“We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.! Ephesians 4:15-16
What does “the whole body” really mean? This refers to the whole body of which Christ is the head. We naturally think in terms that we can identify with. Christ is the head of our home, the head of our local church, or the head of our church body, but consider the whole body. The whole body of Christ has variety, color, and style with His Word at the center.
The ministry of the Orality Institute is dependent on the whole body. It depends on people from many locations and backgrounds to train their own people. It requires people from all types of situations to teach those who are also like they them. We have seen the effects of people training others from their same location or background: city classes for those who work in the city; a teacher holding a class for fellow teachers; rural farmers or housewives studying together; language specific classes, or a class at a fishing village.
People from each of those different backgrounds, locations, status, languages, and education are part of whole body. They all need to grow and build one another up so that they can become “the mature body of Him who is the head, that is Christ.” It can be a challenge for us to remember the full breadth, height, and depth of Christ’s body because we are only a narrow portion. But, if we are going to become a mature body we need each other. We need every part created by the Father, held together by the Word, and united in the Spirit.
The Clear Call
“How will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:8
We as a ministry are clarifying our notes and sounding a clear battle cry because we are seeing the Lord open astonishing doors of opportunity.
The recent trip to Malawi doubled our active ministry. Previously, we had been actively working in three countries with one ministry in each. Now there are four new ministries in Malawi that plan to train their people through the Orality Institute.
In addition to those new ministries, we received an invitation to introduce the training to the nine southern districts of the Mekane Yesus Lutheran Church in Ethiopia. The size of the ministry in Ethiopia could again double the ministry because of the sheer numbers of people that are a part of their church body.
Because of these two amazing opportunities and expansion, we need to blow the trumpet and get ready for battle. Currently, this ministry is being done by two part-time staff and we see the need for growth. Help us sound the call to get ready for the battle. This battle is the Lord’s! To help us spread this message, we have a new brochure that describes the ministry of the Orality Institute. It describes the name, oral training, our training method, the five steps, and the course content. There are answers to frequently asked questions and student testimonies. There are pictures of the ministry, the four levels of training are described, and the budget is laid out. This brochure is available in PDF format. It can be emailed, physically mailed clicked on below, or downloaded from our website. We are ready to bring God’s Word to every place that He provides.
“Now to him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, beyond all we could ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!Ephesians 3:20-21
This trip to Malawi would have been very successful if we had trained 25 people in each of the four ministries of the Prison Fellowship Chaplains, Bread of Life churches, Word of Grace churches, and Iris Africa Bible School. However, the Lord doesn’t do things by our expectations very often.
Instead of 100, we had 152 students, instead of 4 ministries, there were six. The three Ugandans communicated in an African style. Michael Rokenbrodt brought the drama and the animation alive. The 150 printed books in Chechewa gave them a tool that they can use to begin classes. The six ministry boards become the structure that they need to oversee the students, the teachers, and the grades. The new Orality Institute Board of Malawi will be the unifying piece that will connect these various ministries. That is exceedingly abundantly beyond all we could ask or imagine.
Tamrat Tadele, from the Ethiopian Mekane Yesus church body was able to attend at the last minute. He wanted to see if this would be useful for his seminary and Bible School in Hawasa, Ethiopia. He said, “Now I realize that you can’t understand it until you see it. He has already extended an invitation to Michael, and two of the Ugandan teachers to train their 100 students as well as introduce the training to the nine districts of the Lutheran churches in southern Ethiopia. That is exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we could ask or imagine.
Evidence of Grace
“The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” Acts 11:21-23
What does grace look like? Barnabas saw it when he reached Antioch, and we saw it when we reached Malawi. We saw a deep hunger for the Word of God, an excitement for memorizing it, and creativity with how they might share it.
One week after the training, Brian Kondowe, the head of the prison chaplains in Malawi, told me that he had already started a class in his church and had started teaching his family following the same method we use in class. Chris from the Bread of Life churches found a new love for the Psalms because of the lesson on “God the Father” from Psalm 103. Jaz from the Iris Africa Bible College goes out every weekend leading evangelism events. He started using this oral teaching method the day after the training was finished. Isaac leads a youth ministry. He was unable to attend the training but he wanted to learn how he could use this method, so he asked Sam to teach him. Sam leads a kids club on Thursday afternoons with between 700-800 children from his village.
