What Do You Talk About when . . .

November 6, 2016

It’s not very of2016_11_04-mamadou-at-gloriasten that you have an opportunity to host an African church leader to dinner.  But Sonia and I had that pleasure last Friday night.  We were rife with curiosity and questions that made it easy to converse.  Here’s some of how it went.

How much rain did they get in their region of West Africa?  You see, they are mostly farmers there, living off the land and depending on the rain for their crops.  Our group left this year just as the rains were coming.  Turns out that they had a wonderful rain in their region this year and will have a full crop of maize.  That’s the good news.  The sad news is that they lose half of their crop to the rodents after they store it in wooden bins.
Here’s a picture of how they store their grain today.  What an opportunity for some outside businessmen to provide metal storage bins that are sealed from critters and the weather!  As it stands, they just storage-bindon’t have the money to build them.

More personally, how does a young man raised as a Muslim come to surrender his life to the person of Christ and become a church leader?  Speak of transitions!  What a story it was.  Fast forward to today . . . what’s it like to be a man in a poor Muslim-dominated country trying to carve out a niche to provide a foothold for the expansion and strengthening of Christianity?  And how can those Christians, poor as they are, make significant positive contributions to the communities in which they live?  How can they build businesses that will provide for their self-reliance? 

Leave it to Sonia to ask some stimulating questions:  What’s the best part of your life in West Africa these days?  “My wife.”  What’s the worst? “Persecution.”

We talked about those things and a lot more which made the evening fly by quickly and left us inspired and full of admiration for this man.  And we learned a lot about opportunities for their growth and development, about what life is like in a place very different than Dallas, and about how God blesses those who are faithful in following Him. 

By the way, he’s seven feet tall.  


DTS Farewell

September 9, 2014

 

2014_08_27 Farewell Party

August 29, 2014 marked the end of an era for me.  So many colleagues came together for a farewell party ending nine years of service at Dallas Theological Seminary.  I was deeply touched and encouraged by the kind words expressed by everyone, but particularly my boss, Dr. Bob Garippa (center with jacket next to Sonia), my friend Dr. Terry Woodson (front row 2nd from left) and my former Intern, Robert Duckworth (in a suit, 2nd from left).   Even though leaving is a bitter-sweet experience, I am very proud of my association with DTS, first as a student from 1971-1976 to receive my ThM and now as Director of Counseling Services.  As such, I got to know a lot of students personally, probably more personally than most people get the opportunity to experience.  I will always remember taking advantage of brief times with with faculty members when I would always be armed with a pad and pen to take notes as they would answer my latest question.  What a land of giants!

Now, it’s a shift of focus.  I’ll be rebuilding my private practice (counseling at Park Cities Presbyterian Church on Oak Lawn, Dallas) and getting more involved with counseling with missionaries at home and traveling overseas. I would appreciate your referrals, particularly for marriages needing rebuilding and for individual personal issues.  I have lots of room right now!  The member care work will be with PCPC as well as East-West Ministries.  Exciting years ahead!

 


Counseling for India

September 1, 2014

Suresh 1A selfless gentleman with tremendous power to change the lives of other people presents a picture you have to experience to appreciate. I have recently met such a man. Suresh Bolem came from India to study counseling at Dallas Seminary. In a strange country (that would be us), responsible for a wife and two children, he seeks ways to make personal counseling accessible to those who have neither the money nor the time to take advantage of its benefits. I will be working with Suresh as he completes his 3,000 hours of supervised counseling experience required to get his LPC (Licenses Professional Counselor). But it won’t be all about what I can provide for him. I will be learning from him about the Indian culture in preparation for my teaching counseling to the Asian Christian Academy in January 2016. In the meantime, he needs financial support, job opportunities in the counseling field, and more connections with people in this professional community. Read his story below and see what you can do to support him.

 

I am Suresh E Bolem, a recent graduate of Masters in Biblical Counseling at DTS (Dallas Theological Seminary). My life and times are swamped with God’s grace, loaded and stamped with God’s mercy. Like Paul I say, “Whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me…” Like David I say, “Who am I Lord, what is my family that you should have brought me to this point?”

I was born in a Hindu family where multi-gods worship was ruled. Our forefathers were affluent and their income would put them distinctly in the middle class bracket. I chose to become a follower of Jesus Christ when He visited me in a special way. The world calls me a convert to Christianity. I have no problems with that, though I see my faith more as a relationship with God through Jesus Christ than as a religion. I am fiercely proud of my national identity as an Indian and I am completely at peace with my cultural identity as a Hindu. I met my wife Swarna in 1999 and we were blessed with two children (Bhuvan Tej & Nitin Tej).

