It is the 19th March 2010. We are at the Skripja Yunyon Kampsaet (say it aloud, say it slowly!) outside Port Vila in Vanuatu. Sadness is mixed with expectation for the 75 participants. It is the final day of the final Level in the Langham Preaching seminar sequence.
After breakfast at 7.00am we gather together for devotions led by Father Colin working on the island of Pentecost with the Anglican Church. There is time for a short presentation from Gospel Recordings, a daily slot offered to mission organisations. Then it is into the first teaching session of the day with Andy Shudall (Head of Training for the IFES-affiliate in New Zealand, TSCF) leading us through 2 Timothy 4 and ‘The Life of Integrity’. We finish early and gather for the customary group photo with this year’s banner – “rightly handling the word of truth” – sprawled across the grass in front.
There follows a session hearing from the preaching ‘clubs’ that have been meeting in the regions between the seminars over the past two years. The stories flow. In southern Tafea Province they are working towards seeing preaching clubs established in every Presbytery. In northern Banks & Torres, Father Berry relates how one group of young adults is so excited by what they have learned that they hop in a boat and take a missions trip to the Solomon Islands to share it with people there. At Talua Ministry Training Centre, the leading bible college in the country, the Langham philosophy has been absorbed into the curriculum and now they are asking how to absorb preaching clubs into their community. Reginald Garoleo is principal of a high school, Vulumanu Community College, on Pentecost. After the Level One seminar in 2008 he went back to work and noted the sports clubs and the music clubs already meeting after school – “why not a preaching club?” After a solid week of teaching the Langham principles three clubs formed. Three have become five – and now there are eight such clubs. On the island of Efate we are told that it is a bit like Easter Sunday because it is the women who are the first to respond. A group of them have been meeting every Saturday at 5.30am for months. Yes, the stories did keep flowing.
Lunch is followed by an opportunity to walk no more than one hundred metres, put the goggles on the head, place the head under the water and be in a natural aquarium with a spectacular range of fish. The afternoon commences with a teaching session on ‘Planning a Preaching Programme’ with Paul Windsor (Associate Director, Langham Preaching) urging participants to be committed to consecutive and systematic biblical preaching as the steady diet of the people of God.
Then it is time for the crucial session of the entire training programme. Level One – Three for the larger group is concluding. Langham Preaching is about nurturing an indigenous biblical preaching movement. It is time to transfer more responsibility to local trainers. We do this by identifying a much smaller group of ‘local facilitators’ whom we will coach and who will become the primary trainers from this point. But how do you whittle a group of 75 down to 15-20 people? We place them in their regional groups and ask them each to select one person to which we then add a handful of others. Remarkably – as a sign of God’s gracious hand upon us – the process is easy and we find in front of us 19 talented people from across the churches and across the country all ready for the next stage of the training. We decide on gathering together on the island of Espiritu Santo in the first week of October 2010.
All that is left is to gather for a final commissioning service, hosted by Andrew Williamson who has been assisting us as a Country Coordinator. There is singing. There are thank-yous. There is the distribution of books – this time the Phil Crowter ones on Preaching Mark and Preaching God’s Big Story. There is time for participants to write their commitments in a letter to themselves which will be posted back to them in six months. There is time to hear Pastor Christopher from the Churches of Christ giving a rousing closing exhortation.
And then there is time for testimonies. “Now we are preaching from the whole Bible and not from outside the Bible” (John). “God has corrected me in my teaching and in my life through these seminars” (Wili). “These seminars have put so much of the word of God into our churches” (Reginald). “God has raised me up to a point that I couldn’t imagine” (Samuel). And as part of a devotional on Luke 4, “2008-2010 have been the years of the Lord’s favour for preachers in Vanuatu” (Christopher).
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