The grace of God is seen when 75 rural pastors come for training Tuesday through Friday, then ask if our team would teach on Saturday also. Then they attended a four-hour worship service on Sunday and waited for another seminar on Tuesday, every night they were sleeping on a cement floor. God’s grace is seen when he allows us, simple people, the privilege of being a part of this great work He is doing in the lives of these His people.
“For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”” Luke 1:37-38
Have you ever thought, “I am in over my head?” I find myself in that situation every time I go to another country to teach God’s Word in a language that I don’t speak to a culture that I don’t understand. This trip to Malawi has multiplied my feeling of dependence on the Lord. Thank you for praying for this ministry and this large open door before us.
This trip will be the largest endeavor that we have ever organized. We will be preparing four separate ministries to train their own people at the same time. Two trainings will be happening during the first week and two additional ones the second week. There will be four teachers arriving from Uganda, two will oversee one class, and the other two a simultaneous class. The second week, two new ministries will be trained. Each of these classes will have 25 students who will be trained to lead a class of their own. At the end of the two weeks, there will be potentially 100 leaders prepared to lead their own two-year discipleship class!
The goal in all our training is to teach nationals to oversee the training of their own people. The Holy Spirit makes it possible to entrust this oral strategy of education of God’s Word. We are excited to see the Orality leaders from Uganda being used as missionaries to those in Malawi and we are excited that the first book of our Orality Institute curriculum has been printed for these new students in their language.
This multi-layered training has been paid for through the Hike and Bike fundraiser and generous doners. Keep us in prayer for this ministry opportunity.
Dependent on Prayer
April 18th – Leave for Malawi
April 19th – Arrive in Lilongwe and drive to Hippo Lodge (32 hours later)
April 20th – Two classes begin at Prison Fellowship International in Balaka
25 Prison Chaplains under Rodrick
25 Bread of Life pastors under Pastor Watson
April 23rd – First two classes end
April 24th – Worship with Watson
April 25th – Three of us will travel to Bangula in southern Malawi
April 26th – Two classes begin
25 Grace Bible pastors in Bimbi under Pastor Moses
You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
The only thing that seems clear right now is uncertainty. James speaks to us regarding the unknown and maybe we need that same message today when we hear of wars and rumors of wars.
During these past years, we have enjoyed relative international stability. Travel to various parts of the world has been feasible, communication has been possible, and health concerns could be managed. The past two years have reminded us that we do not know what tomorrow will bring, and it reminds us that teaching people to train their own people is the model that can meet people in their own situations and adjust to our changing world.
We continue to go forward with our plans for training in Malawi in April. The war in Ukraine and its effect on the rest of the world reminds us that “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or do that.” We have seen the Lord’s will in causing an interest in the training and a hunger for God’s Word. We have seen His will by providing ministry partners who want to train their people. Now, we watch for His timing.
To train people well and to use our time effectively we plan two months in advance. That allows ministries on the receiving end to prepare their people and their schedules. It helps us make reservations, budget, and coordinate details. At the same time, we trust in the Lord for open doors for His Word.
Join us in prayer for the people of Ukraine, training in Malawi, and for the Lord’s will as we live in this earthly kingdom.
Come, behold the works of the Lord…He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:8-10
We can easily get distracted by the things in our world and our earthly kingdom, but our perspective changes when we stop and look at things from the perspective of God’s kingdom. Stop for a moment and consider God’s kingdom. Where is it? What does it look like? God’s kingdom is wherever God is King. The Bible tells us about His heavenly kingdom, and it tells us about His kingdom in the lives of those who look to Him as King. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The whole purpose of the Orality Institute is to bring the Good News of God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” The lives of those who have been touched by God’s kingdom look as different from this world as light compares to the darkness.
Namayonjo Ruth took the training in Uganda because she saw a change in her husband’s life. He had been a pastor, yet she said, “This training has changed his life. I can see it in his character, his knowledge, and his ministry.” Their 17-year-old son Peter said that now their home had joy. Before it didn’t have joy, but now there was happiness. Peter himself used the Word that had been shared in their family to battle witchcraft that he saw at school.
The Kingdom of God shines through His people whenever and wherever they let His light shine out from their lives. They reflect His work and they exalt Him among the nations.
I intend to pass through Macedonia, (Malawi?)… for a wide door for effective work has opened to me.
1 Corinthians 16:5,9
In 2019, the Orality Institute was invited to introduce oral training to pastors from Grace Bible Churches and to prison chaplains from Prison Fellowship of Malawi. Both groups that were trained during that week were thrilled with this new method they could use to train their people in God’s Word. Since that time, Bread of Life Churches based out of Balaka, in central Malawi, and Iris Africa Bible School in Bangula, southern Malawi, asked for this training for their people.
