William and Joan Darr know how difficult is for young families in America to move somewhere else so that sound theological training may be obtained. In Africa, that’s even more challenging. That’s why the Darrs started sponsoring seminary students in the Central African Republic (CAR) more than ten years ago through the Timothy Project (TTP).
“We believe that assisting in the preparation of ministers and teachers is an important part of spreading the gospel and enriching the church,” they say. “We have known many of the missionaries who have served in the CAR and this support seems to be a good way to build upon their efforts especially in such an unstable and economically deprived area.”
A program of Encompass World Partners, TTP is building relationships between U.S. sponsors and student families in Africa. People in the Central African Republic attend seminary and Bible schools wanting to serve their local churches as equipped pastors. The Timothy Project enables interested people to come alongside these pastors-in-training as partners in kingdom work.
At Bata Bible Institute, Batangafo Bible Institute, Bossangoa Bible Institute, Mbaiki Bible Institute, and the Seminary at the James Gribble Leadership Training Center in Bangui, the students learn biblical basics necessary for leading churches and sharing the gospel in CAR. After graduation, they often return home and work at their churches. There are more than 3,000 Grace Brethren churches in CAR, but only one-third have a trained pastor. Other students decide to be missionaries and evangelize in other cities and villages. It is especially important to have scripture-based education because of the strong ties to ancestral worship practices often found in CAR.
Dave and Ruth Ann Martin, coordinators for TTP, connect sponsors with these students.
“It is a great opportunity for families, and also for folks who have been blessed with an undergraduate or graduate degree in the U.S. and realized that our African brothers and sisters don’t have the same opportunity,” Dave says.
The Martins facilitate the translation of letters, so the students and sponsors can stay in touch. (Retired missionary Lois Wilson does the translation work.)
“It is a blessing to be in contact with people sponsoring students so faithfully and generously,” adds Ruth Ann.
The couple have been coordinating the program almost since its inception in 2008. Since then, CAR has continued to see political unrest and villages often suffer from attacks and raids. These difficult periods led to lower student enrollment and less need for additional supporters, but recently the Martins were informed that enrollment is back up and so is the need for financial support.
The African families, local churches, and communities are primarily responsible for supporting the students as they attend seminary or one of the Bible Institutes. The Timothy Project “assists to make the economics work,” Dave stresses.
“The main goal is to have each student sponsored so they can complete all their Biblical Studies without interruptions and without the sense that they need to spend extra time to get the funds they need to study,” adds Alejandro Robles, who also helps coordinate the program.
The TTP vision is for the many churches in CAR to have well-trained pastors who can then disciple and train others to be leaders, and for the cycle to continue until Jesus returns.
Currently, there are 110 student families being sponsored in four Bible Institutes. In the Seminary, there are 36 who are sponsored, plus four more who are doing internships.
Yet there is still a need for more sponsors — a total of 32 are needed to come alongside families in both the Bible institutes and seminary.
A video about the training center at the Seminary.
Feature photo: Seminary faculty and students in front of the Learning Center at the James Gribble Leadership Training Center in Bangui, Central African Republic.