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Esther’s Story

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Esther and her family, pictured above with Rich

Dasenich, where Esther grew up, is a violent region with a harsh climate. The people often suffer from hunger. During one of these times of famine, when Esther was young, her mother died in childbirth, and her father abandoned her, her sister, and her brother. Esther provided for her siblings by working for an evangelist who worked in the area, cleaning his house and making food for him, and in return he gave them room and board.

Soon, Esther, her sister and brother became Christians. The people in the region where they live detest Christians. Esther said that they will often try to beat a person until they recant their faith. They don’t intentionally kill people, but if the person dies, they do not care.

Already considered outcasts by their community because of their fathers’ abandonment, Esther and her siblings were shunned also because of their new faith. Esther and her sister were outcasts on another level as well. The community has a custom– when a girl reaches 13 or 14 years of age, they perform female genital mutilation, and marry her off. Because Esther and her sister did not have a parent to facilitate this, they did not go through this cultural rite. Their community considered them unfit for marriage.

However, when another young man from their village became a Christian, he and Esther’s sister married. This young man owned 7 goats, and these goats became the little family’s lifeline. They could sell milk from the goats and provide for themselves.

Esther did not feel called to marry yet. Although custom dictated that girls marry at 13 or 14, she wanted to continue school, and she did. At 14, she was called by God to be an evangelist, and would go after school to speak about the word of God to her community, risking beating and death. The villagers did beat Esther at first, but later, often something happened to distract or prevent them from carrying out their plans.

Soon, Esther’s sister became pregnant. Everyone in the village expected her to die in childbirth, because she did not carry out the cultural ritual of shaving her head during her pregnancy. She did not die, and had a very healthy baby! Still, the villagers waited, expecting someone in her family to die as a result. But instead, they watched as God blessed Esther and her family and gave them more than enough food and provision. They began to wonder about this God who had protected and provided for Esther and her family.

Eventually, the aging evangelist that Esther had worked for left the region, but he connected her to a church that began supporting her in her work. Esther married a young man who had become a Christian as a result of her evangelism, and had a baby at 16, having completed 8th grade. Despite her increased work and family responsibilities, Esther continued working as an evangelist.

Then, Esther’s father came home. The community despised him for abandoning his family, and he was too afraid to go and see Esther and her brother and sister, so he lived at his sister’s house, and hid from them. When they heard of this, they went to him. First, her sister, and then Esther, invited him into their homes and forgave him. He now lives with them, and has became a Christian also.

Today, Esther is 20, with a four-year-old son, and has led over forty people in her region to Christ!

When she came to the conference to be trained this year, Eyasu and Rich were immediately impressed by her intelligence and dedication. She is fluent in local languages as well as Amheric, and translated the entire week of training for the other workers from her region. Eyasu is excited about her, as the denomination has an extremely hard time recruiting evangelists to go to Dasenich at all, and their success rate is very low. Esther is called, passionate, uniquely equipped as a native of the area, and already seeing the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in her life in her community.

We will continue to update you as we hear from Eyasu how Esther’s work is going now that she has received training! Please pray for her, as she continues to work in a region where few people will go.

To support the training of people like Esther, click here! 

Richard GardnerEsther’s Story
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Equipping the Church through Follow-up Materials

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This pastor was trained last year through FFICM’s outreach in Niger. He testified that this training was unlike any other that he had ever experienced. He said that these materials are exactly what they need, and better than all other gifts that they have ever received, even clothing and food. He said that clothing, when you use it, becomes old, but these materials, and the fruit that will come from them will stand the test of time. To hear his testimony in his own words, click here!

To donate $20 to provide materials for a hundred people in follow-up classes, either send a check to FFICM and write in “follow-up materials”, or donate online, and send Dara an e-mail at daravgardner@gmail.com with a note as to how you would like your funds to be used!

