In 2008 I was pastoring a small church in Montana that had a great heart for missions. We supported Bible translators, church planters, and evangelists to unreached people groups. The elders had a desire to expand our missions’ ministry to come alongside those who train national pastors. While there are many important tasks left unfinished, it seemed to us that the greatest and most urgent need in foreign missions today is the training of national pastors to rightly divide God’s Word and to preach it in faithful exposition.
We also realized that, economically speaking, our missions’ dollars would be much more immediately effective in furthering the Truth if we used them to equip godly men who already know the culture, language, and needs of the people they are shepherding.
We invited Johnny Gravino, director of the TMAI training center in Italy, to come to our church and present the ministry. We did this to show our people the need to train national pastors and to show them that we wanted not only to support this ministry, but also to partner with the TMAI faculty by getting to know them personally.
In preparation for Johnny’s coming, I presented TMAI’s ministry to our people. We discussed its mission, doctrine, as well as the goal of training national pastors and entrusting them with the responsibility to equip the next generations of church leaders in their region. We also discussed partnering with ITA through prayer, financial support, special projects, and short-term mission trips, including pastoral visits to assist in the teaching ministry.
After Johnny came and presented the work at Italian Theology Academy (ITA), our church fully embraced adding TMAI to our missions’ ministry. Following this visit, I was invited to teach at ITA and meet some of the students. I saw that these men were pastors who desired to grow in rightly dividing the Word. In reporting to our church upon my return, I was able to share firsthand experiences and truly convey the great need for pastoral training in Italy. Our church’s love for the Italian people grew and we were able to provide for a new van that was needed at ITA. We began to provide regular financial support to the Gravino family and for special projects at the academy.
Today our church enjoys a real partnership with TMAI and the training of national pastors around the world. Not only was ITA in particular welcomed by our congregation, but they also warmly welcomed the ministry of TMAI as a whole. In fact, the opportunity to partner with TMAI came as an answer to the prayers of many in the body. Some of our members had connections to Ukraine and Central America, and were praying about opportunities to further the gospel there. TMAI met that need for us.
TMAI’s model of missions has truly changed the way our church looks at every aspect of the missionary endeavor. We are now more actively involved and specifically focused in our prayers for all of our missionaries. We better appreciate the biblical precedent of identifying and training faithful (and local) men of God, and of entrusting to them the future of ministry in that region (2 Tim 2:2).
TMAI’s model of missions has truly changed the way our church looks at every aspect of the missionary endeavor. We are now more actively involved and specifically focused in our prayers for all of our missionaries.
The church I am currently serving in also supports TMAI, with special connections to Honduras, Italy, Lebanon, and China. We are sending a team of 18 to serve the ministry in Honduras this summer. We are very thankful to be a part of the tremendous work God is doing through TMAI, not only in foreign churches, but also in our local church.