Since moving to Oregon from Kansas a few months ago, we are routinely asked this question. I will try and briefly given an answer:
For the last fourteen years, I have had the wonderful privilege of pastoring a local church in Clay Center, KS (no, I am not related to the founder, and the fact that there are two parallel “Grant” and “Clay” streets near downtown is purely coincidental – other than the fact that God humorously used all these “coincidences” to confirm our calling to go there in the first place. But that’s another story for another time). However, since becoming a Christian in my teen years, my desire has been to somehow serve God in the areas of world missions and academic teaching. However, since most academicians are in colleges and universities teaching, and most missionaries are serving in some far-flung place overseas, I couldn’t quite figure out how these two seemingly competing callings might actually come together in a single vocation. So what was I to do?
Enter June of 2018: A friend and fellow minister and I had the privilege of going on a mission trip to Kenya with Pastor Stan Myers from Emmanuel Bible Church in Salem, OR. Stan and another elder had developed a curriculum for growing leaders within their church called Equipping Leaders for a Lifetime of Service (ELLS). This two-year course aims at grounding people in the basic doctrines of the Christian faith and equipping them to effectively minister to others (be it teaching a bible study, discipling a new believer, etc.). However, having previously served in Africa as a missionary and seeing first-hand the desperate need pastors in the developing world have for more theological training, God gave Stan a vision for expanding the ministry of ELLS beyond his local church to reach out and equip pastors serving in remote parts of the world. In 2011, ELLS International was officially formed and has thus far already trained over 40,000 pastors in six regions throughout Kenya and Uganda.
All this to say, my trip to Kenya was total mind blow. For the first time in my life, I saw how my desire to teach the Bible and passion for world missions could actually come together and meet one of the most urgent needs in the world today: the training and equipping of pastors in the developing world to effectively teach the word of God and shepherd their churches. And so through a series of providential occurrences (again, another long story I will save for another time), God lead me to resign my pastorate and lead our family across the U.S. to become part of this new and growing missions organization.
So, to answer the question posed at the beginning: What is ELLS International and why did we move all the way from Kansas to Oregon? Simple: to spend our lives carrying out the critical mission of ELLS International, namely, strengthening the global church by training leaders in the developing world.
For us, there is no higher calling. For by equipping pastors in the developing world, we believe we are preparing the future servants through whom Christ will fulfill His “Great Commission” to His church (Matt. 28:16-20). We would love for you to partner with us in this great work!
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