I remember my faith encounter with God, it was a simple affair no miracles, no angels visiting. All I did was utter a deep human cry out to the creator God and His only son Christ Jesus. The encounter that I had shall not even attempt to understand, rationalize or explain. I simply accept Him who gave His life as a ransom for me. It is my faith. It is what I choose to believe.

It was my Mom, who was my inspiration behind my choice to serve the Lord. My mother, who used to go around the known families in our village sharing her testimony and good news about Jesus, was the inspiration for me to choose this path in my child-hood. It happened unknowingly but God out of His Sovereign-will designed my path to be His instrument.

When I accepted Jesus and repented my sins, I felt that something from another world came upon me and I knew I was totally a different person. My life took a different turn indeed a peculiar turn but a beautiful turn with Jesus in it that day in February 1998. I have experienced real joy and peace in my life through Him. The very moment I gave my life to the Lord, the meaning of God’s call into the ministry became clear to me. The reason I could understand God’s call was because I was now in right relationship with Him through Christ Jesus, the Son of God. I, then, had dedicated myself to the service of living God. Life has been wonderful as I’ve found the secret of its success thru Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

I started my M. Div., course in Southern Asia Bible College (an Assemblies of God School), Bangalore, India (in 2000), where I’ve began experiencing empowerment and infilling of the Holy Spirit. The next three years I lapped up God’s Word in a systematic form, hungrily. God used all my teachers to shape my life and ministry. During weekends, in those three years, I had a privilege to be a part of pastoral ministry at Whitehouse AG Telugu Church in Bangalore, India.

My first fulltime ministry assignment was with the Maranatha Veda Patasala (Bible School) in Hyderabad India, the year being 2003. I was called to be Bible Teacher for the Maranatha Bible School where I served as an academic dean for 3 years. I also served as an associate Pastor in Maranatha Visvasa Samajam (a Faith Community Church) in Hyderabad, where I used to lead the worship and also taught in the men fellowship. I lead a group of students to the weekend ministry, almost all parts of the state (Andhra Pradesh), for personal evangelism and preaching in open-air meetings, youth camps and conventions of churches. It helped me to understand different cultures and also got an opportunity to preach the gospel in different platforms.

I also wrote articles for Maranatha Messenger a Telugu monthly magazine, which sharpens my thoughts. Pastor Moses Choudary (Founder of Maranatha Visvasa Samajam), one of my spiritual mentors, trained me in the essentials of Christian writings. After three years of ministry with them, it became clear to me that my ministry would not be just teaching in a Bible School. So I moved out to pioneer a church and joined CBN-India an international organization for counseling ministry in the year 2006 to support the newly started church. This is entirely different and new ministry to me. God shown me people in different problems and placed me there to encourage the discouraged and despised, build the families and console the broken hearted, set captives free and to share the love of Christ. I’ve seen and observed the impact of the counseling ministry in and through the lives of the people.

God used me at different platforms of His service. It was counseling ministry that I have found God working underneath to transform the lives of the people in need. Without any counseling educational background God used me to touch many lives and that encouraged me to complete my Masters in Biblical Counseling at DTS recently.

Hope Counseling Initiative (HCI) at Colleyville Assemblies of God church is now providing mental health services and parental education by extending their service and reaching out to financially disadvantaged families, individuals including teens. Counseling is a very important service or tool used to help people to rise above their hurts and live a fulfilling life.  As a part of this service provider I see two major hurdles that have not been addressed so far. One of the common and major hindrances is COST in reaching out to people who need psychological services and counseling. On an ongoing basis many are unable to afford the growing industry cost starting between $80 – $300 per hour for counseling and psychological services. Second major hindrance for people unable to go through the help of counseling is TIME. In my limited time of experience, I have noticed people who could afford, are still unable to go for counseling due to the time factor. Before they can go for initial evaluation session they have to wait for more than a week or sometimes even several months. Addressing both the hindrances of TIME and COST for counseling and psychological services we have come up with the plan of attending to the families need beginning with the contribution from $5 per session based on house hold income and family size and we try our best in making appointments as early as possible (the main initial focus would be at Mid Cities in Dallas – DFW Metroplex). With all this said our plans will only be fruitful when you partner with HCI by supporting us financially. HCI relies on the generosity of those who understand the importance of counseling and willing to provide help to financially disadvantaged individuals and families. Without any hesitation I can say your support really does change people’s lives. I have witnessed and have been a part of change every single day and I encourage you to join HCI in changing people’s lives through your generosity.

