to God, and that begins with knowledge. This is why the American and Haitian coordinators selected faithful men with spiritual qualities. 

Larry Waymire seeks experienced Christians to teach one or more of the forty-nine Bible courses in the curriculum. I was one of the first teachers to volunteer in our meeting in Jackson, TN in February. One reason for that is because I knew I wanted to teach the Scheme of Redemption. I have recorded this course in the World Video Bible School, preached it, and taught it in various Schools of Preaching during my ministry. In addition, this is a natural course to teach in the beginning of someone’s study. 

The primary purpose of the course is to show the seamless story of the Bible—the purpose of God before the world began, tracing the Messianic promises and prophecies through the Old Testament to their fulfillment in the New Testament. I knew that French was the official language in Haiti, but that Creole is the most widely spoken language. With the help of Google Translate, I inserted French words in the place of English in the numerous charts I use in teaching the Scheme of Redemption. Even though the course was actually translated in Creole, the French translation was helpful. I intended for the students to know the historical time-line in their sleep. Their own notebooks at the end of the course showed that they had learned much of what I had emphasized – even if gentle persuasion was needed on occasion. 

A seven- teen year old young man served as my translator. His skill is exceptional for this age. He is being reared in a Children’s Home that I had the opportunity to visit on two different occasions. A Christian lady from Tennessee, Roberta Edwards, is caring for twenty-two Haitian children ranging in ages from a few months to twenty-two years. The children meet on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening in a tabernacle on the property. I taught from John chapter four concerning Jesus’ discussion with the Samaritan woman at the well, emphasizing the spiritual change in the woman and also the disciples. 

I also had the opportunity to visit two congregations. Each of these churches has begun a Christian school to provide a quality education in a Christian environment in a country where illiteracy is common and moral principles are needed. Each congregation has a large, comfortable building for the church to grow. 

However, the primary ministry of Bear Valley, Freed-Hardeman, and all involved is to teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and to equip the saints for work of ministry (Eph. 4:12). 

God Gives The Growth
Paul wrote to the church of God in Corinth which was divided rather than united. The primary reason for that was exalting men rather than God. They were denominating themselves. They were one church in name, but not in practice. Paul instructs “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment.” 

While they were baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:13), they were now exalting worldly wisdom and power. This was evident in Corinth in the juvenile use of spiritual or miraculous gifts (Chapters 12-14). Paul reminds them that God did not call the wise, the powerful and the noble so that “no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:29). 

Paul did not come to Corinth with great oratory or human wisdom, but “preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). The reason is stated: “so that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5). 

The apostle continues his instruction, even rebuke, in chapter three when he is forced to address them as carnal rather than spiritual (1 Cor. 2:1-2). The proof of their immaturity is there was envy, strife and division among them. Paul says, “They were behaving like mere men.” 

This worldly immaturity was evidently manifest in their evangelism because Paul says, “Who then is Paul and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believe, as the Lord gave to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:5-6). All the emphasis is on God and Christ—“We are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9). Paul further teaches they are the temple of God in-dwelt by the Spirit of God. God destroys anyone or anything that defiles this temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Immorality can obviously defile this temple, but so can the obsession for human wisdom or power. 

May each of us be diligent to seek and preach the wisdom of God, for this is the very thing God ordained before the world began (1 Cor. 2:7). 

Gary Fallis

To see Gary’s report with pictures please click here.

Posted on November 2, 2014 .

Into Our Hands The Gospel Is Given...

While living in Greenville, TX in 1964, I first met Tillit S. Teddlie when he was preaching at Quinlan, TX. At the age of 80, brother Teddlie was preaching at the last congregation in his notable career as preacher, song writer, singing teacher and editor of gospel songs.

He quickly affected my spiritual life by asking for volunteers to teach a five-ten minute lesson on Wednesday night. I was one of two volunteers. I had never taught the Bible publicly. When I told my wife, Sarah, she said, “You can’t do that; you don’t have a lesson.” I told her, “Brother Teddlie will help me.” He did help me prepare a lesson on faith and works from James 2:14-26. I taught that lesson and enlarged it into a sermon which I preached in Emory just a few weeks later. A few months later I began to preach two Sundays a month at a small congregation in Ridgeway, TX near where my father had grown up.

Sarah and I continued to worship at Quinlan on Wednesday nights while I preached on Sundays. I drove 40 miles from Greenville to Blue Ridge where I taught school. Upon my return home, I frequently stopped to visit with brother Teddlie. On those occasions, he shared with me many experiences of his life as a gospel preacher and taught me some basics of leading singing. One special memory we have is when we collected over 63 songs that brother Teddlie had written. When we showed those to him, he sang one verse of every one of them that evening.

One particular song that attracted my attention was entitled “Into Our Hands the Gospel Is Given,” (sometimes entitled “Swiftly We’re Turning”). While brother Teddlie had written the words and melodies to more than 100 songs, he told me he had paid Mrs. Roy Carruth $3 for the words and he wrote the music in 1939. He remarked that the most important things in singing are scriptural words and singable melodies. The words teach us, and the melody helps us remember that instruction. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

I led and admired many of brother Teddlie’s songs, but this one gained a special hold on me, perhaps becoming a beacon for my life. I realize the song has also influenced countless other Christians in seeking and teaching the lost. I believe these are some of the reasons:

The song first emphasizes that the gospel is personal. “Into Our Hands The Gospel Is Given.” Near the end of His ministry, Jesus commissioned all Christians to teach the gospel to all those lost in sin (Matt. 28:18-20). This includes all people in all the world! However, this task will never be achieved; the lost will never hear unless it becomes personal to us. The gospel is given into our hands first to obey, then to teach to others.

Second, the song illustrates the importance of promptness. Time is of the essence. The first verse begins, “Swiftly we’re turning life’s daily pages; swiftly the hours are changing to years. How are we using God’s golden moments? Shall we reap glory? Shall we reap tears? While we hesitate or deliberate, others remain untaught about Christ and are perhaps swept off into eternity in that condition.

Third, many are seeking. In a world of hopelessness and emptiness, many realize something is lacking in their inner lives. They become the seekers, the searchers, sometimes not even knowing where to turn because of the devil’s wiles and twists and turns of false messages. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus describes those who are truly seeking as having “a good and honest heart” those who will “hear the word, keep it and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15). Lest we grow weary in teaching or decide others are not interested, may we consider that we were once in darkness, needing the light and hoping for a guide.

Fourth, the motivation to live a faithful Christian life and give an answer of the hope that is in us is because souls are precious and dying. We ourselves rejoice because our sins are forgiven. But the song asks, “Did he not also die for these lost ones?” Our response then surely will be: “Then let us point the way unto heaven?”

The following article is by the preacher at the Bridgewood congregation in Fort Worth, Texas where Sarah and I worship when I am home. Ed’s conversion to Christ illustrates God working together many things for good (Rom. 8:28). Christians in America left their home and came to Australia to begin the church in an un-evangelized or “under-evangelized” area. Other Christians in America sacrificed financially to help them go. These Christians also cared about the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of Ed’s family.

Ed is involved in evangelism both here at home and away from home. He actively seeks out people to involve in Bible study. He has conducted many campaigns for Christ in the U.S. and throughout the world. Each time I leave on one of these trips, I can count on his prayers and his encouragement as he always says, “All the best.”

Gary Fallis

“Adventure” as used here refers not so much to a daring undertaking involving danger and unknown risks (although, they may very well be involved), but rather to “a remarkable experience.”

When Saul, the persecutor of the church, recognized and submitted to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, he was rescued not only from the domain of darkness (Col.1:13), but was also delivered from physical blindness, for “there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight” (Acts 9:17-18). So in our case, the scales of doubt, confusion and spiritual blindness fall from our eyes as we learn the truth of our Lord. Life’s purpose, mission, priorities, and objectives come into focus: All are re-calibrated by the consciousness of having been called into fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ! The adventure begins!

My own “remarkable experience” began unexpectedly, intruding abruptly into our family’s well- planned “exciting adventure”: a move halfway around the world from Scotland to Western Australia. However, little did I know it at the time; but I would actually be living out a classic profile of one most likely to convert. The following points should be noted, for just as they were factors in my life, so they will be, in one way and to some extent in the lives of those who will receive and obey the word of God (Acts 2:41).

Dissatisfaction: My father was an elder in the Presbyterian Church who took his responsibilities and his faith very seriously, but I on the other hand had rebelled and quit church. This in turn resulted in a growing sense of alienation from ... something, though I wasn’t sure what. While still praying, admittedly infrequently, I didn’t belong to anything. It didn’t keep me awake at night, but it was an ever-present uneasiness. One thing was clear, that “something” certainly wasn’t church! Been there, done that!

Change: As a family, our move was motivated by the better economic opportunities offered in the “new frontier” of Australia. However, in doing so, we were uprooting ourselves from everything that was familiar. The result was openness, at least initially, to new things and ideas. We were in a new culture, and were eager to adapt to our new surroundings.

Crisis: An observable reality, conversion tends to follow crisis! It may not be as traumatic an experience as ours (my father died suddenly five days after our arrival in Western Australia), but in some way one’s regular routine, one’s security and stability or one’s beliefs are brutally challenged, possibly being vanquished and made meaningless! Suddenly the world is upside down! Your boat is not merely rocking it has capsized! The safe and familiar are replaced with new unfamiliar and hostile realities.

Christian influence and example: As noted, everything that had taken place resulted in an openness of mind to accept new things. Crisis also led to questioning, even a return to the Presbyterian church following my father’s death. This I knew, even when catching the train for the journey down town, wasn’t going to last; it was penance for past rebellion. Therefore, the openness created would quickly pass, and the door of opportunity would close. The result most likely would have been in an even more sullen and determined rejection of anything to do with the Bible and Christianity.

Christians made the difference! We didn’t know them; we had never attended a church service of filled out an attendance card. They learned of a local tragedy and responded. We had never heard of the church of Christ, so initially they were to me simply more “church people” - but there was a difference. A wonderful, intangible difference! Two things became clear: They were sincerely interested in our wellbeing, and furthermore they manifested an unpretentious yet unquestionable relationship with God; they were living Christianity in a way I had never experienced. Friendship led to fellowship in Christ and the beginning of three more “remarkable experiences” in following Christ.

