Travel Diary 4: Be An Example First

(Delayed due to internet outage Saturday night.)

Dear Friends and Family,

Henry and I spent today, Friday, with the ITEM-Liberia team. I think this is only my second time here and Henry’s first. ITEM Associate, Dan Packer, has been our point man. Dan has done the bulk of the raising up of our team here.

Our first coordinator, Michael Allen, died in March 2020 due to an infection of some kind. His mentee/disciple, Prince Guankeh, took over. The planning and energy to move forward has been quite aggressive (in a good way) but I’ve held them back some, wanting to get here myself and get reacquainted with the team and be reassured that they understand the mission of ITEM. I was pleased with what I saw and heard.


Hebrews 13:7 reads, “Remember your leaders who have spoken God's
word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate
their faith.” (HCSB)

Notice it exhorts the members to imitate the faith of their leaders/preachers/teachers.

ITEM’s goals include raising up pastors who are examples, equippers, and expositors and Henry Johnson, ITEM Associate who’s with me on this trip, started the day with his testimony which led into the importance of being an example of a servant leader who demonstrates a Christlike character. It was a powerful testimony. He explained how he was all but run out of a
church he was pastoring and ended up sweeping floors at a factory only to have a wall collapse on him when he was sweeping.

Laying there, unable to move he realized that all he had left was his relationship with Jesus. At that point, God broke him and Henry’s not been the same since. The men were moved and challenged by his testimony. The take away was that your ministry will change. The reception of your ministry will change. But one thing will never change and that is your relationship with the Savior. From there, I talked about ITEM’s mission to see churches transformed one pastor at a time.

Our mission is to see churches transformed and become a true light in their community. That means people’s lives need to reflect the true glory of God. That is who we are more than what we know. The community needs to see examples of God’s love and glory. But church members need to see it first I their pastors. But the pastors need to see it first in our team members who are mentoring them. And the team members need to see it first in our lives.

Ezra 7:10 reads, “…Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the
LORD , obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.” (HCSB)

Again, notice the order. Personal obedience precedes teaching it to others. That was the main thrust of the morning.

We also talked about the second and third desired outcomes for the pastors we train and mentor. Ephesians 4:12 says the pastor is to equip the saints for ministry. And in 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul tells Timothy to spend his time reading, explaining, and applying God’s Word in his ministry. That, essentially, is exposition. Going through passages in the Bible, reading,
explaining the meaning from the context, then applying it in todays world.

Back to being an example
We explained to them that if we want pastors to be equippers and expositors, we need to be. So, at this point I opened up a discussion for each of the men to tell Henry and me how they were doing in the areas of equipping and preaching through Scripture.

To a man, they are practicing exposition, preaching through books of the Bible and in particular, books of the New Testament. Their churches seem to be responding. Paul (see his pic in the album) said his church’s members are reading the Scripture ahead of time because they know what he will be preaching on next.

Moses (see his pic in the album) says they are helping their members discover their giftedness and become involved in ministry.

Harrison (see his picture in the album) talked a long time about other pastors who only use the Old Testament but that he is working with them,
correcting them.

Prince (coordinator, see his pic in the album) has adult Sunday School which is unusual in Africa. They are studying 1 John. There was a generator and a fan running in the background and that made it difficult to hear all of the details but what we could pick up was encouraging. I’ve asked Prince to collect these stories and send them to me and we’d publish
them in our newsletters.

We need to hear about changed lives I have found it easy to get testimonies from pastors who say they have learned a lot from ITEM training. But what I am telling our teams is that we
need testimonies from the next level, the church member level; testimonies of changed lives that are a result of the Spirit of God using the preaching and teaching of the Word of God by pastors we have trained. We believe more than ever that those stories are out there and we are committed to finding them.

Henry will be preaching at the church Prince pastors. Then we will focus on getting packed and ready for our trip from Liberia in the west to Kenya in the East which begins at 7pm Monday and ends at 6:30am Tuesday. Nairobi is 3 hours ahead of Monrovia.

Thanks for praying and giving, both of which are necessary for the success of this or any ministry!

By His grace and for His glory,


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