3 Takeaways from Training Pastors from a Hostile Country

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I, Kevin Halloran, serve with LRI in the Communications Department and in Latin America. I recently had the opportunity to join Bill Mills and Jeff Dryden to train leaders from a hostile country in Western Asia. 

This trip opened my eyes to how God is at work in one of the most difficult places to follow Jesus. (Our training took place in a separate, neutral country.) Here are three reasons I left this training venue extremely encouraged.

Three takeaways

1. I saw through testimonies how Christ is building His church and the gates of hell (or brutal Islamic governments) won’t prevail.

  • K* had a Muslim teacher who told him to read the Gospel of John because it “spoke of Muhammad.” K* read John, continued to read Acts and saw that Jesus was referring to the coming Holy Spirit and not Muhammad. (Read John 14 and 16 to see for yourself!) God’s Word opened K*’s eyes and he was born again.
  • A*’s fingers were cut off by the Ayatollah for stealing. He went to prison. When released, A went back to a life of theft and substance abuse. Then, Jesus appeared to him in a dream. A believer explained the gospel to him and he believed. Brother A introduced himself to me by pointing to his fingerless hand and saying (in limited English), “This is what Islam did to me.” Then a look of deep joy washed over his face. “But Jesus changed my heart.”
  • S* was a political refugee in a nearby country. In May of 2017, a car bomb blew up a government building across the street where he lived, killing many and making international headlines. After he heard the blast, he saw his wounded neighbor run into her house. S* ran to check on her and saw that she was dying of her injuries. Her final act before dying in S*’s arms was to hold out a blood-soaked Bible to him. S* opened the Bible and saw Jesus’ words “Love your enemies” scribbled on a piece of paper. Those words shined the light of the gospel into his heart darkened by the hatred of his former religion. (S* isn’t yet a pastor, but his desire to grow in Christ led him to a relationship with our partner in a neutral country.)

I could go on and on sharing testimonies because everyone had a dramatic story of conversion—you really have to since conversion is punishable by death in their home country.

2. I saw how LRI’s training is filling a strategic need.

In spite of government opposition, the church in this hostile Western Asian country is among the fastest growing in the world. One of our partners even used the terminology “Great Awakening” to describe what’s happening. While this is incredibly encouraging, it also presents a great need for pastors to be trained so they can disciple believers by teaching them God’s Word. Without a biblical grounding, false teaching and unbiblical versions of Christianity can flourish as well.

Students were greatly affected by our study of Jonah. Jonah takes readers to the compassionate heart of God who cares about not only His wayward prophet but the souls of thousands of pagans as well. Most of the trainees came from a religious background where their god is impersonal and vengeful, presenting a powerful contrast to our personal and loving heavenly Father. Here is what one leader said:

“These three days have had a very positive effect on me. I have always known that God is merciful and gracious, but it wasn’t a deep meaning in my life. I never understood it. With the tools I learned in these three days, I learned how to dig into the Word of God and make it more personal for me… Before when I was reading the Bible, I was just reading. Never thinking ‘What is the main idea? What is the message?’ I didn’t learn everything perfectly. But I can start using [the tools] to understand the word of God more.”

3. I saw a great need for prayer.

God has given us a front-row seat to see the amazing things He’s doing in this part of the world. Waiting in the airport terminal before my return flight, God reminded me of our need to pray. This amazing work isn’t done yet. It’s also vulnerable.

  • Pray with us against evil forces (human and spiritual) looking to destroy Christians and the work of the gospel.
  • Pray for new Christians to mature in the faith and their understanding of the gospel.
  • Pray for God to raise up godly and gifted pastors who are passionate at training others in the Bible and pastoring sheep without a shepherd.
  • Pray for the light and love of Christ to rescue many souls lost and depressed.
  • Pray for wisdom, shrewdness, protection, and provision for our team, partners, and the pastors we train. (Coordinating details for this venue is more complicated than usual.)

Kevin Halloran

Servant of the Word. Husband. Blogs weekly at Anchored in Christ. Content Strategist/Trainer in Latin America with Leadership Resources International.