Looking back and then looking around, I must confess to a sense of sadness. Evangelism, now generally perceived as being the responsibility of those specially trained, is not for regular Christians. What if a question came up to which they didn’t readily know the answer? That would be uncomfortable and embarrassing. Therefore leave the messy business of saving souls it to the experts.

Sadness also arises for my brethren. Many lie at one end of the spectrum or the other: Either content with the “minimum requirements” of church membership (as we conveniently define them), or at the other end, busily pushing the envelope seeking new ways to make worship more exciting for us. In the meantime, what alertness is there to opportunities opening up in the lives of those around us, and what sense of a “remarkable experience” in following Christ is lost in the process?

—Ed McGeachy

Posted on January 12, 2014 .

Graduation In Nigeria...

In 2003 the main campus in Ibadan and the satellite campus in Lagos began to train gospel ministers in the Southwest States of Nigeria. The pioneering teachers of the School are myself (Makinde E. Olufemi), Okon S. Udoh, Dairo Abiodun Joseph, late Ebenezer Aiyela, Emmanuel Olu Adediran, Philip Okome and Stephen Okesami. The school is the fulfillment of my 1989 dream when I was a student in the Ministerial Department of Nigeria Christian Institutes Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. The school was founded with 50% of my support from Joel Coppinger of World Bible School of Tulare County, California. Beginning in 2008 Douglas M. Wheeler began to raise scholarships for students in Ibadan. SWSE only provides our teachers with their transport expenses.

The School began in a World Bible School classroom in Onikokuri-Ibadan with five students before moving to a twelve-room block built by the Makindes in 2006. In December 2012 we moved to our permanent site at Butubutu Village via Badeku/Jago, Ibadan. The cost to train a student in Ibadan is $600 per year and between $1500-$2000 for our weekend campaigns and evangelism. Tuition is provided. Students do not need a houseboy or maid and will not be allowed to have one on campus.

The aim of the school is: (1) To indoctrinate the students so that they will remain faithful to Christ (1 Tim. 4:11, 9-16); (2) To train tomorrow’s leaders (2 Tim. 2:2; Rom. 10:14); (3) To prepare God’s people for service so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:12-16). Supplemental goals are to teach students to love each other, count others better than themselves and always have a humble dependence upon the Lord.

Full-time students in Ibadan study one year/two years; part time students in Lagos study for three years. However, the time of study may be longer depending upon the student’s maturity and performance both in the field and in the school.

Much has been accomplished during the first ten years of SWSE, but more needs to be done. The school has been involved in the planting of 50 congregations in the Southwest States of Nigeria. Over 100 have graduated and are serving as evangelists in the Lord’s church in Nigeria and other African countries. A goal of the director and board members is to improve the knowledge of the instructors as well as promote wiser and more effective students. To this end, Chad Wagner of BVBI and Douglas M. Wheeler of the Westside congregation in Norman, Oklahoma helped us develop an association with the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, Colorado in May 2012. Since that time, Doug Wheeler, Ron Pottberg, Joel Coppinger, Bill Pennell, Steven Ashcraft, Ralph Williams, Denton Landon, Bill Stewart and Gary Fallis have taught in the Southwest School of Evangelism in Ibadan.

SWSE graduated 18 evangelists on August 24, 2013. At the same time, 32 new students began the 2013-2014 academic sessions in a study of God’s Word. Those who satisfactorily complete their studies will receive a Diploma in Theology from SWSE and Certificate from the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver.

Our conviction is that we expect to pass through this world but once; therefore whatever good things we can do, let us do them now!

Makinde E. Olufemi

I had previously taught on four occasions in Abakaliki in Southeastern Nigeria. This was my first sojourn into the Southwestern States. I did not know when I left for Ibadan that I was in the largest city in West Africa aside from Cairo.

I arrived on time in Lagos Saturday evening. However, the luggage conveyer belt quickly broke down amid our fears and consternation. An hour and a half later I had my luggage. A lady born in Nigeria, who is now living and working in the states, said that it breaks every time she returns home.

Things rapidly improved after that. Makinde, the director, was there to meet me with our chauffeur and a board member of the school. We worshipped in Lagos the next morning, had lunch with the preacher and then traveled to Ibadan. The Southwest School of Evangelism is located about fifteen miles from Ibadan near the village of Butubutu on one of the roughest roads ever. The new campus is well planned, consisting of an administration building, classroom/auditorium and a dormitory. The dormitory is not yet completed so the students are living in rooms within the administration building.

The SWSE ministries are many! Weekend evangelism is a staple. Teachers and students preach in area congregations. World Bible School courses are distributed and graded. Brethren plan to begin printing the Voice of Truth in Nigeria, thus saving thousands of dollars. (Jerry Bates, who works with the Voice of Truth and BVBID, arranged with Makinde for this addition). Steven Ashcraft, West Africa Coordinator of BVBID, has encouraged American Christians to provide two new laptop computers and high quality printers for academic and evangelistic purposes.

I had a warm welcome from everyone. I taught “Scheme of Redemption” the first week and “Hebrews” the second week. Both teachers and students comprised a class of about 40 students. An African custom is to allow questions at the end of each class period. This keeps the teacher “on his toes” as all questions may not be on the subject of the class. I did, however, try to guide the questions back to the discussion of the Biblical writer.

The First Graduation and Lectureship at the new campus in Butubutu-Ibadan was the highlight of the trip. Approximately 200-300 Christians gathered for the three day event. Special lectures were given by guest preachers Thursday and Friday. Students graduated on Saturday. No one can celebrate like our African brethren. They had not “killed the fatted calf,” but they had bought the fatted goat. I rode back from my hotel with at least a half dozen slaughtered animals ready for the cooking pot. Makinde Olufemi, the Director, was the chief butcher, preparing the animals for the meals. Everyday there was a potluck lunch for members and their guests. An American may have wondered, “Who was supposed to bring the casserole?”

Fifteen students graduated. These Christians came from several Nigerian states, some from Eastern Nigeria and at least one from the more dangerous northern Nigerian states. Lectureship speakers came from Lagos, Ibadan and adjacent states. I delivered the commencement address, representing the Bear Valley Bible Institute. My text was Ezra 7:10: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

I had also presented a lecture entitled “The Pattern of New Testament Christianity” on Friday. It has been many moons since I have had as many opportunities and such a diverse group of studies on one mission trip. I am indebted to Makinde E. Olufemi who made my stay comfortable and my return memorable.

—Gary Fallis

To see Gary’s report with pictures from Nigeria, please click here.

Posted on September 29, 2013 .

Recent Trip To Paraguay...

The Asuncion Bible Academy began classes March 11, 2013 to train faithful brethren how to preach, teach, and become better servants in the Lord's kingdom. It is a work of the Avenida Sacramento Iglesia de Cristo in Paraguay, South America. Brethren recognized the need to equip others to teach in the Paraguayan languages-- Spanish and Guarani (an Indian dialect). Although anyone can learn and speak Guarani, only a native Paraguayan Guarani really knows how to communicate with another Paraguayan.

For this reason, the church in Asuncion begin working with the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver in March 2012 to plant and develop more congregations in Paraguay. The school has five full-time students. One student also studies parttime, and several members regularly attend various classes.

Paraguay, a country of more than 7,000,000 people, only has two congregations of the Lord’s church. The fields are truly “white unto harvest,” so we are praying that God will use the Asuncion Bible Academy as one of His tools for evangelizing the lost in this part of the world.

The Sacramento Avenue congregation has 90 members. It was planted in 2003 by missionaries from Freed-Hardeman University. Since then, the original team has recruited several new missionaries as replacements to carry on the work. God has blessed the congregation with continual growth through various evangelistic efforts--door-knocking campaigns, special seminars, and teaching English using the Bible. As the brethren continue to mature spiritually, their hope is to appoint elders. They also plan to support their first national missionary and plant another congregation in a nearby suburb of Asuncion.

Troy Spradlin, missionary to Paraguay since February 2010 and graduate of the Southwest School of Bible Studies in Austin, Texas, is the Director of the Academy. Troy is a native Texan and is working toward his Master's Degree in Bible from Bear Valley. He and his wife, Andrea, are sponsored by the Margaret Street Church in Milton, FL. They have made a commitment to the work for seven years. Before moving to South America, they were active members at the Palm Beach Lakes congregation in West Palm Beach, Florida. Palm Beach Lakes is also the stateside financial administrator for the Asuncion Bible Academy.

To learn more about the work, please visit the mission team's website

—Troy Spradlin

In the last ten years, I have made ten trips into Spanish speaking countries of the Central/South American continent to teach God’s word in the Extension Schools of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. I have taught in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru. Paraguay is my latest destination.

The trip itself was a “trying” experience. Thursday, June 6, I tried to fly from Dallas to Mi- ami and then directly to Asuncion. Engine trouble developed, and the plane left three hours late. Therefore, I missed my connection and had to overnight in Miami. Friday, June 7, I tried once again to fly to Asuncion. Once again, another plane developed engine trouble. To make a long story short, I tried for the third time late Saturday night, June 8, and finally arrived in Asuncion Sunday morning June 9. I had traveled half way around the world frequently in less time!

However, once I arrived, everything was great! I worshipped with the Sacramento Avenue church in Asuncion Sunday morning. I was originally scheduled to preach but arrived too late. Josh Blackmer preached an excellent lesson. His powerpoint presentation greatly aided my comprehension of Spanish. Therefore, I saved my lesson for Wednesday evening. .

I began class Monday morning with five students. This number of students is really a good beginning since the country only has two congregations. The class is conducted in the Sacramento Avenue building. I taught eight hours a day since my return flight was Friday morning. Classes are interrupted by a student chapel which meets everyday at 9:15 AM. I did not know that I was scheduled to speak but used a favorite sermon from the past. This is why a preacher had advised me to always be prepared with a spare sermon.

I was assigned to teach the Godhead, La Deidad. In January I had previously taught the same course in India. With the help of Google Translator and Pablo Arista, I translated my English notes into Spanish so the students would have the course in their own language. Pablo, a Christian at Bridgewood in Fort Worth, has begun a Spanish ministry where we attend. Pablo has asked me to teach the same course in Spanish at Bridgewood. I solicit your prayers for this endeavor.