 

I and my family [wife Swarna and Two boys Bhuvan Tej (13) and Nitin Tej (10)] are very thankful and looking forward for your partnership. I thank my God who inspires His people to extend their support to us that helping us funding to fulfill the task ahead of me. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart for your Christ-like kindness towards this ministry. Without your support it wouldn’t be possible to take such a challenging task forward to touch many lives. I pray that God would bless you and yours with thirty fold, sixty-fold and hundred-fold of blessings!

Suresh Family


Counselor to Missionaries

August 19, 2013

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“Oh, what a need for what you’re planning to do!”  That’s the typical response I hear when someone learns of an exciting new ministry I’m starting.  Technically it’s part of member care,  (Member Care is the ongoing preparation and taking care of missionaries for strong personal lives and effective ministries.)   Not that member care hasn’t already been going on, but it’s new to me.  The question I have is why aren’t there more counselors doing what I’m doing?  When I put it together in the form of a job description, I begin to understand why not.

 

Member care requires a lot of travel.

I will be taking 4-6 trips a year to various places in the world.  I like to travel and I love to get to know people in the areas where they live and work.  The trips will not include all the comforts of home but I will experience how a lot of different people manage.

 

Member care requires a lot of counseling experience.

After 37+ years of counseling, I feel pretty comfortable helping people express their concerns.  I can listen non-judgmentally while discerning deeper issues.  People who are struggling don’t need as much advise or criticism as they need encouragement and clarification of issues.  They need to see how their behaviors impact others as well as how others impact them.   Generally speaking, we tend to evaluate others on the basis of their behaviors while we evaluate ourselves on the basis of our intentions.  What a wonderful opportunity to put my experience to work in the challenging situations involving individuals, couples and groups in conflict overseas where they are feeling stressed and alone.

 

Member care requires cross-cultural flexibility.

Having taught cross-cultural counseling and providing counseling in several different countries, I’ve discovered that a lot of things that we assume to be true here in the US do no fit in other cultures.  When I was in Zanzibar, for example, I discovered that there is no word for “depression” in Swahili.  It turns out that in their interwoven corporate society, they don’t experience depression like we do.  They help each other out of their down times.  We tend to push our rugged individualism beyond the limits of our abilities to cope.  Some places respond to stories, some to small group interaction, while others to applied Bible passages.    This leads to a fourth requirement that tends to filter out a lot of people.

 

Member care requires a deep knowledge of Scripture plus training in counseling. 

What a blessing it’s been for me over the years to see the ideas taken from my PhD in counseling turn into applications of Bible truths that I learned while getting my ThM in New Testament studies at Dallas Seminary.  The Bible is truth, but sometimes it’s hard for us to understand how to apply it.  Psychology seeks to apply principles in a practical way, but isn’t always anchored in truth.  How exciting to see the truth of God show itself in cross-cultural, practical and trans-historical timeless ways.

 

Member care requires submission to the authority and structure of a mission organization.

East-West Ministries, International has been so gracious to make a place for me among their missionaries so I can work on a team.  The job that needs to be accomplished is too big for one person or a small group.  East-West Ministries has missionaries in 40 countries and their vision calls for adding 200 more missionaries in the next five years!  That will require a lot of screening, training, developing, supporting and encouraging.  My first assignment may be to train counselors in China.

 

Member care takes a lot of money.

As a missionary, I’ll need to raise financial support, both one-time gifts and regular monthly contributions to pay for one-month’s living expenses (I cut back my Dallas Seminary contract to only 11 months) and for all the trips plus administrative expenses.   Will you consider committing to a monthly contribution?  All contributions are tax-deductible.

To contribute on-line, click here.  East-West has made it very easy.

I would very much appreciate your support in this important endeavor, both in the form of prayer and finances, however large of small.  Many, many missionaries don’t make it for more than a few years because their adjustments are more than they can bear.  My hope is that my encouragement and perspective will strengthen them in continuing with the Lord’s work.

 

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Bach in Japan

March 11, 2013

No, this is not Bach.  His name is Massaki Suzuki and he’s the founder and conductor of the Bach Collegium Japan.  He is drawing huge crowds from all over Japan to his concerts.  It seems that many of these music lovers are having their first contact with Christianity through the music of Johann Sebastian Bach!  How is that?  Mr. Suzuki explains,

Masaaki Suzuki<br />photo: Marco Borggreve

“What people need in this country is hope in the Christian sense of the word, but hope is an alien idea here.  Our language does not even have an appropriate word for hope.  We either use a word meaning desire or another word meaning something unattainable.”   A professor said, “Where else in the world do you find non-Christians so engrossed in biblical texts?”

