Jesus stated: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Therefore beg the Lord of the harvest to cast out workers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).
Every community and nation has under-reached or unreached people in need of hearing about and experiencing God’s transforming love. But people marginalized due to race, social class, language, lifestyle, or legal status often reach the conclusion that God is against them and that they are not welcome in the Church. Tierra Nueva’s mission has always highlighted recruiting and equipping people to bring good news to the excluded, forgotten and under-reached.
The People’s Seminary (TPS) offers training in contextual Bible study and theology together with tried and tested ministry and spiritual practices rooted in active solidarity with people on the margins. We are called to active, regular involvement in hands-on ministry in our particular Tierra Nueva “vineyard”, from which the “wine” of our teaching comes. We are committed to bringing together serious study and teaching of Scripture, empowerment and gifts of the Holy Spirit with social justice and reconciliation. Word, Spirit and Street-oriented approaches belong together to proclaim the Gospel that has the power to save.
The People’s Seminary offers training through on-site courses in Burlington, Washington, and through our Certificate in Transformational Ministries at the Margins (CTMM) in Burlington, London, Glasgow, Jersey and Seoul, and other learning sites. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending or hosting a CTMM cohort in your area.
In addition to the CTMM, Bob and Gracie Ekblad have an active international ministry, offering TPS workshops, seminars and retreats around the world. For more information about each of these programs, click the appropriate tab at the top of this page. For example, we offer an online mission course in French that you can receive through the Bible et Mission tab. Bob Ekblad also teaches for The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and Westminster Theological Centre.
The People’s Seminary is working to develop online training resources that ministry workers who come from the margins can access. These resources will become increasingly available on the Street Theology tab.
From our e-newsletter.
Warm Greetings from the Skagit Valley!
I am sending out this letter to everyone who has completed the Certificate in Transformational Ministry at the Margins—some 115 people now between cohorts in the USA, Seoul, London and Glasgow.
The purpose of this letter is to share some recent reflections and news. It is both exciting and sad to complete a training cohort with people who we’ve grown to love over the course of three gatherings. We want to stay in touch with you and hope to develop opportunities for ongoing contact.
Last Tuesday I led our weekly Tierra Nueva staff Bible study on Acts 23. At first glance as I prepared I was deflated, unable to find an inspiring angle into this story about Jewish religious hostility to the apostle Paul's mission. Then I saw a key that resonates with our call, and the challenges we are currently facing.
Gracie and I have been called to leverage our years of experience ministering to the poor and excluded to see ministry workers, pastors and others called to outreach equipped to reach remote and under-served places in the world.
In the book of Acts Jesus’ eleven disciples reflect a common self-focused attitude that can block Jesus’ mission to reach the entire world. They ask “is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They, like many people today are thinking about their race, nation and group first. Jesus rights their focus and ours:
“It is not for you to know times... But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost empowers believers with languages that enable communication to people gathered in Jerusalem from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). But when Peter ends his sermon in the temple after the first miraculous healing by calling his Jewish audience to be a blessing to all the families of the earth (Acts 3:25), he and John are immediately arrested and imprisoned.
This pattern repeats throughout Acts, and in Acts 22 we see Paul’s Jewish audience provoked to kill him right at the point when he speaks of Jesus sending him far away to the nations. “Away with such a fellow from the earth,” they shout. “For he should not be allowed to live!” (Acts 22:22). They wanted exclusive rights to God's blessings for themselves and their own.
In Acts 23 the high priest had Paul hit in the face when he shares his convictions. Religious zealots vow to fast until they succeed in killing him. At the same time we learn that this very opposition speeds the mission forward. Roman authorities protect Paul due to his citizenship, whisking him away to Caesarea, where he is able to proclaim Jesus there and eventually in Rome.
Gracie and I experience levels of resistance as we seek to respond to Jesus’ call to equip and empower people to communicate good news of Jesus’ reign into hard places. Health problems, logistical obstacles organizing the trainings, and financial challenges have been hard. Have you noticed resistance as you’ve sought to extend your reach?
Lack of funding here in the USA may be due in part to the current “America first” climate—and I’m aware that there are UK, Canadian and other nation equivalents. But also since our focus when home is to serve people in our Tierra Nueva community and local jail and prison, we rarely have opportunities to meet and share our vision with potential supporters. Many people in direct ministry to the excluded have these kinds of challenges. Yet in spite of these barriers we've been able to offer these CTMM trainings. We often find ourselves needing to step out in faith, and God blesses these steps.
We recently took one of these steps of faith in offering the first module of our Certificate in Transformational Ministry at the Margins (CTMM) to 108 pastors and leaders in Ethiopia the last week of October (see blog). Once in Ethiopia in the midst of the training we could see why we are experiencing resistance.
Our teachings were well received by mostly Oromo-speaking pastors facing civil unrest threatening to plunge the country into chaos. Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia are all experiencing serious political (and often tribal) tensions. In each place people told us that our message about Christian identity vs. national and tribal identity is highly relevant, encouraging them to love enemies and minister to outsiders.
- Please pray for Zimbabwe, which is in the midst of a crisis with the potential of positive change. Pray for wisdom and protection for our partners Richard and Elizabeth and the CTMM participants during this critical time.
- Pray also for Kenya, where political and tribal tensions are extreme. Pray especially for our partners James and Helen of TN Kenya and Nicolas and Esther and Anthany—who host our trainings in Bungoma.
- Pray also for peace in Ethiopia, and for clear prophetic wisdom for Ethiopian Christians.
We are greatly blessed by the deep faith and commitment of our African brothers and sisters, and we bring back many valuable perspectives to our community here at home.
We ask for your prayers as we prepare for trips to Honduras (Dec 4-10), and WTC in the UK (January 3-10), followed by Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe through January, 2018. In Africa alone we will offer our training modules to 300-400 leaders. The gatherings in Kenya and Zimbabwe are the third and final trainings in these locations—bringing our total number of graduates to 335. The CTMM in Tanzania is our first gathering in that country.
The cost per person for our African CTMM trainings is approximately $65.00 for four days ($19,500 for 300 participants in three countries-- including our travel expenses, lodging, training manuals and one meal per day and snacks). If you are interested in contributing towards someone attending one of these trainings in the global South, here are the options.
1) Online E-giving to The People’s Seminary through the Tierra Nueva website.
2) Sending checks earmarked "CTMM training" to Tierra Nueva, PO Box 410, Burlington, WA 98233.
3) Donating via PayPal.
4) Contact Tierra Nueva Europe at email@example.com
Thank you for your support and prayers!
Bob and Gracie Ekblad
Tierra Nueva & The People's Seminary