Richard GardnerEquipping the Church through Follow-up Materials
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Faithful Trainees and the Work of the Lord

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This is Abraham, he was trained at our most recent training in Butajira. He served in the local church for 12 years before becoming the missions department head of 1,307 local churches in the largest evangelical denomination in Ethiopia! He told us that the thing that makes FFICM’s training unique is that it is very practical–you can take what you have learned and immediately put it into use. He believes that this training will make it much easier for them to be successful in ministry. It is his goal to train all 1,307 local pastors in evangelism and follow-up. He is also in charge of equipping missions and witnessing groups that meet four times a year to go out and evangelize. He wants to train all of these groups as well, and encourage them to train others! He has many more plans for the training and those who work with him. May God bless his work.

For his full testimony about the training and his plans, click here, and for his brief, heartfelt thank-you and invitation click here!

To donate to send a trainee to a training in Nigeria or Ethiopia, you can either send a check to FFICM, and write “send trainee” in the description, or you can donate online and send Dara a note as to how you would like to designate your funds at daravgardner@gmail.com!

Richard GardnerFaithful Trainees and the Work of the Lord
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Supporting our trainees with additional training and encouragement

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Throughout the year, FFICM sends our staff members that work within countries like Nigeria and Ethiopia on trips to check on the trainees that have come to the larger sessions. Intra-country trips like this cost around $250 and are vital for encouraging and supporting the trainees as they carry out their ministry! The FFICM staff members meet with the trainees to find out what has happened since they left, see if they need any further explanation of the materials, give them additional training and encouragement, and provide more materials as needed.

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Recently, Eyasu went on a trip to check on the trainees from Jimma, Butajira, and Wolega (Nekemte and Dembidolo). He found that in the Jimma area there are 234 new disciples as a result of the work of the trainees, in Butajira, 199, and in Wolega 284 for a total of 717 new disciples. In the Wolega area, four new churches have also been planted! This information is crucial for FFICM to know, so that we may know better how to schedule further trainings, and to ask how we may continue to support the workers who are dealing with so many new disciples at once!

If you would like to support an intra-country trip, you can send a check with “Intra-Country Trip” in the description, or you can donate online and send a note to Dara at daravgardner@gmail.com.

Praise the Lord for His work in Ethiopia and Nigeria!

Richard GardnerSupporting our trainees with additional training and encouragement
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Open up a Country: FFICM’s work in Siberia, Cameroon, and Niger

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In Siberia, it is illegal to invite people to church. Roman has developed an innovative strategy to reach the local people for the gospel. The economy is so poor in Siberia, people rarely can afford to go out to dinner. In one area that Rich visited, which was home to about 20,000 people, Rich only saw one restaurant! Roman invites groups of about 60 to come to dinner for free and hear a gospel presentation. People are grateful for the hospitality, and are more than willing to hear what he has to say. 

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Roman was trained in follow-up by Rich last year, and has been training church leaders how to follow-up new believers. However, there is currently not a link between his evangelistic efforts and his follow-up training, as he cannot invite those who receive Christ at the dinner to come to church. Rich would like to obtain a religious visa (so that he can teach) and take a trip to Siberia this coming year to join Roman in his evangelistic effort, train the local believers and church leaders in follow-up, and also develop with Roman a plan to follow-up with the new believers that result from his evangelistic outreaches.

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FFICM’s idea at this point is to have a follow-up meal for those who have received Christ the next day, perhaps a lunch or breakfast, and begin going over follow-up materials. It only costs roughly $2 a person to provide these meals, and it will be easier to emphasize the importance of meeting with other believers in the follow-up meeting without extending a direct invitation to church (which would be illegal).

If you feel called to donate particularly to FFICM’s efforts to open up Siberia, send a check, and write in “Open up Siberia” in your check’s description! Or visit our Donate page and send a quick line to daravgardner@gmail.com after making the donation as to how you would like your funds to be directed!

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FFICM is also planning a trip to Cameroon. The Cameroonian leaders from Baminda have begged FFICM to come, and have made all of the necessary plans and preparations. The plan is to have a week long pre-training in Nigeria to help develop the Nigerian trainers as leaders so they can run some of the training and continue to resource Cameroon afterwards. Then, the team will drive to Cameroon and do a two-week training in Baminda to train 80-100 evangelists, pastors, and church leaders!