I followed the natural order of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with a test after each section. I endeavored to show the relationship of Deity, the Trinity, both their unity and distinction. I wanted the students to understand that the Godhead is the foundation of our faith. Without the unified work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there could be no cross, no hope and no salvation. The apostle Paul establishes this truth in Eph. 4:1-6

In addition to the in-class tests, the students did a research paper the following week as a research assignment. Once the assignments were completed, Troy Spradlin, the Director, sent me both the last tests and research paper as attachments. I have learned enough Spanish to read and grade the assignments, relieving the local teachers of that task.

With my usual good fortune, I established a good relationship with Enrique, Paulo, Karen, William and Ramon. Somehow, the students were able to adjust to my eccentricity. It was a thrill to observe their interest in class, eat with them and watch them play a form of two-man soccer (football) popular in Paraguay. I am scheduled to teach 2 Corinthians in Asuncion about the same time in 2014.

All three American missionaries were gone shortly after I arrived, making me wonder if they had heard about me before! Actually, Perry Hardin, who communicated with me before my arrival, was already home on furlough. Josh Blackmer, who picked me up at the airport, left the day after I arrived, and Troy Spradlin, the Director, returned from furlough on Tuesday. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Troy, who is in his fourth year as a missionary in Paraguay.

The church and the school are in very capable hands. First and most important, they are in the Lord’s hands. Second, the native Paraguayans and the American brethren are working tirelessly and harmoniously together to teach the lost and build up the church in the country of Paraguay.

—Gary Fallis

“Sarah, you are giving me a lot of in-depth knowledge to pass on to my 1st and 2nd grade class, and I am only in chapter 6!” Karla Sparks, preacher’s wife at White Rock church of Christ, Dallas.

“I’m using this in my 4th through 6th grade Wednesday evening class. We just finished Chapter 3, and the children love it!” Pam Harris, teacher and deacon’s wife at Bridgewood in Fort Worth, where we attend.

“I just started reading your book a few days ago, and I couldn’t stop. I am so happy to find this tool to help teachers be better channels of Biblical information.” Debbie Bumbalough, Christian Woman and Gospel Advocate, Nashville, TX.

“Sarah helps our students know God, not just about God. She gives effective tools, ideas and even specific words to say, so that even young children can learn to trace the purpose of God all the way from “before the beginning”... She uses the greater portion of the book to teach us the deeper meaning in the stories we’re accustomed to telling—Jacob’s ladder, blood sacrifices, holy days, or even priestly garments. If you teach the Old Testament, you need this book. If you teach the New Testament, you need this book... Even if you are not a teacher, you need to read this book for your own spiritual growth. In each of the 20 chapters, I learned something I had not considered before.” Sandi Smith, teacher in Wives’ Program at the Brown Trail School of Preaching.

“I wanted to let you know that Dan Morrow from the Mesquite Church of Christ enjoyed the section of your book on Abraham and Isaac. The camp purchased a copy of your book for each of the teachers. Dan did exactly what you intended for teachers to do. He studied the material, thought it was clear and well-reasoned and then presented it to a group of 4th – 5th graders in a clear and easy to understand manner.” Jon McKenzie, youth director for the Bridgewood Church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX


The book in its second printing, now through Hopkins Publishing. You can order it from Gospel Advocate or other Christian book stores and on-line outlets for $15.

You can also order it from us at the same price.

—Sarah Fallis

To read Gary’s full report and see included pictures, please click here.

Posted on August 11, 2013 .

Highlights From The Past Quarter...

All Aboard For India and Southeast Asia

Jerry & Paula Bates

No two trips are the same. We make plans; then we have to adapt along the way. Yes, it is an adventure and a great way to learn to trust God and also develop patience. We have made a mission trip to India many times now, but we are still amazed at the time required to transverse this great earth, some trips taking as much as 30 hours flying time one way. As missionaries we work with the World Evangelism team in Winona, MS, an effort begun by JC and Betty Choate, and we are sponsored by the Strickland Church near Corinth, MS. Since there are restrictions in India that make it difficult for missionaries to live there, we try to make at least three trips a year. As you might expect, this makes for a busy schedule. When we are in the U. S., both of us help with the day-to-day operations at the World Evangelism office. This year begins our sixth year as missionaries to India and Southeast Asia.

India has a population of 1.2 billion and speaks about 22 different languages. Early on, the Choates decided that some form of mass evangelism was necessary. So, they began their printing work in many languages and later preached on radio and television. Many know their work from reading the Voice of Truth International which is now in its 21st year of publication,. Through our literature distribution we are able to help mission efforts all around the world. Every year World Evangelism ships tens of thousands of books to preachers and other Christians, most of whom have no access to study books. In addition, about 20,000 English copies of the Voice of Truth International are distributed quarterly to many countries. The publication is also translated into four India languages— Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, and Paite. Several copies have been translated into Spanish, and recently into the language of Nepal.

World Evangelism also funds several weekly TV and radio programs. Thousands requests Bible correspondence courses, which results in many baptisms into Christ. Native men and women do all the follow up work.

As the church grows, the need for trained preachers and leaders also grows. Therefore, our association with the Extension Program of the Bear Valley Bible Institute is an important part of our work. We work closely with two schools in India. The Visakha Valley Bible College in Visakhapatnam and the North India Bible College in Chandigarh. Jerry has also taught in other Bear Valley Extension Schools including Honduras and Tanzania. One may wonder how we can work with both organizations. Actually, it works very well together. For example, as we go to teach, we can also talk to them about their need for literature and how we can help them in that regard. We feel that it is a good use of our time and resources to combine both ministries, although it does keep us very busy.

We work hand in hand with the native brethren, since they understand their culture and speak the language. However, rarely do they have the funds for schools, literature, or television. So we still need to help them, but we do not need to do for them what they can do for themselves. All through the year we communicate with our contacts and preachers through e-mail and telephone. Our best times are when we go in person and listen to their problems and discuss ideas. It also helps us understand the people better because we have been to their churches and their homes.

A typical trip starts in the country of Sri Lanka, a small island off the southern coast of India. We also travel in the spring of each year to Myanmar to teach in a Bible school in the city of Yangon. Both of us teach every day to students from all around the country, some of them traveling as much as two days. It is always very hot, but when we start teaching we forget the temperature. The church in Myanmar has grown tremendously over the last ten years, even though the government does not allow any public teaching or advertising. Hopefully, one day we will see this change. Actually, great changes are already taking place.

India, on the other hand, allows TV programs, church buildings, literature distribution, and open air meetings. There is some persecution, since this is a Hindu country, but it is mostly confined to local areas. We have had no problems with preaching and teaching anywhere.

Our travels in India take us from East to West and North to South. We normally teach in Visakhapatnam and Kakinada in the state of Andra Pradesh on the East Coast. We also visit Delhi, the capital of India and travel one hour north to Chandigarh, the home of one of the Bear Valley Extensions.

Nepal, a separate country, is only a two hour flight northeast of Delhi. Jerry has taught several times in the city of Kathmandu, where a Bear Valley Extension is located. He and Gary Fallis first taught there in 2011.

We feel blessed to be able to go and take the gospel to a lost and dying world. God gave “some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). We cannot all go, but we are blessed that we can all help and do our part.

Graduation Of The First Master’s Class In Visakhapatnam, India
Nine students from the Visakha Valley Bible College received their Master of Biblical Studies degree from the Bear Valley Bible Institute February 1, 2013. The graduation exercise took place on the flat roof of the school building. A tent was erected for the approximate seventy-five visitors from as far away as New Zealand.

John Dean Muppidi, co-director, served as the master of ceremonies. Jerry Bates, who serves as the Bear Valley Coordinator, and I were the guest speakers. Because of our flight later that morning, we had to abbreviate our remarks. That is hard for long-winded preachers to do!

The graduates included Samuel Muppidi, the director of the Visakha Valley Bible School. More than twenty years ago, Samuel purchased the property in Visakhapatnam with the dream of beginning a school of preaching there. This dream materialized in 2009. His foresight has been validated because the price of the land has soared since that time.

Most of the graduates are teachers in the Visakha Valley Bible College in Visakhapatnam and the Skinner’s Garden School of Preaching, which is located three hours away in the state of Andra Pradesh. Some teach in both locations; others only in one.

Each one also preaches full-time in one or more congregations and has years of experience in preaching the gospel. Though all live in the state of Visakhapatnam, they must travel long distance to study and teach in the school.

G. Vamsee Bhushanam, the director’s on-in-law, was the valedictorian. Vamsee, an exceptional student, also has a doctor’s degree in Hindi, the national language of India. Having Vamsee and Samuel in class was like having two co-teachers.

You can see that I think highly of these men. During the five trips that I have made to Visakhapatnam, I have come to know them well. The graduates and I have a mutual admiration society. They also have deep appreciation and love for Jerry Bates and Denton Landon who contributed to their education on both the bachelor and master’s degree level.

—Gary Fallis

Christianity In India 
India has the second largest population in the world next to China. However with 1.2 billion people, it is the largest democratic country in the world. Growing at the rate of two children per second, India will soon overtake China in population.

The strength and the weakness of India is its diversity in religion, community, caste, culture, language, etc. There are 18 official language accepted by the government of India, and people follow many religions. The three main religions in India are Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Other religions include Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

The Lord’s work in the cities of Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram was small when compared to the Coastal Belt of Andra Pradesh. Churches of Christ were few. Converting people and planting congregation is necessary, but this effort takes a long time. The Visakh Valley Bible College was established to provide trained preachers for that area. For this reason M. Samuel Raju purchased property and completed the first floor of a building inn Visakhapatnam to be used for teaching men to preach God’s Word. Later American brethren of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, Colorado came forward to work with Samuel at Visakhapatnam. Indian preachers who wanted to learn the Word of God in depth and strengthen their own congregations came forward to become the first class in 2009.

Steadily the work among the Churches of Christ in Visakhapatnam started to grow. Students who composed the first class were already working with eleven congregations. Three new congregations have been planted as a result of the school. Visakha Valley students have reached many villages by means of tract distribution and Bible studies. Efforts are regularly being made to plant new congregations during the regular campaigns weeks which are part of the school’s schedule. Sixty-one have been baptized into Christ by students in the first class, and thirty-five in last six months. (This is just the record of the students while in school and not the record of the faculty nor of the working staff in the VVBC). Because of the amount of time required for their studies, the students’ time is limited to some part of the weekend. After graduation, they will be among the people where they can devote their lives to winning souls for Christ and planting new vineyard for our God. Without doubt the Visakha Valley Bible College will be a Sunbeam for Jesus for years to come. Just as the Lord commanded Paul and Barnabas, we are now today the light of the Gentiles, “'I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'" Acts 13:47.