J. S. Bach died 7-28-1750

J. S. Bach died 7-28-1750

After each of his performances, non-Christians crowd around his podium to talk about topics that are normally taboo in Japanese society — death for example.  “And they inevitably ask me to explain to them what hope means to Christians.  Get’s me thinking about how I might articulate my answer to that question in an understandable way.  How would you explain what hope means to you?

According to one Japanese man’s report, “Bach gives us hope when we are afraid; he gives us courage when we despair; he comforts us when we are tired; he makes us pray when we are sad; and he makes us sing when we are full of joy.”

About three years ago, First Things published an article from which I learned about this Bach boom that’s still sweeping Japan.  It’s six pages long, but worth the read.    In it, the writer describes the bleak spiritual picture in Japan as well as the encouragement provided by Bach’s music.

Thanks to J. Marty Cope, our church’s choir director, who is organizing a tour for us to travel there this summer to sing music from Bach and Handel and old gospel hymns from America.

All this impacts me as yet another example of the impact Jesus had when he visited Planet Earth 2000 years ago sending ripples of influence on the arts and music as well as so many other influences for good.  I just finished reading John Ortberg’s book, Who Is This Man?, which shows the ongoing impact of Christ on so many ways we can live life with dignity throughout history as well as how we can be rightly related to God the Father permanently.

What an appropriate time of the year to listen to a portion of Japanese believers singing St. John Passion.


To Africa to Train Pastors in Effective Counseling

June 18, 2012

Leaving for Tanzania in 2-1/2 weeks.  In addition to teaching pastors how to meet their people’s needs through counseling, I’m preparing a men’s retreat and two Sunday sermons for an English-speaking church.   Here are some of the details.  Still needing additional financial contributions to meet expense, so if you feel moved, please send to East-West Ministries (see bottom of letter below).

 


Training, Not Just Teaching

March 22, 2012

Arthur & Olga Alard

I met an interesting couple who offer practical and effective leadership training in Africa.   Americans could learn a lot from them.

What are the chances that a Russian woman with a medical degree in Epidemiology from Moscow would meet a South African man from Cape Town and get married? Yes, they met at Dallas Theological Seminary where Olga was studying World Missions and Intercultural Studies and Arthur was studying Biblical Counseling. Now they have a three-year-old son named Pavel Arturovich Alard (Russian for, Paul son of Arthur Alard). What do people do with academic master’s degrees like these?

Arthur and Olga Alard are serving with Entrust and More Than A Mile Deep (MMD) in South Africa as missionaries.  They like to say, “We’re multiplying leaders for multiplying churches.”  The name of the organization stems from a Bible passage in 2 Timothy 2:2 which says: “And ENTRUST what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.” The problem they faced with trying to train leadership in Africa loomed large from the reputation of spreading their work over a thousand miles wide but only an inch deep. But African church leaders have named their particular ministry “More Than a Mile Deep” because they have developed a program that results in deep roots that keep on multiplying.

MMD is a unique ministry because Africans have owned the development process and training and has being managing this project from the beginning. MMD learners don’t have to leave their ministry home base to receive training. Instead, MMD trainers take the training to the church leaders in their ministry contexts and facilitate the learning process with no more than 12 church leaders per group. The group is thus a co-mentoring group. They train the first generation of church leaders and the first generation church leaders become second generation trainers.  MMD’s Educational Philosophy is called Competency Development Learning. They don’t give exams, but instead assess the portfolios of each learner during and at the end of each course, tracking the progress of the ministry competencies which the church leader has developed through his/her involvement in real life ministry contexts.

Entrust and MMD offer an internationally recognized accredited, practical and quality program in partnership with the South African Theological Seminary – SATS.  What do they teach? SATS, Entrust and MMD are working on a joint project to write a new curriculum for social transformation in Africa, from a Biblical perspective. Included are courses such as Living A Practical Christian Life, Pastoral Guidance and Counseling in HIV and AIDS, Resolving Poverty and Divisive Ethnicity, Generating Sustainable Income, and Developing Business as Mission…and many more. That strikes me as very practical.

As missionaries with Entrust in South Africa Arthur and Olga are self-supported and rely on the financial support of partners. Checks can be made payable to ENTRUST with M128 on the memo line (not their names) and mailed to Entrust, PO Box 25520, Colorado Springs, CO 80936-5520.

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