If you would like to donate to the effort to open up Cameroon you can either send in a check and write “Open up Cameroon” in the description, or visit our Donate page and send a note to Dara at daravgardner@gmail.com.

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Lastly, FFICM is looking to expand in Niger! If you’ll remember, this year we trained almost a hundred evangelists and lay leaders. Our plan for 2017 is to send one of our workers up from Nigeria (Sunny, a dedicated worker who we’ve recently hired to be our logistics point person in Nigeria and the surrounding countries!) Sunny will meet with the trainees from the last training, find out how they are doing, and strategize with them what would be the best area in which to hold a training. He will find out which area is in the most need, has the most committed workers etc. We will then hold a training in Niger, by the Lord’s grace, in 2017.

If you would like to donate to the effort to open up Niger you can either send in a check and write “Open up Niger” in the description, or visit our Donate page and send a note to Dara at daravgardner@gmail.com!

Richard GardnerOpen up a Country: FFICM’s work in Siberia, Cameroon, and Niger
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The end of the Butajira training!

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The Butajira training has ended! The trainees were excellent and dedicated workers in class and outside of class, meeting together to strategize how best to reach Ethiopia for Christ.

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They worshipped and prayed together, encouraging one another in the work that they have before them.

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They also sharpened each another as they learned to follow-up new believers, as part of the training they practiced on one another after which they received guidance from the trainers and the other trainees!

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Our trainers were greatly encouraged by working with these Ethiopian leaders, and we eagerly anticipate hearing from them as they train the thousands of Christians that they are responsible for in evangelism and follow-up!

(Pictured: Eskendir, Endeshaw, Eyasu, Rich, Carl Palmer, and Peter Wash)

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Thank you for your prayers!

 

Richard GardnerThe end of the Butajira training!
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Four more evangelists join the training

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Here are four of the women evangelist who were able to join the training. Two of them are in very difficult regions, and we’ve concealed the face of one who is facing intense persecution. Amiletu is on the far right. She wanted to be trained before but couldn’t make it. We invited her to this training, but she was away from communication. We tracked her down and she and her husband came on Wednesday. We made sure we took the time to go over all of the material they had missed. They are now on track with the rest of the group! Please pray for her and her husband as they seek God where to be assigned, and for the delivery of their first child in a few months. 

Richard GardnerFour more evangelists join the training
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Peter’s report from mid-October Nigeria training!

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In mid-October Firm Foundation in Christ Ministries travelled to Taraba state in collaboration with New Life For All in Taraba State to do a training. We were initially scheduled to go to the Mambila plateau (Gembu) Area but they could not mobilize their people to come for the seminar in time, so the training was shifted to Bali area. The Bali area is ripe with need for the gospel, as we saw when we went out for the field practical—there was a lot of drunkenness, immorality, traditional worship, and more.  This is one of the local government areas where people are still unclothed and steeped in traditional worship. This is one of the target areas for the outreach next year that will be run for New Life For All.

On the first morning of the training we had over sixty people registered, but by evening we had over seventy. On the second day, even more people came and we ended up with about ninety people in training.

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The field practicals are powerful times where we get to see how God uses ordinary women and men to reach people for the gospel. Rich Cordell taught the trainees in the personal sessions about how God uses ordinary people, and encouraged them to remember that we are working with God not working for God. At the end of the training a woman came forward and gave testimony as to how God had used the personal sessions to change her perspective about her children and the people that are under her.

We then went out for the practical and spoke with a Muslim who said that no Christians had yet come to preach to them like we were doing, and that this is why they have so many problems in their society. In another drinking joint, we met a man who said that he would not have continued drinking in the past, if someone had come to speak to him directly about his problem, as we were doing now. We witnessed to more than 70 people of which more than 20 gave their lives to Christ.

The people that we had witnessed to began inviting others to come and listen to us when we went for the field practicals. At one house in the village, one of our groups met two women. One was not from that compound, and invited them to come the following day to her house. When they came, she had already invited four other women to come and listen to the gospel. So, instead of sharing the follow-up materials with her, they started again from the beginning with the gospel card. All four women prayed to received Christ!