We desire the same thing for our students as the apostle Paul desired from the saints at Philippi. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always out your own salvation with fear and trembling...Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless....children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life... (Phil 2:12-16

—G. Vamsee Bhushanam, Valedictorian of the Master’s Class

Posted on April 14, 2013 .

Tale Of Two Schools...

We had a dream in northern Tanzania—a dream of training faithful men in their own country, in their own language and in their own culture. In keeping with Paul’s statement in 2 Tim. 2:2, our purpose was to teach men that they may teach others also. This has been proven to be one of the most effective means in evangelizing the world.

We realized this dream in 2001 when the first students arrived at the Andrew Connally School of Preaching (ACSOP) in Arusha, Tanzania. Their lives were filled with long nights of reading, writing and memorizing of Scripture and their weekends with teaching and helping the Arusha congregation. After two years of intense study of every book of the Bible along with many topical studies, they graduated in 2003 and began teaching the gospel of Christ in East Africa. This first class began planting churches that now stretch throughout Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

More than 150 congregations of the Lord’s body have begun throughout East Africa and neighboring countries. The Tanzania 2000 mission team and the Andrew Connally School of Preaching in cooperation with the Bear Valley Bible Institute along with hundreds of faithful friends and supporters have contributed to this work of God. The Andrew Connally School of Preaching has been the key to the growth of the church. American and African teachers have prepared 125 evangelists with a head filled with the knowledge of God’s word and a heart filled with love and zeal to preach it to others.

Charles Ogutu, an example of many ACSOP graduates, went back home to preach the gospel in Kenya. He began six different congregations. He also saw the need to train others to teach just as he had been taught. Therefore, he began a small preacher training school in Kenya to meet the needs of this rapid church growth.

During this same time, African and American brethren saw the need for a school of preaching on a larger scale that could train preachers in Kenya just as ACSOP had done in Tanzania. The Bear Valley Bible Institute agreed to be a part of this worthy work as it had done in Tanzania. The Kenya School of Preaching met its first class Oct. 1, 2012. Charles Ogutu was selected as the director of the school. Elias Omolo, another graduate of ACSOP, is serving as Dean of Academics. Other faculty members are graduates of ACSOP, having received both their Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Bible from BVBID.

In the beginning, the dream was to train men who in turn would teach and train others. The Lord now has a “second generation” school of preaching being led by men from ACSOP in East Africa.

To witness this and to be a part of this amazing growth is a true joy and blessing.

How has all this been made possible? As our late brother V.P. Black once said, “what God controls, grows.” This is God’s work, working through a united team of men and women toward a common goal. Thanks be to God. He alone is worthy to be praised. 

Cy Stafford

When I began with the Bear Valley Bible Institute in 2002, I was responsible as Coordinator of the Andrew Connally School of Preaching in Arusha, Tanzania. Though I now serve as Coordinator of the Master’s Program and travel more widely, I have probably taught more than half of the 125 ACSOP students who have graduated, both on the undergraduate and graduate level.

I am always happy to return to my first home away from home. On this occasion I taught the Scheme of Redemption to the English speaking class. ACSOP now has a two-year course of study for English and Swahali speaking students. Four ACSOP students who completed the Master’s Program teach the Swahali students.

In addition, I delivered the commencement address for the graduating classes. Nine students graduated from the Master’s class and six students from the undergraduate English program. Public meetings do not move fast or on time in Africa. People in Africa are not as time conscious we are. The program featured speakers representing the school as well as the community. The village chief and the local government administrator each spoke. These men of varying faiths or no faith were impressed with the quality of the spiritual training as well as the impact for good it has on the country of Tanzania. The valedictorian of the Master’s class and Bachelor’s class had their turn. The Directors of the Swahali and English programs then made presentations. Chad Wagner, who is the director of the Chimala Mission in southern Tanzania, had an opportunity to say a few words. I heard a lot of people before I finally got up to speak. However, I didn’t cut my lesson short since none of the others did. My subject was “Your Purpose,” from the book of Ephesians.

I preached in the Arusha congregation on the first Sunday and was thrilled to be present for the baptism of a man and his wife. I later had the opportunity to go to their home and study with them regarding the significance of their faith in the Lord. We all sat in their home—one room of clay construction where five people slept. The house had no conveniences such as indoor plumbing or electricity—things that we often take for granted. Their possessions were meager, but what they did possess in abundance was faith in God and joy in their salvation. This couple had been studying their Bible for a long time, knew a lot of Scripture, and had been worshipping according to what they knew. Like Apollos (Acts 18:24-28), when they learned the word of God more perfectly or accurately, they quickly and happily obeyed the Lord. They are an example of seekers—people of a “good and honest heart” (Luke 8:15) all over the world, who believe that Jesus is the source of eternal salvation who all who obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9).

I was there over Thanksgiving, the fourth time I have been there at that time. I did not have warthog and wildebeest as before, but an American feast of ham and turkey. The meal was at Cy Stafford’s house. He had invited two men who guide him when he hunts and shoots his own food. My big game hunting would probably be chicken.

Tanzania has been a peaceful country and is good ground for the gospel. As with any country, there are traditional primitive religions, the religion of Islam and various forms of “Christianity.” Some need to know the true God is not to be identified with the spirit in an ancestor, a tree, or a mountain. Those of the Muslim religion need to know there is truly one God, and that He is worshipped only through Jesus Christ according to His word, the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Still others who follow some aspect of Christianity need to know the whole truth of God and the gospel (Acts 20:27; Gal. 1:6-9).

In the land of the spectacular Mt. Kilimanjaro, God has a spiritual mountain, a symbol for His Kingdom or church that is even more spectacular (Isa. 2:1-4; Heb. 12:22-23). While we admire the beauty and grandeur of God’s physical creation that towers almost 20,000 feet into the air, may we remember even more His eternal creation that will remain when the physical is no longer (Eph. 3:20-21).

Bible study in the homes of people has been has been a major avenue of conversion since Jesus and the apostles walked the earth. Jesus frequently taught in people’s homes (Matt. 8:14, 9:10, 23). Luke says of the apostles, “Daily in the temple and in every house they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42). The apostle Paul taught publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20).

When the church of Christ in America was growing rapidly in the 1950-1960’s, Christ was being taught in the home. Christians were teaching their neighbors either in their homes or the homes of others.

Africans in the 21st century are doing what Americans did in the 20th century. The houses themselves are normally huts made of clay with a thatched roof, or blocks with a corrugated roof. Floors are often dirt. Space is cramped. But what is taught in the house to eager eyes, attentive ears and receptive hearts is the same as in America 50 years before or the early church 2000 years ago.

Public preaching is always necessary and important. On the first day of the week, Christ is proclaimed in the assemblies of the saints (Acts 20:7). The sermons often center on Christian living to challenge and build up the members. Some nonmembers may be present; therefore an invitation is always extended.

However, most people who need Christ in their lives do not come to the church building. This is certainly true for those who see no need. They are lost but don’t know it. Even those who have some interest or feel some need may not attend for many reasons.

This is the reason to get to know your neighbors in America or in Africa. Show an interest in their lives. Win their confidence. Then appeal to them to study the Bible. Some may resist or resent this appeal to study in your home or theirs. But far more people are converted on Monday- Saturday in the course of their daily lives than in a church building on Sunday.

One reason the African church is growing is because they search the Scriptures in the homes of others. This is generally less threatening and more personal than a public assembly.

This is the reason the Andrew Connally School of Preaching is training evangelists, not just pulpit preachers. An evangelist will preach on Sunday from the pulpit, but he will also teach in homes, on the streets or in the work place. His pulpit will be wherever he finds an audience.

—Gary Fallis

Below is the latest monthly report from Gary Fallis. See Gary’s report with pictures by clicking here.

Posted on January 20, 2013 .

Developing Students, Growing Churches...

I left DFW Saturday, Octotber 20, to teach the Master’s Class in Guatemala. Typically the classes are taught at the school in Guatemala City. However, in order to accommodate the students, I agreed to travel four hours from the capital to the city of San Cristobal and teach there.

Hawatthia and Byron met me at the airport at noon Saturday with plans to meet my translator, Conrad Pinder, from Costa Rico, an hour later. Whatever can happen on a foreign trip often does. Conrad’s plane, which was scheduled to arrive at 1:00 PM, finally arrived at 5:30 PM. This was the time we should have gotten to San Cristobal. We finally arrived at 10:30 PM, tired, but thankful. The Park Hotel was secure, comfortable, and inexpensive, and we were ready for worship the next day, Sunday.

Hawatthia preached, and I taught the class. I give a lot of credit to Conrad, my translator, who may have to work twice as hard as I do. I present the sermon in one language, but he has to hear it, understand it in two languages and present it in the language of the people. I had first met Conrad in Panama in 2008, and he later translated for me in Guatemala City in 2011. I have learned to read the Scripture in Spanish, so Conrad permitted me to try my hand at reading the text.

I taught World Religions Monday-Friday to graduates and teachers of ITL (Institute of Theology of Latin America) This was the first time I had taught this course as it is new in the Master’s curriculum. Special emphasis was given to the religions of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism in contrast to the Christian faith revealed in the Bible. One of these religions claims to worship one God, Allah; others worship a multiplicity of gods, yet only the religion of Jehovah God and Christ bears the witness of fulfilled prophecy and miraculous events (2 Peter 1:16-21). Although these religions are not common and certainly not dominant in Central and South America now, each student knew someone of one of these religions. The atmosphere in class was active as the students probed the subjective and philosophical background of these religions in contrast to historical Christian evidences.

Four of the students were from the immediate area. Darvin Alvarez, a teacher at ITL, lives and preaches in Coban, about twenty minutes from San Cristobal. Coban is the primary city in that district of Guatemala. Other students included Francisco Ramos, his son, Abner and Wilder Ordonez, graduates of ITL. These men, along with their families form the evangelistic team at San Cristobal. The remaining student, Anabil Ramirez, an ITL instructor, lives in Guatemala City. Anabil has served as the preacher for the Linda Vista congregation since its beginning.