The desire for oral training has grown in Malawi but the challenge of leading that training from the U.S. is significant. Since the emphasis of this ministry is discipleship, it made sense to prepare our experienced Ugandan leaders to oversee the work in Malawi. The work in Uganda has matured to the point where there are 9 zones each with teachers, classes, and an oversight committee. Now those who have set up the training structure in Uganda can replicate into these four new ministries in Malawi. The idea of Ugandans training leaders in Malawi makes sense culturally, financially, and biblically.
It is exciting to watch the multiplication of people transformed by God’s Word expand to this international level. The first book of the oral curriculum was translated into Chichewa for use in Malawi during 2020 and the second book is in progress. Last October, we held a Hike and Bike fundraiser for this trip to Malawi, which raised $12,333. As we began putting together a detailed budget, we realized that the cost will be $17,000 because of the higher costs in Malawi, the 4 different ministries, and the expense of bringing teachers from Uganda.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ. Colossians 4:2-3
An essential component to success in missions is flexibility. There are always unexpected events that cause plans to change. In 2020, all of our plans had to change because of the virus. Training in Malawi was scheduled for September 2021, but with the Malawi border closed that training was re-scheduled for February. When the U.S. canceled travel to eight southern Africa countries, plans were changed again to do the training over Zoom and testing was done to make sure that it was possible. When the travel restrictions relaxed, the training was again scheduled for in person.
Tickets were purchased, visas applied for, and then Cyclone Ana hit on January 26th. Ana dumped so much water on Malawi that roads were cut off, bridges were wrecked, and homes were destroyed. In the days following, electricity, food, clean water, and essential supplies all became scarce. Instead of preparing to host visitors, everyone’s attention turned to helping those in crises from southern Malawi. Please join us in prayer for these brothers and sisters and their needs.
The training is still needed and still being requested by the four ministries in Malawi. The dates have now been changed to April 18th – May 5th, but it is very clear that we need to remain flexible even as we go forward. The Lord knows when we come and when we go. It is His work that we are doing, and it is His Word that we are proclaiming. Join us in prayer as we watch and wait for God’s timing.
How easy planning would be if we had an answer to that one simple question, and then Jesus says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
As I write this, the Orality Institute Board is considering the decision of whether to travel to Malawi, or train over Zoom. This trip has been on and off several times because of the virus. Training for three ministries, in different locations, with multiple teachers, from two countries takes time to coordinate in order for everything to run smoothly.
We want everything to go well and to use our time wisely, so our response is to plan out the details and the back up plans. But there are things that we just cannot control, especially when it comes to international travel. Maybe in the past we thought we had control even though we were dependent on the Lord for everything. Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26
For now, we plan a February 21st – March 11th trip, trusting that the Lord will work out details that we cannot see and cannot control. We go forward, knowing that He has called us to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” We keep in view this year, that God is in control, that He loves us, and that He is working out everything for His purpose and His glory. These past two years have reminded us again that training nationals to train their own people is the only way that the Word of God will reach the nations. When disciples start making disciples the result is multiplication and we need to empower others to carry on the ministry regardless of whether we can return. That is what Jesus taught His disciples when He was returning to heaven and looking into the future.
A Year in Review
When we take time to look back at what God has done, it can give us clarity on how we should proceed forward.
It is encouraging, amazing, and humbling to see all the ways that the Lord has been at work when His Word has been taught around the world.
In Uganda, we had three graduations, eight zonal meetings, and two board meetings. Each graduation and every zonal meeting was filled with excitement and anticipation. Pictured above are just the teachers from the Kamuli zone. How encouraging to see former students who want to see the Kingdom of God grow and are willing to give of themselves to teach others.
In the Dominican Republic, it was amazing to hear of how the unruly youth from an immigrant community were affected by the training and they began to talk about God in their school classroom. Their teacher was so amazed at the change in her students that she went to observe these classes for herself. The parents also noticed a change in their own kids, and they began attending the classes to learn the stories. News of this transformation began spreading among the members of the community and among the pastors.
In the Baja of Mexico, it was humbling to meet eight students from classes taught three years earlier. Three of them were working with students in the orphanage, three in the Bible College, one is a local pastor, and one a church member. All eight of them had continued to teach others using the oral strategy that they had learned.
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11