Throughout my more than two decades of ministry at Northbrook Church, the congregation graciously encouraged me to travel overseas to visit our supported missionaries. Once or sometimes twice a year I would step out of my familiar and comfortable setting, travel to a foreign land and witness the extraordinary things God was doing in places quite different from my own. These experiences shaped me in profound ways. They also broadened my perspective about the issues and challenges I was facing at home.
When BrookLink launched, we wanted to offer U.S. pastors and church leaders a similar experience. So I began to invite folks from across the country to join in equipping, encouraging and empowering leaders across the globe. BrookLink has influenced and touched the lives of thousands overseas, but we have also influenced pastors and church leaders here, too!
Mark Kiekhaefer is the Senior Pastor of Grace Evangelical Free Church in Jefferson City, MO. Mark and I met as classmates at Trinity Seminary thirty years ago and have remained friends. When BrookLink was invited by Rev. Justus Miwanda, the Executive Director of International Needs Uganda (INUG), to come again for some training, I invited Mark to come along. INUG is a holistic ministry seeking to enhance Christian community development, including three schools that serve over 2000 orphans and vulnerable children. The heart of their work is to establish strong Christ-centered and gospel-preaching churches in the communities where these at-risk children live. BrookLink was invited to bring resources to pastors in the area of these schools.
I asked Mark to share some of his experience serving with BrookLink. Here are a few excerpts of what he wrote:
- Knowledge of God’s word is shallow. Listening to some of the pastors I soon realized that, despite their zeal, most are greatly lacking in knowledge. It is no surprise that the people in their churches are susceptible to false teachings like the prosperity gospel and emphasis on power encounters. And yet. . . I sensed a great hunger for the teaching we provided.
- Islam is growing slightly faster than Christianity in Uganda. We were located in the village of Buikwe (about 40 miles west of Kampala – near Lake Victoria). There were three mosques in the town – we were awakened to the “call to prayer” at 6:00 a.m. each morning. And yet . . . I was told that all the services at the mosque are done in Arabic, which none of the people speak. Preaching in the vernacular is understood – and in many cases the message of the gospel is accepted. Some of these pastors are bold in reaching out to their (nominally) Muslim neighbors. That was inspiring.
- Ministry is challenging. It is tiring to travel across many time zones. Communicating across language differences leaves a speaker wondering just what the translator is really saying. And yet . . . I was deeply encouraged to do this ministry in partnership with Lee. He taught not only by his lessons, but also by sharing from his experience of ministry in many cross-cultural settings. Lee is very skilled at bridging the gaps and offering encouragement as he equips pastors from other cultures. Together we made a good team and I learned a ton through him. We had time to converse and pray throughout the experience – it was rich. I have a deeper appreciation for why Jesus sent his disciples out “two by two” (Mark 6:7). Effective ministry is not an individual event, but blossoms when carried out in community.
While Mark and I were in Uganda, Dan and Lynne Green were training students and pastors in Prague, Czech Republic. Read more about their “Impressions of the Czech Republic in a Post-Christian Culture” on our blog.
Ministry partnerships like the Greens and Kiekhaefers are invaluable because they allow BrookLink to, "enlarge the place of our tent, and stretch our tent curtains wide" (Isa. 54:2). By sending additional teachers and trainers we multiply our influence and deepen our impact in faraway places.
Thank you for making the ministry of BrookLink possible! Your prayers and financial gifts for the work are the reason we are able to keep going. As the tumultuous world scene keeps changing and often grows more violent, the need for pastors and church leaders to "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord their labor is not in vain," (1 Cor. 15:58) remains ever-important!
In Christ alone,