Our Joy and Crown in Cameroon
The Apostle Paul concludes his letter to the church in Philippi with a simple, heartfelt phrase: “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord, my beloved” (Philippians 4:1).
The joy and crown of Paul’s ministry were the people whom he spent time with, trained, and probably shared the Gospel with. They were his reward and in their joy he was satisfied.
After my time in Cameroon working with church leaders and future pastors, I now have a small glimpse of what Paul means.
Pastor Dan Green and I spent two weeks in Yaoundé, Cameroon as visiting professors at the Grace Brethren Bible Institute of Cameroon. Jason Carmean, one of our global workers who serves as the director of the institute, invited us to join him in the work of training these future pastors. Our study focused on counterfeits to the Gospel and how people have changed what the Bible presents as the true good news of Jesus. We spent much of our time simply reminding ourselves of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and that we are saved by faith alone in His finished work on the cross.
It was a wonderful trip, and we thank all of you who remembered us in prayer. Your prayers were answered as the students were attentive and grasped the information, the teaching went smoothly thanks to our amazing translator (Paul), we stayed in good health, and our families were cared for in our absence.
Of course, upon return people have asked “what was the highlight?” That’s such a difficult question to answer because so much happened, but allow me to reflect on several takeaways:
- Watching God work in the lives of these students was absolutely awesome. They asked great questions seeking to apply what they were learning to their own ministry and cultural context. This wasn’t just an intellectual exercise for them. Often, when we would ask for questions, the men would stand and simply say “Thank you. I wasn’t truly trusting in Christ alone until you showed me this in the Bible.” What joy to see the lights turn on for these men.
- The Carmeans are an amazing family and were such a blessing to us. Jason is the perfect leader of the Bible institute and his influence in the lives of the students will impact the Church in Cameroon for generations. Christy, Micaela, Alyssa, Josiah, and Paul (Jason’s translator and now a grafted-in member of the Carmean family) were amazing hosts and made our time there a lot of fun. It is a joy now to represent them here in the US and to share with all their supporters how well they’re doing and that your investment is well worth it.
- The Church in Cameroon is in great need, but there is much we can learn from them. The training taking place is so important because the churches need sound theological teaching rooted in the Gospel. Bad doctrine reveals itself in rotten fruit, but the pure Gospel will produce life-giving fruit. This need is still great and we must pray for these men and those who will come after them. There is, however, much we can learn from the believers there. The local church we worshipped in on Sunday crammed more than 30 people into a tiny living room. Space for people was relatively easy, but there wasn’t a large enough room to contain their joy. Our approach to worship can often be dutiful and forced, but they gathered in hope and in the joy of Christ. Including English, five different languages were spoken in this gathering. Multiple tribes were represented, and even in Africa this is a huge development. We can learn to give of ourselves and preferences in worship for the sake of others.
Our time there was wonderful, and we thank you for your prayers. Would you continue praying for the work going on in Cameroon? Pray for the Carmean family and all they’re doing to further the Gospel and train these pastors to preach it in their churches. Pray that God would continue to make himself known among the nations as He calls people from every tribe, language, and nation.
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
Zac Hess joined the pastoral staff in 2013 after serving as an intern during his seminary studies. He grew up on a farm in Ashland, OH and later met his wife, Sarah, who grew up as part of Grace Polaris Church. Zac pursued biblical studies at both Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary. He loves sports, the outdoors, reading, and a good cup of coffee. Zac and Sarah are the proud parents of Jacob.