The class sessions were a wonderful time for spiritual nourishment, where both pastors and evangelists were sharpened for their work. One week after the training a pastor called Joshua sent a text to tell me how transformed he was as a result of the program.

At the closing ceremony we came up with a strategic plan where we discussed the total population of the two dominant local government areas. We estimated the population to be 80,000 people, of which 20,000 may be members of a church. Out of the 20,000 Christians, perhaps 10,000 thousand are true Christians. One of the evangelists said at the closing ceremony, “I thank God and these organizations for helping me to be a true Christian, bound for heaven. Before coming to this seminar, I was not a Christian at all. I had not truly given my life to Christ, and nobody had ever followed-up with me. I had no assurance that I would make it if Jesus was to come.” He added, “I am a politician that knows how to convince others. I pray that I may now use my gift to convince people to come to faith in Jesus.”

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Sarah also testified that she was not planning on coming, but had come because her friend insisted. She said, “I was thinking that I would not be able to stay in the program because of a sickness that I am suffering from, but since I came, I have forgotten that I was sick and that I was thinking of going home. I stayed throughout the whole five days and I even went out to preach the gospel, which is something that I had never thought I will be able to do. I did not feel the sickness that I use to fear before. I went home and shared the gospel card with my husband, who then said, ‘If this is what you are going to church for, then you can keep on going!’” She also said, “I was waiting to see what kind of special food they would serve the white man among us, but he takes up his own plate and gets his own food which is something that our ‘leaders’ here will never do. And if one of us has a need to ask anything from the trainers, they all respond with smiles and we do not feel looked down on. This humility has touched me and has taught me that I need to be humble too.”

We then moved on Jalingo after the closing ceremonies in the Bali aria, to continue the training which was scheduled to be conducted for the United Methodist Church of Nigeria (UMCN), churches within the area. The turn-out was very poor, we were expecting 120 people but on the first day only less than ten people showed up and were not focused exclusively on the program (they often went out to conduct personal business.) We stayed because we were to stay again there for the next week to go to another zone, if not we would have had to cancel the next program as well.

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We also decided to stay, because the masters students from Gindiri College of Theology all came, including their lecturer. They are studying missions and evangelism. Two of them, the deputy provost’s wife, and their lecturer (who is the registrar of the school) now wants to invite our ministry to their school to train all of the students how to witness and how to follow-up new believers. They are excited to about this, because our training will give their students the basic principles as to how to build up new believers from the beginning of their faith.

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Another person for whose sake we stayed, was this reverend pictured above. He is the pastor of the venue we used. He has more than 2000 people in his congregations, but he forfeited all other engagements and stayed for the training throughout. He even went out witnessing to a Catholic house where he knew that they knew about Jesus but they they did not have a personal relationship with him. So the pastor and Rick went and witnessed to the five children as well, and all prayed to receive Christ. The youngest, who was six, was sick, but insisted on reading the John 3:16 verse. She did it perfectly! They invited Rick and the pastor to come for follow-up training, and they witnessed to the next house as well. As a result of that, the family offered to prepare lunch for all 13 people from the training.

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During the closing ceremony, a trainee named Geoffrey said, “I have preached to people before, some of whom have even gone to Bible schools, but I did not follow-up with any of them. It was the grace of God that some survived to stand in the faith. But what I have learned in this training is that, ‘I will never give birth to new babies and abandon them by the roadside.’ I have learned how to continue on to build up their faith.” Evan Zebedee said, “I did not understood how to approach Muslims in my preaching, but through the use of this gospel card I even tried it with a friend of mine who is a Muslim and it was successful.”  Daniel Sale said, “I have learned a new way to approach unbelievers now. I used to think, ‘The fish that is already in the net does not need to be cared for,’ but now I know how to care for new believers.” Another trainee said that he used to be of the opinion that Christians need our time so much that we don’t have time for the unreached. This training had opened his eyes to the need for witnessing, and had showed him how to start building up leaders in the church to help do the work.

