Errors redeemed: a missions school is founded
By Victor Bajah
Grace Foundation, a mission agency based in Nigeria, sent out missionaries for 31 years before they realized what they were doing wrong. Today, they are seeing fruit they never expected through a unique programme for training kingdom workers.
Started in 1989, Grace’s focus was to recruit and send missionaries, which they did steadily. Their missionaries got quick results on the field, but eventually destroyed the gains they had made. Dr. Andrew Abah, founder of the organization, says, “At the onset, we recruited missionaries without bothering whether they undertook missionary training or not. The result was tragic.”
For example, one of the first couples sent out planted seven churches in the first three years. Everyone was excited about the results, but that same work fell apart before long because of inadequacies in the character of the couple. The territorial powers that have held these places captive does not easily let go, and they were not prepared for the power encounters. How could these problems have been missed?
Dr. Abah found that his vision for growing a crop of missionaries across Africa shifted to making sure those missionaries are fruitful. He had a taste of theological training at a popular and well-respected seminary in Nigeria, where theological training had been considered sufficient for preparation to serve on the mission field. But he found that the missions curriculum was shallow on frontier missions. He realized that at least one year of specialized missions training was vital to success. He began praying about how to do things differently.
The answer? The Grace Foundation’s School of Cross-Cultural Missions, with training centres and resource people who have developed a curriculum that supplements and improves on the missions training programmes used by some theological schools.
Through experience, his agency found that a whole new set of courses was necessary for missionaries to be better prepared to serve, and that missionaries serving in difficult places needed re-training. The courses Cross-Cultural Communication and Missionary Anthropology equipped students to step back and assess cultures and practices with a practiced eye. Spiritual Warfare and Theology of Missions, the mainstays of theological schools, needed to be revamped to be relevant to the contemporary situations of missionaries on the field.
In 12 to 15 months, the trainers, all experienced missionaries, invest heavily in the recruits. They are required to spend quality time with the students through lectures and interactive sessions, and have the opportunity to observe and mould the characters of the apprentices. Each student is sent out to the field for four months as an intern and must participate in “flock groups” to learn how to take responsibility for discipleship. At the school, international mission conferences help expose students to global mission leaders.
Up to now, Grace Foundation has trained more than 300 students, who serve in diverse nations, some with the agency and others with different agencies and denominations. Dr. Abah says, “We are pleased to report that our new approach has yielded the fruit we always hoped for, and we encourage others to consider. We can truly say our missions training programme is a processing plant for missionaries in this part of the world, and we have raised more sustainable field workers.”
Andrew and wife Lucy are blessed with four biological children and many foster kids. They live in Jos, Nigeria. Reach Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.