We met class in a rented facility where Francisco and his family first lived. I had taught all these men before and already knew them to be serious students and good men. It is great when you can enjoy studying the Bible, and that is really the way it should be. Even with lecture, discussion, tests and assignments seven hours a day, we found time for lunch, and for me, a brief siesta. Francisco’s wife, Herminia, was our cook. I had remembered her “tasty” cooking while Francisco was in school.

Wednesday night Darvin drove Conrad and me to Coban to teach at the congregation there. I had first taught Darvin in Panama in 2008 and ate with his wife and family. In 2010 Darvin began to teach with the Latin America Theological Institute. I preached from the second chapter of Philippians with the emphasis on “Have the Mind of Christ.” The congregation meets in a building just adjacent to Darvin’s house. We found time on the way to Coban to go by a tea plantation so that I could treat Sarah with some Guatemalan tea when I returned home.

Friday afternoon, Conrad and I returned with Anabil, Abner and others to Guatemala City. In addition to their studies during the week, these men will complete a vigorous research paper as part of the requirements of the course. As many of you know, the purpose of the Master’s Program is to give students broader and deeper knowledge of God’s Word, its application, and practical ways to communicate those lessons in a multicultural society and an ever-changing world. Upon completing their studies, the ITL graduates can assist in teaching other men who desire to become gospel preachers.

The linchpin of ITL (Latin America Theological Institute) is the School of Preaching located in Guatemala City. Men, in many cases their wives, study God’s Word for two years to prepare for teaching the Word of God and Christian service. ITL’s full-time program works in tandem with the Bear Valley Bible Institute’s Extension Program.

The school works with the Linda Vista congregation in the municipal area. Three of the ITL teachers, Anabil, Hawatthia and Byron, preach in a rotation with two of the brethren in the congregation. Students frequently teach classes for all ages. A prayer meeting on Tuesday night binds the brethren together and addresses mutual needs. Periodically, members of the congregation along with ITL students and teachers offer gospel literature and home Bible studies to those in the neighborhood. These weekly activities of worship, prayer, study and fellowship enrich the two-years of the ITL students, helping develop spiritual maturity and awareness of the needs of others.

ITL also conducts a three-year Saturday Program for those who like to seriously study the Bible but are employed Monday-Friday. The first class met in a rented elementary school, but was later moved to the location where the School of Preaching meets. Saturday students now can meet in a safer environment and benefit from the modern technology (power-point, etc) which enhances their Bible learning. The regular teachers of ITL teach in the Saturday Program. Eight students are currently studying courses such as Language and Research, the Gospel and the Life of Christ and Hermeneutics.

An Annual Lectureship is an additional part of this ministry. ITL’s third lectureship on March 16-17, 2012 featured the theme: “Adequately Searching the Scriptures.” Bob Turner, BVBID Extension Director and Donnie Bates, Coordinator of Central/South American Extensions, were among the speakers. Abner Ramos, ITL graduate, taught a special teenage class. Attendance was excellent, about 300 on Saturday, and 500 on Sunday. Christians were present from 18 congregations and 4 countries.

Student Campaigns punctuate the end of the year, prior to the holiday break. In 2011 ITL students went to three different places for their three weeks of teaching and evangelism. Churches that host the students provide food and lodging. Walter and Nohelis Dardon worked with the Linda Vista congregation in Guatemala City. David Avila and Alejandro Tot served in Coban, with Darvin Alvarez. Panamanian students, Eliezer Perez and Gabriel Gonzales, traveled to La Esperanza, Quetzaltenango, and assisted the brethren there. Local congregations were very encouraged and have requested the students to return.

You get the idea! There is little “dead time” in the ministry of the Latin America Theological Institute. I have been there now on four occasion and can attest to the quality of leadership, teaching and evangelism that comes from ITL.

Gary Fallis

The San Cristobal team is a pilot project of ITL. We provide moral, educational, evangelistic and financial help. All the help is indefinite, except the financial commitment. The financial support is not indefinite because a goal from the beginning is for these brethren to raise a work that will eventually be self-sustaining. These well trained graduates have the opportunity to work closely with Darvin Alvarez, the evangelist who works with the Coban congregation only about 30 minutes away. Coban is a church plant of the Linda Vista congregation. This proximity gives our students easy access to a reliable and faithful resource.

The team is composed of Abner Ramos, Francisco and Erminia Ramos (and Jonathan), and Wilder and Marley Ordoñez (and Julissa and Jose David). After a couple of weeks to recuperate from graduation, they began working in San Critobal. Felix Cahuece, his wife, Erlinda and their four children were the first additions. They had previously worshipped in Coban, but had to travel one to two hours by foot to attend worship.

After several more weeks of studying with various people, God gave the increase through two new spiritual births. Jose Armando Cal Caal was baptized August 27, 2011, in Coban. The team met him when they were doing visitation in the local hospital. After having a couple studies with him, Jose decided that he wanted to give his life to the Lord. Since then, two others have been baptized, several have been restored, and 20-25 children from the community have been coming consistently after the church hosted a Vacation Bible School this past December.

The new church in San Cristobal has already planted their first new work in Las Pacayas! This small village is about 30 minutes north of San Cristobal. Allow us to share the beautiful story of how this took place. In 1979, Victoriano Max was baptized by Joe E. Lee, a missionary well known to the brethren in Guatemala. Victoriano became very involved in helping in the work and in translating into the local language of Pocom. In the 80s, because of the conflict between Mexico and the guerillas, Brother Lee was not able to return to study further. Sadly, the church eventually dissipated. Many of the Christians that did not flee or stop attending completely, began to attend the denominations. Around 30 years later, while Victoriano was in San Cristobal recently, he saw the sign for the church, took down the number, and began to investigate if it was a New Testament congregation. To his great joy, after talking with the preachers, he discovered he had found his family in Christ! The very next Sunday, he attended the worship service and was restored that same day. Soon, he brought another brother, who also was restored. Then, his wife was restored. Now, there have been 8 restorations, including a 96 year-old woman, Marcela Moran, who also was baptized by Brother Lee many decades ago. Because of this wonderful response, it was decided to make the extra effort to begin the church again in Las Pacayas. On Sunday, March 15, the San Cristobal team assembled with the Las Pacavasa brethren for their first worship service after decades of having seen the church disappear. The assembly was held in the home of Brother Victoriano. Please rejoice with us and pray for this new work.

Since then, the San Cristobal team has celebrated its first year anniversary in beginning the work. We are encouraged by the faithfulness these graduates are showing and their perseverance in a tough field. We are confident that these brethren will have further good news to report in the future.

Hawatthia Jones and Byron Benitez

To see Gary’s report with pictures, please click here.

Posted on November 11, 2012 .

A Team Effort...

Sarah and I returned to Ukraine for the first time since 2007, having previously visited there four times. We were delayed an hour at Chicago O’Hare, barely caught the plane in Munich, but finally arrived in Donetsk, Ukraine on schedule. Dennis Sopelnik, BVBIU Director, then drove us forty minutes to Gorlovka, where the school is located.

We arrived in time for the BVBIU graduation Saturday, May 26. I spoke to the graduates from Isaiah 6, and Howell Ferguson, Ukraine Coordinator, further challenged them to use their training wisely. Dennis Sopelnik and Andre Zhuravlev presented the diplomas to the students. Friends and relatives of the graduates then joined the congregation in a fitting celebration of their graduation.

I taught New Testament Theology and the Gospel of John to the Graduate students while the undergraduate students were on break. The two newest students had just received their B.S. in Bible the day before. The week of classes is packed with lecture, discussion, quizzes and tests. The students then have two months to do the research assignments. Albert Bagdasarian receives and grades their work.

Sarah taught Ephesians to ladies from the church at Gorlovka. When she was not teaching, she was working on a book especially for those who teach the Old Testament to children. (She should have this book in publication before the end of the year)

Sarah and I were thankful to be there with Howell Ferguson and Mary Ferguson. Howell serves as Coordinator of the Bear Valley Extensions in Ukraine and Chimala. Sarah and I had first met Howell and Mary when they were serving as missionaries in Tanzania during the time that the Andrew Connally School of Preaching began. They are a team with “the heart of missionaries.”

Sarah and I stayed in a student’s apartment about 15 minutes from the school. Many of the apartments, which date from the Kruschev era, are often uncomfortable and inefficient. However, this apartment was newly refurbished, safe, clean and comfortable. The owner of the apartment, Eugene, is one of the students in the Institute. He is fluent in Ukranian, Russian and English and was my translator when I spoke at the Bear Valley graduation. At our departure, Sarah and I got to meet Eugene’s wife and three children.

Time spent with faithful Christians is precious. After a week in Gorlovka, Sarah and I, Howell and Mary and Dennis Sopelnik, his wife and daughter visited Lynn Allison and her husband, Victor, in Donetsk. In 2007 Sarah and Lynn had spoken at a Ladies Day in Donetsk where Lynn and Victor attended. Shortly afterward, Lynn and Victor married and have been serving God faithfully since then.

Andrew Zhuravlev, BVBIU graduate, who preaches at Gorlovka and teaches in the Institute, had his 40th birthday while we were there and invited several of us to attend. Sarah and I had met Andrew while he was studying at BVBIU and preaching at the small town of Ilivisce about an hour from Gorlovka. We visited Ilivisce on three occasions with Andrew and his family. I preached; Sarah taught ladies’ and children’s classes, and we became very close to Andrew and to the congregation.

Many members in the congregation in Gorlovka remember when it was illegal to have a Bible and meet publicly for worship. They became Christians through much difficulty and have remained faithful when others have disappointed and deserted them. They know the meaning of the scripture: “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven...” (Matt. 5:12).

Two and a half weeks came too soon, but we left Ukraine with the knowledge that faithful men and women are teaching the gospel and serving Christ in the midst of great opposition. But they are not alone! Many American Christians and churches are reaching across the world in concern, prayer and commitments to strengthen and train them.

