BUSIA, Kenya (BP)–When Naphtali Eroni Ochil’s classmates dreamed of being doctors and politicians, he dreamed of being a pastor.
The biggest challenge was learning to read and write.
Ochil’s family couldn’t afford to send the aspiring young pastor to high school, let alone seminary. Yet, Ochil hoped and prayed that one day God would provide him with the chance to lead a church.
In 1998, prayers were answered for the young Kenyan when a new Bible school close to his home started through the help of volunteers from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Before this school, there were only two seminary graduates from western Kenya. It was too expensive to pay for school fees and to pay for transport,” Ochil said. “Now we have a school right here and more and more of us are being trained to be church leaders.”
Ochil was among 19 students participating in the first graduation at Busia Baptist Centre’s Bible School on Oct. 19. Approximately 250 people attended the graduation, including a representative of Kenya’s minister of finance and LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr.
Designed to provide training for Baptist leaders in the area, students attend classes one or two weeks per month. Upon completion of the two-year program, a certificate of study is issued.
The partnership between Busia-area Baptists and LifeWay began in 1997 when volunteers came to help with a special crusade in the western provinces. Nine LifeWay employees joined others in going house to house introducing the gospel to an area dominated by beliefs in ancestral spirits. At the time, there were only six Baptist churches. LifeWay teams returned to the area again in 1998 and 1999.
Five years later, more than 125 Baptist churches can be found throughout the area. Mike Livingstone, editor in chief of adult ministry publications at LifeWay, said the Bible school grew out of all the new churches started.
“As we kept coming back to help year after year, we saw a real need for leadership development and discipleship,” Livingstone said. “We didn’t plan for this type of response. It just happened.”
LifeWay employees donated enough money to buy a plot of land and build classrooms. The students volunteered their labor in making bricks and constructing the four-building campus. Volunteers from LifeWay taught many of the Bible school classes.
Through the last four or five years, Livingstone said he has seen maturity and growth among the Christians and pastors.
“There’s a hunger for learning here,” he said. “I see pastors bringing church members to the school with them. Everyone is wanting to learn more.”
Kenyan pastor Samson Kisia affirmed the spiritual growth in western Kenya. During his commencement speech, Kisia congratulated the young Baptist leaders for their diligent work. He told the graduates that with their school days over, it is now time to work harder than ever.
“I look around and see what God has done since 1997 and I thank him very much,” Kisia said. “Back then, there were only a few churches. We were told that Busia was too far away and that we should not go do evangelism there.
“We came and realized that if you are looking to work for Jesus, Busia is the place.”
Looking into the faces of the graduates, Kisia called them precious results of God’s work in the area.
Draper, who spoke at the graduation, said he was impressed that two persons accepted Christ as their Savior at the conclusion of the service.
“Twenty-five area pastors came on Sunday [two days after the graduation] and I saw firsthand the excellent quality of leadership,” Draper said. “As God continues to work through the new churches and leaders in that area, I believe we will see thousands more come to Christ and hundreds more churches started.”
The vision to start new churches and reach out to their own people is spreading fast in this area of Kenya. Ochil’s home church plans to sponsor the new pastor in a new church start.
“Finally, I am fulfilling God’s dream for me,” Ochil said. “I knew as a child that one day I would be doing God’s work and be a pastor. Now I am one and I know that because I am properly trained I can do the work.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BIBLE SCHOOL CELEBRATION.