On the Ground with Graham

Graham and Sally have lived and ministered in rural western Kenya for over 15 years. As missionaries, one of the tools they use to support and strengthen local churches has been the Explore Course. With Graham facilitating, a group of 12 pastors from Bondo are currently enrolled in their final Explore module and will be graduating shortly.

What is the greatest need on the ground?

In Kenya, we continue to work toward the church’s growth and maturity. For this to be more fully achieved though, we pray more people will answer the call to rural ministry—to serve and equip these pastors with good training, on the ground, where they are (and where it is needed most).

Why is there such a need in rural areas?

In my experience, Africa’s biggest cities benefit from most of the training and focus—90% of this kind of training in Kenya for instance happens in just one big city (Nairobi). Rural pastors are far less resourced and able to travel for training, and are also the ones least likely to be able to connect digitally to any online resources.

Why does Explore work in this context?

The course material is solid theologically, and yet it also doesn’t require students to have access to copious other reference books and reading materials. All they need is the manual and their Bibles.

I particularly like this about Explore – how it makes the students read their Bible – you don’t need a big library (which these students obviously don’t have), it’s self contained. This is a real strength in the rural context.

Keep in mind that none of my pastors have a computer, only half have electricity in their houses and even less have smartphones. I scan their exams through myself and print out the course material for them at the beginning of every module.

Although the couse is challenging, I think that the exams are very fair, and are based on the course itself. It’s all there… well put together and well structured. I also like the African emphasis – it’s grounded here, not overseas. That makes it more cuturally significant and impactful for our students.

What has the experience been like for students?

The group has really enjoyed being together and this module in particular has made us all think more about the way we live as believers and the way we minister in church. We’ve had helpful discussions on how to preach both election and the gospel, how to pray in church services, asking for spiritual blessing and not just material blessings, and we’ve taken a detailed look at the doctrines of assurance in the Christian life and regeneration, and how those apply.

What has the effect of Explore been on these pastors/students?

For many, it has firmly established them in the way they approach the Bible, preaching, their ministries and even the way they live their lives. One pastor told us that he used to stand up and promise his church that if they just trusted in God, everything would be fine… now he has a more rounded view and is better able to disciple his people too.

What can we pray for?

Many of these pastors are also tent makers – trying to feed their families, study, and lead a church is hard. Please pray that they would be able to make the most of the opportunities they have been given.

On a national level, there is currently a fuel shortage in Kenya, so much of life and church minitrsy has been disrupted – including our Explore sessions.

Kenya also has presidential elections coming up in August this year. Pray that there would be no unnecessary violence, delays or tensions, and for peace and free and fair elections to prevail.

Finally, give thanks with us for these students’ and pastors’ perseverance and commitment to study, in spite of very challenging conditions. Pray that they would finish the course well and be of good use in their churches and communities.