Charis Fellowship churches across the country have a shared mission of planting churches, training leaders, and doing good for the sake of the Gospel. This mission expands to our global Charis Alliance family, a network of churches around the world who are carrying out this mission. A commitment to this common mission is what led three men from churches in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to travel to the other side of the world together to see how it’s being lived out in a different culture.
In November Mike McKeever (Encompass mobilization, Grace Church at Willow Valley, Pa.), Clayton Lewis (youth ministry director at Calvert Grace Church, Md.), and Kevin Smith, (short-term missions trip leader at Ashland Grace Church, Ohio) traveled to Cameroon together. They connected with Jason and Christy Carmean, Encompass global workers serving in the capital city Yaoundé.
Jason and Christy arrived in Cameroon in 2014 with the charge of starting the first Bible Institute to train people from Charis churches in Cameroon to become pastors. Jason works primarily with the school, which opened in May of 2015 and has seen over 50 students graduate. Christy serves as the principal of an elementary school for children of global workers who are serving in Yaoundé.
During their weeklong trip, the team visited Bible classes, participated in a church service, and interacted with current and past students. Mike, who organized the trip, said their goal was to better understand the work taking place—and the challenges global workers face—in Cameroon so they could help Charis Fellowship pastors and churches understand, support, and celebrate what God is doing it the region.
After students complete the three-year program, they move on to pastor a Charis Alliance church in Cameroon, most often bi-vocationally as the church is not able to fully support their family financially. Clayton noted how the students and graduates of the Bible Institute are committed to reaching their communities with the Gospel, despite the financial instability and strain of working multiple jobs to do so. “When we visited, they welcomed us into their homes and we got to see how they lived,” he said. “We saw firsthand the sacrifices the pastors and their families make to be God’s voice to the congregation.”
Kevin, who attends the church where Jason grew up, said, “The biggest blessing of this trip was getting to spend time with Jason and see how he’s living his life in a different and challenging country, and the impact he is having there.”
Clayton was interested in participating in the trip to learn more about the school for children of global workers and learning how other might get involved in it. He said what stuck with him the most was how different the culture was. “God has ministry looking quite different there,” he said, “and yet His handprints are all over it.”
A common thread throughout the team’s experience was the idea that missions is messy. It’s impossible for it not to be messy because it is real life and real life is messy, even more so when it involves learning a whole new culture—including language, weather, education, finances, politics, and societal expectations. “Nothing is smooth and easy,” Kevin said, “we saw that firsthand.”
“Missions is something that we often think about but rarely take the leap of faith into because of those messy moments,” Clayton said. “We saw Jason and Christy model that it’s possible to do missions—despite the mess we think it is—because it’s necessary.”
The mission of the Bible Institute is to train pastors who can serve and lead churches in Cameroon. In addition to the financial situation of the students, a big obstacle the Institute faces is the level of education in the communities. Most of the men have very little formal education, the women have none at all, and the children are following in their footsteps. Mike said, “Literacy is an issue. The school is going back to the basics and teaching the Gospel clearly and efficiently in a way that can be replicated with a congregation.”
Jason said the purpose of the school and their family’s calling in Cameroon is to raise up true shepherds of churches who love people like Jesus loved them and to develop a heart for the lost just like Jesus had.
One next big step for the Bible Institute is a constructing a permanent home for the school on newly purchased land. Funds have been donated by churches in the US and in Cameroon to purchase land and construction will begin soon. Kevin is working on assembling a team to assist with the construction in April and funds are still be raised for this project.
Learn more about Jason & Christy’s ministry here. Learn more about the Bible Institute and how you can help support pastors in Cameroon here. Pray for Charis churches around the world to stay committed to our common mission of planting new churches, training leaders, and doing good in our communities.