We then moved on to Takum. The participants were to come from the two largest denominations in the area, the Christian Reformed Church in Nigeria, and the Reformed Church of Christ in the Nations. One of the signs that this would be a successful training was that on Sunday, when we visited the church, the choir that sang included many from other denominations—they had great unity among the Christians of this area. We started with over 70 people registered, and the number increased to over 90 on the second day. They all went out together for field work. Even the President and the General Secretary of the CRCN came for the training and field work, which motivated all the pastors that were nominated to come.

They have all agreed that now that they have received this training they need to begin praying as a team in order to plan how to reach the people here in Taraba, especially the ones that are still traditionalists and have not heard the gospel at all. They have learned through the training that when they work together as a team irrespective of their denominational differences, they can accomplish much for the gospel.

The biggest challenge in the other areas is that there are serious divisions in the churches which makes it difficult for the Church to come together. This was what caused the training in Jalingo to have such a poor turn-out. Secondly, the Muslims in the area are developing a strategy to bribe Christian women with money and marriage in order to convert them. We need to pray for their protection. We also need to train more people who will be able to handle the new converts as the New Life For all will be coming in the next year to Taraba for an outreach to villages!

Richard GardnerPeter’s report from mid-October Nigeria training!
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Training continues in Arbamich

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Everyone is having a great time at the training! The family pictured with me is the family of a 20 year old evangelist–she has a four year old boy and lives in a violent area. Her brother, sisters and cousin (gathered with us) have already suffered a lot for their decision to follow Christ.

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The trainees are enthusiastic and joyful despite the many hardships they have faced! It is a privilege to teach them.

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Richard GardnerTraining continues in Arbamich
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Beginning teaching in Arbamich

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We started training 64 evangelists Monday. Some of them walked 2-3 days for the training. They work in un-evangelized areas where some of the tribes fight and kill each other. We have native evangelists from those tribes attending–in Christ they have peace with one another.

Richard GardnerBeginning teaching in Arbamich
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Arrived in Arbamich

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My colleague Carl Palmer doing an exploding fist bump during a travel break to Arba Minch. We were told it was a 6-hour drive was 11 hours. In a few hours we will begin training 60 evangelists the least of which traveled 120 miles from their “bush”-station locations. Please pray for all of us.

Richard GardnerArrived in Arbamich
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Nigeria conference and on to Niger

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Hello Everyone!

Rich, Peter, Carl, Stephen, Rick, and their faithful co-workers have had an amazing trip this past two weeks. They want you to know your prayers are greatly appreciated, and that God has moved in unprecedented ways.

They started off, as you know, by teaching at the Forum for Nigerian Evangelists. It was an incredibly encouraging and powerful time with some of Nigeria’s most influential evangelists.

The team moved on and I received this note from Rich:
Greetings,
This conference was the largest and best ever in terms of impact. People really responded to the messages. The conference had been fraught with technical problems from the beginning but God overcame them all. In addition to two speakers dropping out a few weeks ago, the biggest issue was that three days before the start of the conference the manager of the venue cancelled our booking. Nuhu (the leader of New Life for All) had to work very quickly. There were people coming from all over Nigeria and some from Cameroon. He had to redirect them to the new site, which is the one we used last year.
We were only expecting 700 people this year because of the economy. The Nigerian Naira has lost half of its value in the past year. Nuhu only received that many registration. Now with the change of venue to a place that people had to sleep outside we thought only 500-600 would show up instead of the usual 3,000.
But we all were amazed that even with the change of venue at the last minute, well over 3,000 attended! There is a large tent outside holding hundreds more. Not only that but people responded very enthusiastically to the messages. It was awesome to witness and be a part of. I have not experienced such a reception before.
Rich ended up speaking more than he anticipated–he filled in for one additional session, and also taught a “small” break-out session for 600:
Then, the team made the dangerous journey up to Niger. Thank God, they made it to Niger safely!
We have had no verbal updates from them, but we’ve received a few pictures, and we are all eagerly anticipating hearing how the Lord moved in Niger.
Please pray for Rich and the team as they make the journey down from Niger on Saturday!
Please also pray– Rich had a surprise opportunity come up–on Rich’s layover in Paris, he will be meeting with a French pastor and his wife that he made contact with on a trip to the East Coast. He has changed his ticket so he can spend two days with them, preaching to their congregation and teaching the leaders about follow-up. Praise the Lord for this opportunity! Rich will now be flying back to the US on Tuesday.