Gary Fallis

The first Church of Christ was founded in Slaviansk in 1989 as the result of the missionary trip of Ivan M. Kolesnikow. At that time he baptized several of his close relatives. Clifford Yeldell, then made possible the beginning of the Slaviansk Bible School in 1991. Brother Yeldell, who at that time coordinated the missionary efforts in the former Soviet Union, negotiated with the officials of the Slaviansk Power Constructional Technical School for the rent of several rooms in their buildings for the school. R.C. Polk, who worked for the Southern Christian University in Alabama, was the first director. Christians from Russia, Byelorussia, Armenia and Ukraine became the first students of this school. I was one of those students, and my wife, Irene, was one of the interpreters. The school existed till August of 1993.

Students of the Slaviansk Bible School and American missionaries helped begin the church in Kramatorsk in 1993. In 1994 Gene Clemmons, also a missionary, started a school of interpreters in Slaviansk. My wife, Irene, trained the students of one of the private Language Institutes who wanted to become qualified interpreters. These students worked as interpreters during evangelism campaigns for several years after their training, and many of them became faithful Christians.

At that time there were few Churches of Christ in the Donetsk region, and their preachers had very little spiritual education. That is why experienced brethren began to offer classes for preachers in 1994 at the State Foreign Language Institute of Gorlovka. Owen Farley was one of the teachers. We became better prepared to teach the gospel to own countrymen and begin congregations where they could worship. Students had to travel to these classes by local electric trains where it was hot in summer and cold in winter. Despite all these difficulties, we regularly attended the classes in order to improve our knowledge of the Bible.

In September of 1997 the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, Colorado began a Bible School in Kramatorsk. We could now receive more extensive spiritual preparation for our work as evangelists. The first Dean of the Extension School was the late Buck Hall, followed by Terry Harmon. Terry married Marina, a Ukranian Christian, and remained as Dean for almost ten years. Terry and Marina finally had to return to the United States because of the illness of their younger son. However, Terry had wisely trained his replacement, Dennis Sopelnik, who now serves as the Director of BVBIU. Dennis is a graduate of Bear Valley Bible Institute of Ukraine.

The first class received their B.S. in Bible from Bear Valley in 2002, and the Master’s Program began the same year. All the graduates from the first class continued their study at the Master’s level. The majority of the courses in BVBIU are now taught by Ukranian graduates: Vlad Paziy, Vitally Rodichev, Victor Semikoz, Albert Bagdasarian, Andrew Zhuravlev and Dennis Sopelnik.

The Bible Institute moved to Gorlovka in 2007 where we now have a very adequate facility to train preachers for decades. The building has two class rooms, more if needed. This is accompanied by several offices, a large library, a large space where the local church meets, an apartment for visiting teachers and more. A new boiler was added to warm students in the cold winters of Ukraine. In May this year we celebrated the 10th, “jubilee”, graduation of the Bear Valley Bible Institute Ukraine.

God “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” has made it possible to teach the Bible to faithful Christians who will be able to teach others in Ukraine and other areas of the former Soviet Union. The seed that was planted in 1989-1990 in Slaviansk reminds us of Jesus’ Kingdom parable of a “mustard seed” which grew and became a tree so that many could find shade under its branches (cf. Matt. 13:21-33). I have only mentioned a few -- Americans, Ukranians, and others, past and present -- who are part of the planting and receiving of God’s Word in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. We can be thankful to them and so many others who serve the King of Kings in His eternal kingdom.

Albert Bagdasarian

On July 25, I preached at the Beltline congregation in Irving, Texas as part of their summer series. One of the new members whom I’d met only briefly in the past is Clifford Yeldell, whom Albert mentions in his article. Afterward, Clifford and I realized we had more connections than just the fact that his wife, Faye, is a friend from our past work at Brown Trail. I enjoyed learning more about the early work in Ukraine, and he enjoyed hearing my update, especially knowing that Albert and Irene are still faithfully serving God. As soon as I came home, I emailed Albert about meeting Clifford, and he sent me several early pictures. I’ve shared them with Clifford, and we plan to get together and “connect the dots” of the work in Gorlovka.

Gary Fallis

To see Gary's report, complete with pictures, click here.

Posted on August 5, 2012 .

Arusha Trip...

V . P . Black once said, “What God controls grows.” How true this is! Think of this as an individual Christian, a part of God’s Kingdom. Ask yourself: “Am I growing?”

The kingdom of God in Tanzania and throughout East Africa is growing. Why? Because God is in control. We started with a vision, a vision to do God’s will, God’s way, in Tanzania. We had a dream of planting 50 congregations. Because God is in control, He has planted 150 new congregations in East Africa through the ministry of Tanzania 2000. Let me illustrate:

In July, 1998, when we began this mission effort, only two small congregations existed in northern Tanzania, Arusha and Usa River. They had a combined attendance of between 25-30 in worship.

As of October, 2011, the work of God has resulted in the following:

♦5 Bible Schools in Tanzania: Arusha, Moshi, Monduli, Ushirombo and Mto wa Mbu.

♦90 gospel preachers have graduated from the Andrew Connally School of Preaching, an extension of the Bear Valley Bible Institute.

150 congregations meet throughout East Africa: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

♦25-30 Christians are trained in The Uganda School of Evangelism, which began in 2007.

♦ A Bear Valley Extension in western Kenya is to begin in 2012.

Between 10-15 congregations are being established each year by our graduates and existing congregations.

All of this and much more has been made possible by the grace of God and with the help of our faithful friends and supporter. The following activities have contributed to the growth of the church in East Africa.

♦Safari for Souls Campaigns. Each year between 50-100 Christians from America join us in Tanzania to teach thousands.

♦Tanzania Leadership Conference. Over 100 evangelists from Tanzania join in lessons on Leadership and Christian growth.

♦Future Preacher’s Training Camp. Young men between the ages of 13-25 receive training in public worship, song leading and sermon preparation.

♦Tanzania Christian Camp. The youth of Tanzania come together each year for fellowship and Christian ministry.

♦Ladies’ Seminar. Missionary wives, Christian ladies from Tanzania and America teach how to be better wives and mothers, teachers and servants of God.

♦ East Africa Gospel Meeting. Christians from Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda have their own annual “Safari for Souls” which rotates among the three countries.

The doors of opportunity continue to open in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Will you join us? God is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. Unto Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).

Tanzania 2000 began in 1998 to evangelize northern Tanzania. The ministry has forged partnerships with Christians in Africa and America. One of those partnership is between Tanzania 2000 and the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, CO (BVBID). I began serving as the Coordinator of the Andrew Connally School of Preaching in 2002 and served in that capacity until 2007. I now serve as the Coordinator of Master’s Studies. I have witnessed the resilience of this relationship.

Actually, my relationship with TZ 2000 started before I began working with BVBID. Cy Stafford, Coordinator of East Africa Evangelism, was one of my students at the Brown Trail School of Preaching, graduating in 1998. Duane Patton and John Baker, who previously taught at ACSOP, were also my students. Other Brown Trail students have participated in campaigns and special lessons.

In 2007 Francis Wechesa began the Uganda School of Evangelism. A native of Uganda, Francis began a Bible School in Arusha, TZ even before the Andrew Connally School of Preaching began. He yearned to begin a similar school in Uganda. In January, 2007 the Uganda School of Evangelism opened its doors to twelve students in a cramped room in a church building. Francis dream came true! But there was much more to be done. Now, this BVBID Extension has a functional building similar to ACSOP thanks to the partnership of Ugandan and American Christians. The school now teaches evangelists in English and Swahili from the countries of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. I was the first Bear Valley teacher there in 2007 and pleased to find that most of the teachers were graduates of the Andrew Connally School of Preaching.

In Sept. 2012 native brethren will also begin a Bear Valley Extension in western Kenya. Charles Oguta, ACSOP graduate, will serve as the Director. Other ACSOP graduates will be teachers. I have taught all these men both on the undergraduate and graduate levels. One of the elders of the Kenyan congregation, which will oversee the school, is the father of Jacob Omollo, an ACSOP graduate and future teacher.

The apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Corinth where teamwork was sometime fragile, gives two excellent illustrations of those who work together with God. The first illustration is farming. He says, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gives the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6). The second illustration is building. He describes Christ as the foundation, and how one lays the foundation and another builds on it (1 Cor. 3:10-11).

Christians from East Africa and from America are working together with God to bring souls to Christ. When we plant the word of Christ and nurture that seed, God gives the growth.  And when we build on that foundation, not caring who gets the credit and recognizing we are all servants, the Kingdom will grow and prosper. This is the benefit of a partnership.

—Gary Fallis 

The Kisonga Bible School is planned, organized and operated by Tanzanians for anyone who wants to seriously study the Word of God. The classes meet in the ACSOP facilities from 4:30-6:30 after the preaching students have finished for the day. The school is patterned after the Arusha and Moshi Bible Schools that were established in 2000 to promote Christian growth and leadership.

The Tanzanians are “stepping up to the plate” in leadership and vision. The man responsible for most of the effort is ACSOP graduate Ahimidiwe Kimaro, who serves as the preacher at Kisongo as well as Dean of Students and Office Manager/Printer for ACSOP.

Who is responsible for Ahimidiwe’s training and education? The Kensington Woods Church of Christ (Hattiesburg, MS) which made a 20 year commitment to train Africans to teach Africans. Who brought his vision and dream to the attention of the Kensington Wood elders? Cy Stafford. And upon whose work did Cy Stafford build? Andrew Connally, who began evangelizing East Africa long ago in the 1960's. And who is responsible for keeping this work alive and prospering? YOU ARE.

Many, many people have been involved in the TZ 2000 mission work including financial supporters (whether individuals or congregations), visiting American teachers and preachers, African evangelists and Tanzanian ACSOP staff (housekeepers, cooks, office workers, guards, etc) “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” (I Cor. 3:6)

—Jimmy Gee

From a student’s point of view, Acts 17:26-27 could as well be the spirit behind the Andrew Connally School of Preaching. As a lost soul, I realized there is no salvation in human inventions, and I sought the true God tirelessly. I came face to face with what I had been looking for and became a member of the church of Christ. I saw a need to take that knowledge to others but realized that I did not know enough. However, brethren from far away, compelled by the love of lost souls like me, gave sacrificially to plant a preaching school in Tanzania, East Africa.

My thirst for knowledge drew me to the Andrew Connally School of Preaching. Missionaries, who also served as the faculty, worked tirelessly around the clock. At the end of a six-week quarter, they were relieved by a visiting instructor who would teach an intensive course for a week or two. We students would then have a break, completing our homework and field assignments. We became attuned to the routine, and the cycle resumed and continued for two years. We studied diligently and received knowledge and experience that would otherwise have stretched over four years.

