From Pratum to Africa: Local church program goes international

June 2015 Posted in Community

By Brenna Wiegand

Twenty years ago, Pastor Stan Myers, his wife Mindy and their three children went to Africa, living as Christian missionaries for 2 1/2 years.

“There was a tremendous need for training for pastors but at the time we weren’t prepared to meet that need; I wasn’t mature or experienced enough,” Stan Myers said.

The desire to return never left him.

It was in part due to a mutual interest in missions Emmanuel Bible Church in Pratum hired Myers as pastor in 1997. Calling itself a “sending church,” EBC devotes about a third of its budget to missions. Shortly after his arrival in Pratum, Myers began developing a training course, “Equipping Leaders for a Lifetime of Service,” focusing on character, education and ministry skills. EBC executive pastor Dan Tuggy works with Myers, helping develop the curriculum and doing much of teaching.

Graduates of the course have gone to serve at home and abroad.

Terry Rice was 75 when he entered the ELLS program two years ago; he now pastors a small church at his retirement home. Chris Propeck devotes himself to Salem’s Union Gospel Mission; John and Nikki Tuggy have served in Cambodia for many years and the family of Jason and Sarah Sheets left on assignment to Peru.

As the ELLS curriculum evolved over 10-12 years, it became natural to “take it on the road” to the thousands of African pastors hungry for training.

“We didn’t really set out to do that but that’s the way the Lord would have it,” Myers said. ELLS International was born, a nonprofit separate from the church.

“Our goal is to help these pastors use their limited resources and learn skills that enable them to accurately interpret the Bible and to be able to teach and preach the Word so their congregations can be strong, healthy and mature,” he said. Attendees come from a 75-mile radius, in many cases walking to get there.

From the time Debbie Sardo of EBC became a Christian in 2004 she knew God was  leading her to Africa. For the last eight years Sardo has lived in Africa, Sudan and Kenya sharing the Gospel, training and mentoring. Last year she began working with ELLS International, helping facilitate conferences in rural areas of East Africa and following up to provide spiritual encouragement.

“Some have said the people here have nothing, but if you could see the smiles on their faces, hear their laughter, see their eyes light up and feel the joy in their hearts you would never say that,” Sardo said. “Their worship and dancing brings glory to God.”

The ministry has expanded to Uganda and Kenya with invitations into Tanzania and the Congo. About 200 pastors attended a conference in Uganda.

As EBC’s director of children’s ministries, Mindy Myers is finding her own niche at the conferences.

“Kids are just being ignored; the adults have no understanding what to teach them,” she said. “I am a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, but at the same time so excited because they are so responsive to what is taught.”

As with other trips, they visit the worst slums, survive a bland diet and risky sanitation and contend with extreme weather and transportation challenges.

“The first night in Nairobi, I got 47 mosquito bites on one upper arm and about 30 on the other,” Mindy Myers said. “My face got a lot of bites too and I looked a little scary – thank goodness Nairobi mosquitoes don’t carry malaria!

“We decided just to take it a day at a time; let the days unfold as they will,” she said. “God will give strength and has his appointments for us each day.”

The Myers’ early experience in Africa helped familiarize them with the language and learn to adapt to the culture but mostly to fall in love with the people.

Both Myers and Tuggy seek out idioms, illustrations and euphemisms to make the teaching culturally relevant and important to those hearing it. “The most satisfying thing for me is seeing these pastors so eagerly and enthusiastically embrace this teaching and put it into practice because they want to feed their flocks well,” Myers said.

 

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