Global Advance Trip | God is Moving in Africa!
Last month I had the privilege of traveling with a team from Global Advance to Cameroon, Africa to speak at a number of events. This was my first time traveling to Africa, and it definitely will not be my last. This Global Advance trip was unlike any other. To begin with, we didn’t just speak at one conference, we spoke at six different events throughout the week. Needless to say our week was full. This was by far the most I’ve ever spoken during a trip. But, as it has been the case with every other trip, it was extremely rewarding. One of the best parts of this Global Advance trip was the team I had the privilege of working with.
The Three Musketeers
During my Global Advance trip, our team consisted of myself, Charles Ikutiminu, and our team leader, Ken Janke. Ken has a background as an Associate Pastor and businessman and he is currently responsible for all of Global Advance’s international conferences. In addition to working for Global Advance, he also owns a collaborative workspace in Dallas called The Grove. Ken and I have been friends for about a year now and it has been great getting to know him, so I was really looking forward to being on this team with him. Ken is one of those guys who really loves the Lord and really loves people. To say that he has the gift of encouragement in an understatement.
For both of us though, this Global Advance trip was our first opportunity to meet Charles. Charles is originally from Nigeria and has served as a Lead Pastor and Associate Pastor with ministries in Africa, Europe and North America for over 20 years. Charles also serves as the Executive Director of Espwa Nouvel International, a non-profit organization he co-founded in 2012. Their mission is to reverse the cycle of poverty in developing countries through the training of effective leadership and sustainable entrepreneurial skills among young adults that “aging-out” of orphanages and children’s homes. Charles is so incredibly passionate about his relationship with God and his love for Scripture. He is fearless in his pursuit to serve God and fulfill God’s calling on his life. He was, and still is, an inspiration to me in my own ministry.
While I expected that this Global Advance trip would be a good one and that I would enjoy working with these guys, I was a bit surprised at how well we worked together and how close we became. Even though we were each from very different backgrounds, we seemed to have a strong chemistry from the very beginning. In fact, our camaraderie was so evident that the Africans began to call us The Three Musketeers by the end of day one (and occasionally the Three Stooges).
Even though I’ve come to expect it, I am still amazed at how God can take three virtual strangers and form an extremely strong team. Even our messages flowed well together and complemented each other. Each of us are experienced ministers individually and would’ve been effective by ourselves, but as a team we were truly synergistic. It seems that we experienced firsthand a little of what Psalm 133 is talking about when David writes that when people are in unity, God commands a blessing. And to be part of that was truly an honor.
Joining our team after the first day was another pastor from Nigeria, Raymond Gobum. Raymond is a unique individual – he was a bit soft-spoken, and talked even slower than those of us from the south. But when he began to preach, it became obvious that he’s a brilliant man and has a sense of humor that sneaks up on you. In Nigeria, Raymond owns an extremely large farm. He started this farm to reach out to the Muslim community through agricultural education. Raymond lives in northern Nigeria which is primarily Muslim and is known as a dangerous area to be a Christian. But that hasn’t slowed him down, because God has placed in his heart a love for the Muslim community that he cannot deny.
14 Hour Days and A Fluid Schedule
Our host for the week was Hal Rahman. Hal is one of those guys that has accomplished so much that it is mind-boggling. Originally from Sierra Leone, Hal came to Douala, Cameroon to begin a discipleship ministry which eventually became known as Discipling the Nations Ministries. In addition, he founded a Bible school (Cameroon Bible Training Center) and a leadership training ministry (Strategic Leadership Development). As he began telling us about himself, it seemed that there was so much more than that.
In addition to running these ministries, Hal also organizes pastor’s conferences and business leader’s conferences all over the country. In fact, last year he and his ministries organized 26 different conferences. So when he coordinated this Global Advance trip, he made sure our days were full. It was not unusual for us to meet for breakfast at 8:00am and not return to our rooms until 10:00 or 11:00 at night. We attended a pastor’s conference, business leaders conference, and a half-day strategic leadership seminar. In addition, we spoke at one of the Bible school’s chapel services (which lasted most of the day), a gathering of Christian students at a local university, and a Bible school graduation ceremony. While exhausting at times, this Global Advance trip was truly a great week.
Of course no international trip is complete without some “schedule adjustments.” During the course of the Global Advance trip we had about three different schedules, and didn’t always know which one was right. More times than not, none of them were right. It seems the only true schedule was the one in Hal’s head. But as our team leader, Ken took it all in stride while Charles and I cracked jokes. We were really not all that helpful, then again we weren’t really trying. But somehow we managed to get it all done, and it was always amazing.
This Should Be The Rule Not The Exception
One of the most impacting parts of this Global Advance trip for me was the people. I was so impressed with the dedication and sacrifice that these people are willing to make for the sake of the Gospel. The first day we spoke to roughly 150 pastors and missionaries. During various times throughout the day, they would stand and introduce themselves, say what they did, where they were serving, and who they were reaching out to. Each one of them were ministering among cultures and people groups that have been unreached by the church (many of them in various Muslim communities). As they began to talk about what they were doing, and the different ways they were reaching out to those that were typically hostile to the gospel, I was both amazed and convicted.
The thing is, these men and women were not “professional ministers;” they weren’t paid by a mission organization, or supported by a church. They were just regular people who had responded to the call that God has placed on every believer. They left their jobs and often moved to another community to share the gospel with people who had never heard it before. And this group was not the exception. We met people like this all week long. It’s as if someone had magically convinced them that living this way was supposed to normal for a follower of Jesus. Huh.