During training, the only thing that I missed was time to sit down, undisturbed, and read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation again and again. Now I have the tools of study available to me, and I can read the word of God with a totally different light and enjoy it. But I will never forget that without the efforts of Christians from far away, I would still be groping for the truth and probably not finding it in a lifetime.

As a post graduate, I will be further trained through seminars and workshops conducted by the missionaries, so that I may teach others in congregations to be evangelists. Thus, the work becomes a chain reaction. More souls are saved and God is glorified.

Much gratitude is directed to the noble souls who are behind all this. We are sincerely aware that within the two year period at ACSOP we have gained the knowledge of truth concerning the word of God which we could never have gained in a lifetime of personal study.

It is obvious that the Andrew Connally School of Preaching, together with her sister, the Arusha Bible School, are going to attract much attention and fame from East Africa and beyond with only the slightest advertisement. We who are graduates from ACSOP, however, will continue to be the mouthpiece of the school’s reputation through our doing and teaching what we have prepared our hearts for, all to the glory of God and to the betterment of mankind. All was freely offered to us, and we need to offer it freely to others.

The School of Preaching is undoubtedly crucial in this part of the world, as false teachers from all over the globe have diabolically united to lead millions of ignorant and otherwise sincere souls to the gates of hell under the camouflage of Christianity. The work ahead of us is neckbreaking, but we must stand steadfast for the truth, knowing that we are not alone. God is with us.

I have reprinted this article from Steven Kivuyo, a 2004 graduate, because it sums up the purpose and value of the Andrew Connally School of Preaching. Steven was one of the most outstanding students to ever graduate from ACSOP. He was scheduled to enter the first graduate program class and would likely have become director of the Arusha Bible School. He had that kind of character, maturity and ability. I heard him preach during the Leadership Conference 2004., and he easily had one of the best sermons in content and delivery that I have ever heard. However, Steven died of malaria shortly after his graduation. He has gone to his reward, but even after this man years, “his works do follow him.”  Steven Kivuyo, March 2004 Graduate, ACSOP

—Gary Fallis

To see the full report with pictures, click here.

Posted on April 29, 2012 .

A Fulfilling Year...

Gary Fallis sent a first of the year report. The work is good and the information is below. If you would like to see the full report with pictures, click here.

The motto of the Bear Valley Bible Institute both in Denver and in the Extension Program is “We train preachers.” This purpose is embedded in the Great Commission and in the life of Jesus himself. The one preaching the Word may be doing so full-time or part-time, fully supported or self-supporting, in America or on foreign shores, but the constant is the Word. Acts 8:4 says, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”

Whether in Denver, CO or around the world, every Christian studies the same curriculum of 48 courses concerning what to preach, how to preach and why to preach. Students in Denver are on one tract--the degree program--approved by the Colorado Board of Education through Bear Valley. However, students in foreign schools may be in either the certificate program or the degree program. The simple reason for this is that some men in other countries do not have the same educational opportunities and background. Those without a minimum of a high school education will not be required to do some of the same scholarly research and composition, though they will be taught with the same thoroughness and Biblical correctness. These will study in the certificate program. Others can do the work required of the degree program. By having two different tracts or programs, every faithful brother who wants to learn God’s word and preach it is able to do so.

Whether stateside or in foreign schools, every teacher adheres to the same doctrinal standards set forth by Jesus and the apostles. The theme verse of every school of preaching is likely 2 Tim. 2:2, and the key word in that verse is faithful. Paul says, “And the things that you have heard from me entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” The Bear Valley elders consider this first and foremost before a school begins. In my powerpoint presentations, which many of you have seen, I have a slide which details the following: Foreign Extension Schools: train more men, at less cost, by experienced teachers in their own country and culture, to evangelize their own people. The experienced men, whether in the USA or foreign country, are those who believe and practice New Testament Christianity.

During 2011, I taught in India, Nepal, Cambodia, Guatemala (twice) and Ghana. I don’t count the miles, though the airline does. What I do count is the number of those who hear the message which I teach in each school, “the faithful men.” What I am unable to count is the “others,” the others whom the faithful men teach. LET US REMEMBER EACH DAY OF EACH YEAR IT IS ALL ABOUT THE OTHERS. May God bless you in 2012!

Gary Fallis

Doing The Work Of The Father
I was born and educated in a village in Ghana. I then moved to Accra, the capital, where I was converted to the church in 1978 at the age of eighteen. I had been raised in a religious home; therefore, I immediately took charge of the congregation’s Bible Correspondence Course. Two years before I entered Ghana Bible College in Kumasi, I worked with Ed Mosby, an American missionary. I printed and addressed a monthly paper, The Word of Life, and answered Bible questions sent to the missionary by members and nonmembers of the church. My study of the Bible helped me to answer questions essential to one’s salvation. Five of the scripts were later printed as tracts.

While studying at Kumasi, I established a congregation at Begoro in the Eastern Region and preached there until 1986. I then moved to Agona Swedru in the Central Region to start a business of chickens, sheep, goats and vegetable production to serve as a source of income for my preaching. During the ten years I lived at Agona Swedru, I preached for six smaller congregations without pay. Unfortunately, none of these congregations has a preacher now. I also won an award from the government of Ghana for the proper care of my animals and correct bookkeeping.

I have now been preaching for ten years at the Chapel Hills congregation in Cape Coast, the capital of the Central Region. During this time, we have ordained five elders and eight deacons. Chapel Hills has five main ministries in our evangelism program. The Radio Ministry, which consists of 45 minutes of weekly preaching, covers a 100 miles radius of Cape Coast. The Deaf Ministry trains brethren to “sign” so they can teach the deaf. The hearing impaired regularly meet and worship with us. The purpose of our Campus Ministry is to establish congregations in high schools and universities. Attendance ranges from 20 to over 200. In Ghana, churches are allowed to preach and have congregations in schools. Child Education is another vital ministry. Since people in Ghana are not educated because of poverty, we have established a basic school in a village for children. Church Planting, which is intended to establish congregations in villages, is the fifth part of our evangelism.

I am in the Master’s Program of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, CO, a part of the training offered at the West Coast School of Preaching at Takoradi, Ghana. This Bible education has been a challenging, inspiring, fulfilling exercise for me. I am thankful for capable teachers such as Garry Hill, Ted Cherry and Gary Fallis.

—Kojo Aquah Beenyi

In 2009, The West Coast School of Preaching and Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver joined forces in teaching faithful men to preach the gospel of Christ in West Africa. The association with Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver has added the opportunity for students to earn Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. The purpose of our newly combined efforts remains the same for both schools; teaching the whole counsel of God for the glory of Christ and the salvation of men’s soul. This new partnership has strengthened the Lord’s work in Ghana. Students have access to a rich curriculum and a greater variety of instructors. We are encouraged for the good that may come to the Lord’s kingdom in Ghana.

The church in Howe, TX oversees the work of the school, which is located on the outskirts of Takoradi, Ghana in the town of Ituma. Daniel Ampadu Asiamah, who has extensive experience in training preachers, is the director. The school was established in 1997 in the basement of the church building at Kweikuma, a suburb of Takoradi. Don Tarbet of Denison, TX and Toby Soechting, who was preaching for the South Haleyville church of Christ in Haleyville, AL, provided the funds for its establishment. The school operated at the Kweikuma location for 7 years. In 2005, students moved into a new administrative and educational building (2048 sq. ft.) and a two story dormitory (2600 sq. ft), located in Ituma.

An average of 8 students each year has graduated from the two-year program during its fifteen years’ existence. The majority of students are from Ghana, but some also come from Nigeria and Liberia.

We expect a dramatic increase in enrollment as a result of our partnership with Bear Valley and the excitement being generated in Ghana. In fact, at the recent graduation in November, there were over 300 guests and eleven graduates.

The school has operated on a limited budget of $1800 per month, but as enrollment increases, more funds will be needed. It is commendable that several Ghanaian congregations provide some of the financial support for the school. However, the majority is provided by Howe, TX, Burleson (Hamilton, AL) and Wewoka, OK. These brethren make annual trips to inspect and support the work. The Howe elders would welcome the opportunity to speak with congregations interested in assisting with support.

Toby L. Soechting Contact Information:

Howe church of Christ
P.O. Box 275, Howe, TX 75459
Phone: 903-532-6441 

Toby L. Soechting
P.O. Box 275, Howe, TX 75459 Phone: 903-532-6441

Three hundred guests and family members arrived over a two hour period. Many had to walk or travel a long distance. Women were wearing their finest. Children of all ages were remarkably patient. Tents had been set up for their comfort. I had arrived a day early in order to deliver the graduation message as the Bear Valley representative. As the weather was hot, I knew why I rarely wear a suit coat as I did on this occasion.

Graduation occupied four hours. African brethren know how to celebrate. Charles Mensah, one of the faculty, introduced the program. I followed with a sermon from the commission of the prophet Isaiah in Chapter six. Isaiah was instructed to “look up to God and see His holiness; look in at himself and see his own sinfulness; look out to others and see their need for God’s message.”

After the speeches and singing, older preachers prayed for the graduates and committed them to their mission. Some guests brought gifts for the graduates. A contribution was taken and divided among the graduates to help them begin their ministry. Naturally, hundreds of pictures were taken to mark the occasion.

After a fulfilling, but tiring day, everyone left to prepare for worship on the first day of the week. I heard a sermon by one of the graduates the next day. The following Sunday, I preached about Jesus, the Good Shepherd from John 10. I then taught ten Master’s students for two weeks on the subjects of Christian Education and Church Planting.

The 11th Annual Graduation of the West Coast School of Preaching took place Nov. 5, 2011. The students had memorized scripture, read countless books, done a variety of Biblical assignments and preached on weekends and during special evangelistic meetings planned by the faculty. They were excited! They were now to be recognized as graduates of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, CO.

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.

Posted on January 8, 2012 .

Life From The Dead...

