News from the Edge

Diploma in Theology Program: A Great Victory!

“I thank God for the grace that He has given each one of us. I’m grateful to have been hosted at this center and receive this education. Thank you to ASOSAP for helping us, for reaching their hand out to raise us up. Thank you to the Chosen People leadership and instructors. I know that this education doesn’t end here. This seed that has been planted must grow into a plant that then produces fruit. God doesn’t do anything without purpose. Fruit has to be produced. For example, this rain that is falling today is a blessing to many crops and trees. Likewise, the Word of God is going to be a blessing to many and will produce fruit.” Pastor and Graduate of the Diploma in Theology Program 

ASOSAP has been involved with pastor training for many years. The dream and possibility to run a formalized program followed. Our first contact with Chosen People occurred when we were considering having a well drilled by them for the Shekinah Center. In the end, we connected with their pastoral training ministry instead. God’s plans are far greater than ours. How true this is!

This wasn’t easy though. It was a struggle to raise the funds needed and took 2 years. God’s will prevailed and in 2019 the first session for 20 rural pastors was held. They came from varying areas, some very far away. They spoke different languages (Pokomchi, Quechi, and Spanish). Regardless of this, they came and were determined to learn. We watched them learn and grow. We dreamed about the day they would graduate; when they would go out into their communities, better equipped to spread the Gospel and make disciples. In 2020 the pandemic paused this education. Thankfully it was only temporary and this year they finished the education. 

Most recently in this final 4-day session, they learned about the characteristics of a healthy church and all about church planting. Regarding healthy churches, they were taught about the foundations of one, how to become one, what a healthy church does, and its purposes. They also now have a self-evaluation tool that they and church leaders can use to determine how healthy their church is and what changes they need to make to improve church health.   

With church planting, they were taught to view the kingdom of God as 4 types of fields (Mark 4:26-29) and were directed to ask key questions regarding each area. With the empty field (starting plan) they need to ask: How do we enter in this new field? With the field with seed sewn (Gospel plan) they ask: What do we say and to whom do we say it to? In the growing field (discipleship plan) they ask, how do we make disciples? In the last field, the field to be harvested (church formation plan), they ask, how do we form a new church? Next is to continue doing this process and the pastors need to ask, how can new leaders be raised to continue in this work, to create generations committed to church planting?

Jesus and Paul’s actions were used as examples of how to plant churches. Within this learning, they analyzed several Bible passages in groups. Important questions were answered and wisdom was gleaned from this. The days were full of new knowledge and it was a challenge at times. They persevered in this, asked questions, and laughed together. 

Below, special prayer time for the health of the pastors and a campfire worship session the night before the graduation

After finishing the education, the graduation followed the next day. This long awaited day had arrived! One of the pastors prayed to open the ceremony and read Psalm 91, which speaks of God being our refuge. Some of the pastors lead worship. The director of pastoral training with Chosen People was present and he spoke to the pastors about the importance of being servants of God that are faithful, filled with the Holy Spirit, and trained. He highlighted that a servant of God who is growing is going to increasingly impact those he is serving. He reminded them that others, such as their children and congregation, have been watching them strive to gain new knowledge. They are an example and can spur others to do likewise. 

The president of Chosen people was also present. He reminded them that not all days will be as beautiful and celebrated as today. No matter how difficult the situation, they must not let the devil rob their joy. He encouraged them to persevere in God’s work. Glenda spoke  of the challenges in starting this program. Also about the challenges the pastors faced, leaving their homes very early in the morning to attend and being here day after day receiving classes. She stated that the end goal is that Biblical truths will be preached in rural communities. She reminded everyone that God’s plan is perfect. When the pandemic started, the question was, can we do the training online? But that wasn’t His plan and here we are at the end of the program with 20 pastors trained to impact their communities. 

There was also time for the pastors to share. This is what one pastor said:

“This education has really helped me. I have learnt here, such as how to study the Bible. What is next is to plant a church as we learned about. As God’s servants this education has helped us greatly. If God has called us to plant churches, this is our next responsibility. I’m very grateful that God remembered me and placed me in this program. As co-workers in ministry we have shared time together. The ASOSAP staff served us well, even better than if we were in our own homes. We had to leave our families and children to be here.

I am very grateful to God. How great He is and full of mercy. What remains is for us to faithfully serve Him.”

Another pastor also expressed his gratitude to God for guiding them from the very beginning until this moment. He thanked ASOSAP, and Chosen people staff for all their hard work. He trembled as he spoke, trying to keep it together. For all, it was an emotional ceremony. It was also a very joyous time, seeing the pastors walk down the aisle in their caps and gowns and then receiving their diploma. After all, the end goal was achieved.

The Chosen people leadership reminded us all, that this is not the end, there is still much work to be done. They prayed that the pastors would continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit, a necessity in their ministry. Also that they continue growing in the knowledge of the Word and in how to teach God’s word. This is our prayer too and we ask that you pray this for the pastors also. We thank you for your immeasurable prayer and financial support that made this program a reality. We look forward to seeing what fruit will be produced from this. We leave you have several photos that show the great happiness of this event!