Thank you for your unwavering support, and for participating so faithfully in prayer in this good work of the Lord’s!

In Christ our Lord,

Dara Searcy-Gardner
 Director of Communication
FFICM
Richard GardnerNigeria conference and on to Niger
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In Nigeria

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Greetings everyone!
The response to the teaching on follow-up here at the Forum for Nigerian Evangelists has been great!  The evangelists and leaders said that they have never been taught like this before. One woman evangelist went home and said to her husband (who told me the next day) “Why does Rich have to be so insistent that it is only faith in Jesus Christ that saves you? Don’t our works count for anything towards that? He was so adamant that it is only the sacrifice of Jesus that pays for sins. We have not been taught this in our church.” The woman’s husband said to her, “What he is saying is true. Works are a result of our saved life, but only the cross pays for sins.”
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We had lively discussion all throughout the teaching, and similar questions in reaction to all our statements. How can we know our sins are forgiven? How can one man’s death pay for it all? There was much joy after the classes, and people kept saying, “We are not taught like that in our churches.” They asked for the full training later in the year in all their areas. One man has many evangelists under his leadership and wants them all trained. They asked for more materials so that they can teach those they lead to Christ as well as their own church members.
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I am joyful! We are so happy people are accepting the message of grace and faith and are willing to share it with others.
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We didn’t have any problems driving up from Jos. We joked together that we all saw a sign on the road with a clock pointing to 4 saying,” We are away for breakfast and family duties. We will return at 4 pm sharp —signed, Armed Robbers.
However, in all seriousness, a pastor was killed on the road to Mangu last week by armed robbers. It was
about 6pm when it happened. So keep praying…
Richard GardnerIn Nigeria
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Rich (continued)

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700 converts in one meeting, not one of whom remained in the faith…

making JF 1In 2001, Rich and Janice Gardner partnered with the Great Commission Movement to dub the Jesus Film for the Afizere people of Nigeria in their native language. Teams from America came to Nigeria to help show the film in 40 villages in 10 days. The impact seemed to be tremendous. Four thousand people made decisions for Christ. In one village alone, 700 people had come forward.

A month later, Rich returned to this village to see how all the new believers were doing–anticipating that the churches would be full to bursting. He went around the village and asked at every church. He could not find a single convert from the Jesus film showing. He asked the pastors if any of the new believers had been followed up with, and they said no.Watching JF

Rich was grieved and wondered, “What have I done? Will they be less likely to respond to the gospel ever again because they will say, ‘I tried that, and it doesn’t work.’” Rich vowed to never again show the Jesus film without a plan to follow-up new believers.

jesus film showingRich and Janice partnered with Bitrus Dasar from Great Commission Movement, who had also become disillusioned by showing the Jesus Film without an effective follow-up plan. He had seen situations where after they had shown the film in a village three times and had many commit their lives to Jesus…later they could not find even one disciple. 

They decided to show the film again, but this time they trained hundreds of workers from many denominations in follow-up, and picked 52 of their best workers to be in charge of each village where they would show the film. The workers were to meet with the new believers in groups twice a week to help them understand their new faith, for as long as was needed to help them transition into the local congregations where they could receive further discipleship and support. This time there were 5,800 people in classes, and they started ten new churches in addition to swelling the congregations of the existing churches.

Rich and his colleagues were excited—they knew the churches in the area had been strengthened, and they knew that the new believers were well-equipped to grow in their relationship with Christ. All those that had been involved with the training praised God and were greatly encouraged!

Jesus speaks izere

Jesus speaks Izere

Rich GardnerRich (continued)
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