Approximately one third of the population of Cambodia was annihilated during the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, beginning in 1975. Two to three million Cambodians, out of a total population of 8 million, died from executions, overwork, starvation and disease. This era gave rise to the term “The Killing Fields.” After years of warfare among various groups, peace was finally established in 1991. The physical and national recovery of Cambodia has continued through a multi-party democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

While social, economic and political life of the country is important and admirable, the opportunity for spiritual life is eternally significant. The search for purpose and a power beyond this life is characteristic of the people of Cambodia as well as all others throughout the world, however misguided they may be.

God, who can see the end from the beginning, can bring forth life from the dead. People who are dead in their sins can be made alive through Christ (Eph. 2:1-5). Jesus gives hope where there had been no hope (Eph. 2:11-22). Because of His life, death and resurrection, Jesus makes possible an abundant life (John 10:9-10). When the apostle Paul describes godliness, he says, “(it) is profitable in the life that now is, and in that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).  Paul adds one who will continue in the teaching of Christ and his own example (or Christian walk) will save both himself and those who hear him (1 Tim. 4:16).

Through a series of circumstances that resemble a modern Macedonian call, the International Bible Institute of Siem Reap, Cambodia is now proclaiming spiritual life from the dead.  Siem Reap was an easy choice for a Bible school.  It is the fastest growing city in southeast Asia, primarily because of the extensive Angkor Wat temple complex.  In addition to thousands of tourists, the city is becoming a commercial, financial and cultural center.

Before BVBID could establish a school to train native evangelists, we had to lay a foundation. Ralph Williams, a staff member of BVBID, made many trips to Cambodia to help prepare that foundation. Ralph contacted Chann Lork to serve as the first evangelist in Siem Reap. Chann has become a vital stone in that foundation.

Chann and several of his brothers were converted through a mission work in the city of Phnom Penh. When Sarah and I met Chann recently, we knew why Ralph described him as “a gentle giant.” Though small in stature, Chann combines great Bible knowledge with compassion and zeal for the salvation of his people.  At the end of one year, Chann had baptized 24 people into Christ. Through the preaching of the gospel, Christ is bringing forth life from the dead.   

— Gary Fallis

The Providence of God and the Power of the Gospel

I first met Phanat Ouch in 2007 at the annual meeting of the Bear Valley Bible Institute in Denver, CO. He had an interest in evangelizing his own people. This is his story in brief.

Phanat was born in the United States of Cambodian parents and raised in the Buddhist faith. His father’s first wife and his mother’s first husband were killed during the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. As a young man, Phanat already had a budding career in Austin, Texas. His supervisors asked him to read about leadership, and someone suggested to him that he read the Bible.

Phanat began to read the Bible, and his life began to change. With a keen mind and open heart, he learned the basic teachings of Christ—what Christ promised, but also what He expected of someone to receive those blessings. Phanat then began visiting various religious groups, comparing what he had learned from the Bible with what these congregations taught. He lived near the Southwest church of Christ in Austin, Texas and one day visited there for worship. He discovered that the congregation was teaching what he had learned from the New Testament. He was soon baptized into Christ, born again into the kingdom of God.

Phanat’s spiritual growth now blossomed. Phanat learned the congregation sponsored the Southwest School of Biblical Studies and wanted to be a part. He finished at the top of his class in 2007.

His spiritual pilgrimage had only begun. Phanat then learned that the Bear Valley Bible Institute hoped to establish a school of preaching in his native country of Cambodia. For Phanat, this seemed like an answer to his dreams.

Since late 2007 Phanat has been in Seim Reap, Cambodia teaching his own people what God has taught Him through His word. He studied with and baptized a young woman, Aya, who worked at the University. They are now married with one daughter.

Phanat is only one example of a an open Bible and an open mind—of a seeking God and a searching soul. The providence of God can bring the sinner and the Savior together. The provision of God can then unite people, plans and resources to take the gospel to others. This is the purpose of the Bear Valley Bible Institute.

Gary Fallis

Training Preachers in Cambodia

 My name is Phanat Ouch, and I am a 2007 graduate of Southwest School of Bible Studies in Austin, Texas. I am currently serving our Lord Jesus Christ in Siem Reap, Cambodia as the director of the International Bible Institute of Siem Reap overseen by the elders of Bear Valley church of Christ in Denver, Colorado. 

The past three and a half years, we have graduated 15 students, groomed 3 well educated teachers for the Bible school and developed 4 congregations. The Bible school now has 11 students. Brethren have begun a children’s home that is caring for 16 orphans. All of this was done in a relatively short time due to God and the power of His word to transform lives. 

The faithful brethren who support this work financially and the teachers who come to teach the short courses also played a major role in helping the work here in Cambodia grow to where it is now. Finally, we cannot forget the local brethren who worked so hard from the beginning until now: Chann Lork, our local preacher for the congregation at Siem Reap, his brother Sokchea Lork, the preacher for Leang Dai village, Choeuy Choeun, the preacher for Takam village, Darat Run and Savai Bun, teachers at IBISR, and Hout Heng, the director of Hannah’s Hope Children’s Home. Many other local leaders also contribute to the success of the work here in Cambodia. 

I am privileged and honored to work with such individuals in the furtherance of God’s kingdom in Cambodia.. As the church continues to grow, we know that there are challenges that we will have to overcome.  

One major challenge that the work here is currently facing is how do we find a solution to becoming autonomous as a local congregation? When we teach the locals the whole counsel of God and they learn how to be proper stewards of God, how can we generate enough funds to be self supporting as a local church? We know that the local church must use the weekly contributions to support its own work (evangelism, paying the local preacher, benevolence, etc). A majority of the members are poor and jobless and give as much as they can.  We cannot depend upon work funds from abroad to keep the work afloat forever. It defeats the purpose of being autonomous. 

This is the issue that we are currently faced with and are working towards a solution for. We have to find a way to help the local leaders find a source of income outside of their support from abroad without losing the “Macedonian mindset” of further perpetuating the work of Christ in their labor of love through their financial giving. We continue to ask for wisdom and guidance from above and we seek your prayers and support for the work of Christ that’s being done in Cambodia!

 — Phanat Ouch        

God’s Holy Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Most people go to Siem Reap to see the largest religious temple in the world – Angkor Wat. It was built early in the 12th century to honor the Hindu god Vishnu and represents Mount Meru, the home of the deities of Hindu mythology. Angkor Wat is now primarily a Buddhist temple, though the two religions are very similar. Buddhists accept and honor all the Hindu gods and myths. (Simply put, the Buddha’s teaching gave Hinduism an explanation of suffering and an eight-fold path for a life toward “enlightenment.”) This area was a thriving city and capitol of the Khmer people for about 500 years. It was hidden from the West by jungle and became the target of interest in about 1860 when a Frenchman visited the Wat and sketched pictures to share with the world. The temple is now a popular tourist site because it was featured in the movie “Tomb Raiders.”  Angelina Jolie’s picture is in almost every store in Siem Reap.

We visited Angkor Wat on our first Saturday in Siem Reap. It is impressive; the outer wall encloses 203 acres. The temple features several large bas-reliefs adorning the walls depicting guardian spirits – apsara – and scenes from Hindu mythology. One wall shows a mythological battle featuring monkey-headed gods; another describes the “Churning of the Sea of Milk” where various deities pull on the head and tale of a large snake (naga) to release the elixir of eternal life. Besides the main temple which is a national symbol of Cambodia and is featured on their flag, the whole complex is home to many other smaller temples. Most of the temples are in ruins, but the main complex is being renovated by an international group.

Yes, Angkor Wat attracts many tourists to Siem Reap. However, Gary and I came to Siem Reap because of another templeGod’s temple in Cambodia is more beautiful, glorious and impressive than Angkor Wat when it was new. Isaiah prophesied about the Cornerstone of this temple in Isaiah 28: 16-17. And, Peter quotes Isaiah’s prophecy in 1 Peter 2: 4-10, telling us that we are living stones in that holy temple.

It was a tremendous blessing to be in Siem Reap in the real temple – the temple that will not deteriorate and that will never be destroyed. The living stones in Siem Reap want to be “built up as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood…” (1 Pet. 2: 5) Most of them are new Christians, and they were eager to learn more of God’s Word. I taught the women each evening, showing them how the Old Testament points us to Jesus beginning in Genesis 1 and continuing through the Day of Atonement in Leviticus. I wish I had the time to show them Jesus throughout the whole Bible, but I think they became more curious about that theme and will continue to build on that foundation.  

Coming home, I had to process all I had experienced. I had seen the “room of 1,000 Buddha” in the national museum. I had learned more about Hinduism and Buddhism. Many people in America who grew up in homes with an open Bible are now embracing those Eastern religions. As I am writing this, the Dali Lama is in Chicago conducting a Buddhist ritual for world peace. Thousands here throng to his speeches. We are going backward, headlong into paganism! I had to ask myself, “Why?” Yes, some of the precepts of Buddhism are good and helpful. However, we have cleaned it up and put a nice veneer over it. Let us never forget that Hinduism and Buddhism are fertility religions that are just as pagan, sensual and oppressive as the religions of the Druids, Incas, Babylonians or Assyrians. We saw various linga (Hindu phallic symbols) throughout the temple and in the museum. I even noticed a chocolate linga for sale in a bakery shop in downtown Siem Reap!    

It also disturbed me that so many people in the Asian world are blinded by these religions. I remember asking Phanat about the small “temples” I saw outside many homes and businesses. He told me they were houses for the spirits of their ancestors. People place flowers and other offerings in and around these temples to honor the spirits and to keep evil spirits away. Then, Phanat said, “I’m sure if they stopped and really thought about it, they would see how futile it is. They do it mainly out of tradition, not out of reason.” That’s where the gospel comes in! Phanat, Chann and the other young preachers we are teaching through BVBID can help these people leave the darkness of those traditions and come into the light of the gospel. They have both come from a Buddhist background, and they know the challenges of reaching their people. Chann was living in a Buddhist monastery, training as a monk when he was a teenager.  

Sometimes people ask me about the sincerity of their faith and commitment to Christ. Many of these new Christians will face persecution from their families when they return home. Some already have and have made the choice of Christ above family and tradition. Chann and Phanat have each endured similar persecutions, and they prepare these men and women for that opposition. Thankfully, Chann was able to reach his mother with the gospel. Also, his brothers are Christians and preachers in Cambodia. I’m impressed with their love, commitment and faith, and I’m reminded of Isaiah 9:2: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” Thank God for His light!  

Sarah Fallis

Posted on July 17, 2011 .