Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Hard Work of Getting There

Christ is in our midst!

I wrote my PhD thesis on Richard Baxter, who was a Church of England pastor during the most tumultuous decade of England’s revolutionary 17th century.  His book, The Reformed Pastor (1656), became the most influential book in English on pastoral ministry for the next three centuries.  Baxter was absolutely convinced that the spiritual growth, what he called the ‘reformation’ of the parish, was dependent upon the reformation or transformation of the priest.  A priest who was ignorant or was spiritually unconcerned would inevitably lead his parish away from Christ.  Whereas a priest who was himself a committed disciple of Christ, whose heart was tender, teachable and growing in Christ – this kind of shepherd God could use to bless His people (see my book Reformation Pastors: Richard Baxter and the Ideal of the Reformed Pastor, 2004).

One thing led to another
This was born out in Baxter’s own remarkable ministry in the town of Kidderminster.  And successive generations have proven the worth of Baxter’s take on the priest’s and pastor’s call.  Churches served by ignorant, corrupt or uncommitted ministers tend not to thrive, whereas churches led by clergy who are educated, committed and themselves growing in Christ tend to experience what Baxter calls ‘reformation’.



Nairobi Orthodox seminary students and faculty with his Eminence Makarios Archbishop of Kenya and his Beatitude Theodros, Patriarch of Alexandria

This is why I am so passionate about theological education in Kenya.  We have the opportunity for these brief couple of years to engage and train the next generation of ministers for Christ’s Church, not just across Kenya but across sub-Saharan Africa as well.  Our input now will have a strategic impact, not just on the lives of these men, but on the hundreds and thousands of the faithful whom they serve.  The history of modern warfare teaches us that if one sends out soldiers who are poorly equipped into battle, then that battle is lost before it is even begun.  And in a religious landscape riven by heresies, corruption and ignorance, we who are so resource-rich have the opportunity to help our brothers and sisters in Kenya get the kind of education and equipping they so desperately need to lead God’s Churches there.

This is Kibera in Nairobi.  There is an Orthodox Church here.  The priest was trained at our seminary.  He also took classes from me at St. Paul's University as he worked on his BA.

As you know, I have been invited by His Eminence Makarios, the Archbishop of Kenya, to serve under his omophorion as Lecturer in History and Theology at Makarios III Patriarchal Orthodox Seminary in Nairobi.  I’ve also been invited to resume my position as Senior Lecturer in History and Theology  at St. Paul’s University in Limuru and Nairobi.  At both institutions I will be helping to train the next generation of leaders for God’s churches.  Like Baxter, I believe that helping these men to grow in Christ and equipping them to help the people in their churches grow in Christ is the most strategic investment one can make.

Yours truly teach a seminar on Christology at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Some of you are making that investment already, helping me by becoming monthly supporters of my missionary work in Kenya.  Others have joined my support team by committing to pray for me, my work and my students.  Presently I can account for 60% of the support I need.  That means I need to come up with more than 40% before I can return to Nairobi and take up my calling there.  Would you pray about joining my support team?  In particular, I need people willing to become monthly contributors for the next two years.  Some could give $100 or more a month; some perhaps $50/month; others $25/month.  You can start right now – just follow this link to my OCMC webpage and follow the instructions when you click on the ‘support’ button at the bottom of the page:  http://www.ocmc.org/about/view_missionary.aspx?Missionaryld=41 .

With my students in remote SW Ethiopia to see first hand the situation with the churches there.

I currently need another 26 people who are willing to give $100/month if my participation in this work is to become a reality.  This seems impossible from where I stand right now.  But then every step I’ve taken over this past year has seemed impossible to me.  I’ve always known that when God calls, He also provides.  Even if I cannot fathom how.

With my students in the field (which, by the way, are white with harvest).

Thank you so much for walking with a praying me through these past months.  I actually have much to thank God for right here and now while I wait to see how God answers prayers concerning my support.  First, I was asked by our local YMCA to come back to the job from which I was downsized last year.  This has given me an income while I walk through my own season of transition.  I am thankful to God that I have the means to pay my bills.  Secondly, and most importantly, my daughter Caroline and her beau Will announced their engagement before Christmas and plan to marry on May 23 in Orlando, FL!  I am so happy for them! (And grateful to have a job so that I can do my part to cover their wedding expenses!).

One final goal for prayer:  If my support comes in this Spring, I am hoping to make my transition to Kenya after Caroline and Will’s wedding in late May/early June.  Please pray with me to this end.

Thanks so much for your support and your prayers.

Bill


Tentative Travel Schedule – Come and see me!
Feb 7, Saturday             Hilton Head Island Marathon
Feb 8, Sunday               Holy Resurrection Greek Orthodox Church, Hilton Head, SC
Feb 10, Tuesday            St. Philothea Greek Orthodox Church, Watkinsville, GA
Feb 10, Tuesday            University of Georgia, Athens, GA, Lecture
Feb 14-15, Sat-Sun        St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church, Souderton, PA
Feb 27, Friday               University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, Lecture
Mar 15, Sunday             St. Mary Orthodox Church (OCA), Falls Church, VA
Mar 27, Friday              University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, Presenter
Apr 25-26 Sat-Sun        Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Linthicum, MD
May 3, Sunday              St. Luke Orthodox Church (OCA), McLean, VA 
May 23, Saturday          Caroline and Will’s Wedding!  Orlando, FL
End of May???              Leave for Nairobi???

I am available to come and speak at your Church or your group.  Email me at jwblack@ocmc.org and we can make plans.

With my daughter Linnea after we ran the 'Marine Corps Historic Half' Half Marathon in Fredericksburg, VA last year.  The race on Saturday will be a bit longer.


Orthodox Christian Mission Center
220 Mason Manatee Way, St. Augustine, FL 32086
(877) GO FORTH (463-6784)