December 19, 2020
In 2010, the Corban administration was looking for a way to expand the graduate program at the School of Ministry. They planned something with a heart of service but simple, and within the current scope of the University. A pastoral formation program in Africa was not even on the table; it hadn't even crossed anyone's mind.
But when one of the Corban representatives met Steve Van Horn, the Director of International Training and Equipment Ministries, at a conference, plans began to change to prayer. The dean of the Corban School of Ministry, Dr. Greg Trull, met with Van Horn to discuss the emerging need in Africa for pastoral training, as the demand for strong biblical teaching was far outstripping the current supply of capable trainers. in the country. After a year of discussion and deliberation, Trull finally flew with Van Horn on an exploration trip to Cameroon.
"I saw right away that this fulfilled our prayers," says Trull. “I saw an incredible need. There were so many pastors looking for training that we could help provide. He returned home to tell the news to his department and administration. “I told them, 'This is what we pray for,'” he says. “It may not be what we were looking for, but this is what we pray for.”
Corban decided to put his prayers above his plans, bowing in the direction that God had provided, and began the pastoral formation program in Cameroon. The program took the form of a three-year academic certification combining undergraduate and graduate classes in biblical studies, theology, and ministerial training. “We had pastors ask us, 'What is this program like?'” Trull recalls. "And we said to them, 'It's not exactly like anything else we do.' But we build it around their needs, from undergraduate Bible studies classes to graduate-level leadership classes. ”
They took on an initial group of 35 pastors, having to limit the student limit because their capacity could not meet the incredible demand. Each and every one of the 35 completed the program and graduated in 2015. The next cohort grew to 50, graduating 48 in 2018. But shortly after, the program was halted when civil war broke out in Cameroon. The conflict centered right where the institute resided.
"We couldn't go back," says Trull, who remembers 6:00 p.m. Military curfews, road stops and government interrogations about the final trip in May 2018. "Some of the churches where I had preached years before were now in rebel territory," he says. "There were pastors that I would have loved to see that we couldn't see because the rebels controlled the roads." Many of the pastors who had recently graduated from the program were forced to leave the country and the Corban School of Ministry was left wondering how to continue their ministry in Africa.
Once again, God provided a way that they could not have seen or anticipated. "At the end of our time in Cameroon, we had people in Uganda who had found out about our work and asked us if we could come and duplicate our initiative," says Trull. "At the time, we didn't have the people to run programs effectively in two countries at the same time, but when Cameroon closed, the door for Uganda was wide open."
Trull embarked on another exploration trip six months later. It was during one of his stops in Uganda, preaching to a crowd of 700 at a young pastors conference, that he quickly realized the need. "You could see a wave of application forms being passed around while we were talking on the platform," he recalls. "Everyone wanted to make sure we had them." It was clear that God was calling them to change their ministry of pastoral formation to Uganda.
The first people Dr. Trull met in Uganda were the four founders of Worship House Church. They shared their conversion story as children growing up in a primarily Muslim community. After watching a broadcast of Billy Graham on television, they gave their lives to Christ, found a Bible, and began reading together. They quickly became convinced that they were called to start a church. “These four kids were alone,” says Trull, “without family support, without church. It was just them. "
At age 15, they began to hold worship services under the shade of a large tree in a field, preaching the gospel to the people and asking them to come study the Bible with them under the shadow of its tree. Now, less than 20 years later, the House of Worship is one of the largest churches in Uganda, often drawing crowds of over 5,000 on Sundays.
“I always tell folks back home that one of the things I love about our work in Africa is that we can train heroes, "says Trull." It's not that we're going there and doing them a favor. It really is a partnership. And we learn a lot from them and are blessed to be able to invest in their ministries. "
Mercy House, another of Corban's partner churches in Uganda, provides further evidence of the incontrovertible growth of the gospel in Africa. They only have one large and growing church, but they have planted 19 other churches, plus they have a health care system, a school, an adoption agency, a residential health care center for children with developmental disabilities, and a microbank that includes Entrepreneurship training for people living in the slums to give them the opportunity to get out, ”says Trull. Corban students also benefit from these opportunities through mission trips and internships with the many partner programs in Uganda.
Trull sees the growing partnership as purely win-win. "I think it has helped us try to be humble and honest. yes, "he says. “I think sometimes people have the attitude to come in as Americans and tell people what to do and how their worship services should look like ours, and it's just a total mess, and it's completely arrogant. But on the other hand, there are some people who feel so ashamed to go in and be a white American that they don't offer what they have. And the fact is, my faculty and I have experience, training, and education in the Bible that could really benefit these pastors, and so if done the right way, we can learn from each other. I believe the Lord has helped us to move forward and see the strengths on both sides and how we can work together. "
The Corban ministry faculty was supposed to return in December, but due to health requirements and security at both ends, this was not a possibility. Just as the civil war in Cameroon has put obstacles in their ministry there, so has the pandemic. But they have not stopped teaching their pastors in Uganda and have found new ways. to meet their needs.
Corban faculty began providing remote learning instruction and resources in July. As many of the pastors come from remote villages with little or no electricity, much less Internet access , have had to rethink today's remote strategies, relying heavily on Pastor Freddie, the National Director of the pastoral training program. Trull and Pastor Freddie share a OneDrive account where notes, outlines, task sheets, and other resources are posted. Each week, the ministry faculty posts video lectures on a private YouTube channel that Pastor Freddie has access to.
Despite COVID presenting a litany of logistical challenges, pastors in this cohort have begun meeting more often than less. Instead of their monthly meeting, the pastors meet in small groups each week to continue their education. “Pastor Freddie doles out the homework, shows the video, leads the discussions, and does it in four different regions so they can stay within COVID regulations but still comply,” says Trull. "They are so eager to learn that sometimes they even exhaust me."
Even through their endurance, the struggles the pastoral training program has faced due to the civil war and global pandemic weigh heavily on everyone involved. Corban's ministry faculty continue to pray for his ability to return not only to his cohort in Uganda, but to his ministry in Cameroon. Trull's latest dream is to see a partnership form between the two African countries, exchanging knowledge and resources. "We have great leaders in both countries who would really help each other," he says.
For this dream to become a reality, it requires continued prayer and increased financial support. "We are going to need financing," says Trull. “Right now, we are not spending much, but that is going to change. Especially since our dream is that when Cameroon opens again, we can lead both ministries in both countries. "In addition to financial support, Trull and his team see the need for more collaboration from trained pastors here in the states." We would love to turn them on. with the vision of investing what they have in pastoralists in Uganda and Cameroon, ”he says.
For Trull, he believes the reward of the program far outweighs the sacrifice, both personally and for Corban as a whole." For me, it's one of the most missionary things we do as a university, "he says." When you think about educating Christians to make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ, we are educating Christians to make a difference in a part of the world where hardly anyone else is serving. It has been an incredible adventure. "