This really hit home on the last day. We were invited to participate in the Bible school graduation ceremony. Ken spoke, and Charles and I had the privilege of handing out diplomas. Again, I didn’t know what to expect. But what I did not expect was for 390 people to graduate from Bible school. That is 390 high school kids, moms, dads, and grandparents all dedicating one to three years of their lives to intense Bible study so that they will be better prepared to reach out to and serve not only their communities, but to truly make disciples of all nations.
To play a small part in equipping these people was truly an honor. It was a humbling experience, and extremely rewarding. I’ve always thought that, for me, investing in pastors and ministers in these countries is far more effective than if I were to go and be a long-term missionary somewhere. Because to help equip a local pastor is to help strengthen the church. And to reach out to large groups of pastors, to encourage, challenge, and teach them has exponentially more impact than anything I can do by myself.
The Icing On The Cake
Our last day was on a Sunday. That morning each of us spoke in different churches, and that afternoon was the graduation ceremony. Following the graduation ceremony, we had just enough time to go to our rooms, get our bags and head to the airport. Honestly, after a long week, though it was incredible, we were fairly exhausted. And I don’t think any of us were ready for what God was about to do next.
As I’ve already said, it was so cool watching 390 people of different ages and backgrounds walk in with smiles on their faces knowing what they had just accomplished. And to top it all off, the graduation was outside, on a dirt field, in the rain. Which, of course made it a mud field. There were tents all around the field where the graduates and their friends and family sat. And despite the less than ideal conditions, there wasn’t an empty seat. There had to be over 1,000 people in attendance.
Roughly 30 minutes into the ceremony, one of the leaders gave a brief history of the school and talked about their mission, vision, and what it took to complete the program. While she was speaking, there were about four or five people off to the side setting up table; and I was really wondering what they were doing. Everything was in French, so Hal was explaining to us what was going on. What they were doing was offering free registration to anyone who wanted to sign up that day for the next semester. She wasn’t saying, come see us after the ceremony; she was saying, register right now. The next thing we knew the band started playing and people started streaming out from under the tents walking through the mud to dedicate the next three years to study the Bible!
And that wasn’t even the best part. After over 100 people all walked across that muddy field, the band kept playing, and suddenly every graduate poured out onto the field and began to dance! It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life. They were so happy and excited to see their friends and family join them in discipleship that they just had to dance. About this time, I’m really starting to get embarrassed, thinking American Christians have got to get their crap together because the Africans are putting us to shame!
But Wait! My Global Advance Trip Gets Even Better.
About 15 minutes later it’s Ken’s time to speak. Right before he walks out, Hal leans over and says, “Be sure and give an altar call.” Ken looks at him and says “What?” “Give an altar call. We always give an altar call at these.” Ken looks over at me with his iPad in his hand and says; “I have a message for future pastors and missionaries. And he wants me to give an altar call?” I place my hand on his shoulder and with as much compassion and encouragement as I can muster say; “Sucks to be you.” For some reason he didn’t appreciate that.
But he walked out onto that muddy field and he preached. Somehow in the midst of “10 things every pastor should know,” he preached the gospel. It was great! Then he gave an altar call. And once again, people came streaming out of the tents. Over 200 people came walking through the rain and mud and gave their lives to Christ that day! It was awe-inspiring. Hal and his wife Martha had their hands in the air and massive smiles on their faces. I actually had tears running down my face, and Charles started dancing (he is African after all). At that point I’m thinking to myself, this Global Advance trip could not have ended any better.
It’s always really cool to see God move. And it’s even better when you get to be part of it. Thanks to everyone who has teamed up with me through encouragement, prayer, and finances. This is truly an amazing adventure we are on together. I can’t wait to see what God’s going to pull off in Nepal in September. Until then, I think I’m going to take a nap.
Want to help with the next conference?
If you do nothing else, please help by praying for these pastor’s conferences. You can pray specifically for me and the other speakers; pray for our safety and health, pray for travel logistics, pray for team dynamics, and more than anything else, pray that we receive a word from God specifically for those who will be in attendance. Please pray that we will be both an encouragement and challenge to them.
Also please be in prayer for those that will be attending the conferences. Many of these pastors travel long distances through difficult and dangerous environments just to receive what God has for them these conferences. Please pray that their hearts will be prepared for what God has for them. Pray that they will be inspired and motivated to put into action the convictions God lays in their hearts. Pray that they will receive new vision and passion for ministry. And please pray for their families. Pray for their health and safety, and they will be supportive of the ministries each of these pastors are called to.
For a more detailed prayer guide for you can specifically and intentionally intercede for our conferences please click here.
All of the pastor’s conferences that I participate in are completely at my expense. If you would like to help support me financially on these trips, you can do so on the Grace Community Church donor page. Simply enter the amount you would like to give and choose “International Pastor’s Training” from the drop down menu. These funds are placed in an account for my trip expenses only. I do not, nor will I ever, receive any personal income from this account. After each trip, I present an expense report to our elder board for approval before receiving any level of reimbursement. In this way, I remain accountable to our elders for all of my travel expenses.
Your prayers and financial gifts are deeply appreciated by myself as well as the thousands of pastors I am able to invest in each year. Thank you so much for your support.