First group of Liberian pastors with Dan Hopkins, back row, third from left; Bob Kinzel, back row, sixth from left, Andrew Gombay, back row, far right.
A pastor took a walk …
by Dan Hopkins, Entrust pastoral care team
It all started with a walk.
It was 2017. Liberian pastor Andrew Gombay was studying at a small Bible college in Pennsylvania. One day, he took a walk. He happened to come upon a church that was blue in color and called, interestingly enough, The Blue Church. On a whim, he stopped in to ask why it had that name. (The church is built of blue limestone and had gained that name decades ago.)
The church’s pastor was my long-time best friend, Bob Kinzel. Back in seminary, Bob and I had prayed that we would be part of something only God could have credit for. Little did we know that prayer would lead to this seemingly random meeting between pastors from two continents.
Over the course of Bob’s 30 years in the pastorate, he had traveled to Moldova with Entrust’s Harvey Newton and to Ukraine alongside former Entrust staff members Mark and Kim Huffman to train pastors and church leaders.
On this day in 2017, Pastor Andrew and Pastor Bob, having just met, talked theology. Andrew shared a vision that had been growing in his heart, to train 12 Liberian pastors who in turn could train other pastors.
From that day’s conversation, something wonderful developed. Something only creditable to God.
A simple curriculum was developed with four foundational courses:
Nurturing God’s family – Covering leadership training principles from Timothy and Titus
Discovery Bible study – Giving pastors tools to preach the text rather than their own opinions, based upon the simple formula of observation, interpretation, application
New Testament survey – Working through the books of the New Testament
Old Testament survey – Working through an overview of the Old Testament, with an emphasis on how to preach the various books
In 2018, after vetting Andrew’s ministry via a trusted mutual friend (Al Baanna, who’d worked with Entrust and other international ministries for many years), Bob and I began working with 12 Liberian pastors. In 2020, we added a group of 12 pastors from Sierra Leone.
The Liberian pastors completed the fourth and final course this year, and the Sierra Leone pastors completed their third course and will wrap up next year, Lord-willing. This year, the New Testament and Old Testament Survey classes were delivered via hybrid format. The men watched a video or two, met in small groups to discuss what they heard, and then Bob and I were available near the end of each day to address questions or add perspective.
There are plans to begin with a third group of twelve next year in Guinea. A representative pastor from that nation attended this year’s classes, was quite encouraged with the potential, and is going home to promote the classes there.
In addition, course graduates have been organizing their own small groups of pastors and helping them see the value of more in-depth biblical training, leadership training and sermon preparation which honors God’s word and is true to the text of Scripture. Their goal is to meet with three to five other pastors each month to whet their appetite for further study.
Testimonies from the pastors continue to be overwhelmingly positive and affirming. We are constantly hearing that eyes are being opened to a new way of looking at the Bible and applying it to their cultural situations. From our point of view, this is a result of teaching them to read and study the Bible for themselves, through which God gives them the courage to implement the principles in their own churches and denominations. Andrew’s original vision seems to be solid and has proven transferable from one nation to another!