The evolution of a thesis…
When we begin to follow Jesus, we never quite know where he is going to lead us. Nor do we know the impact our obedience to his guidance will have.
This is certainly true for Jonathan Groves who decided to base his thesis upon field research in Malawi following teaching at the Evangelical Bible College of Malawi as his undergraduate placement.
And it was this thesis for Jonathan’s degree that evolved over several years into an as yet unfinished story of partnership and discipleship to strengthen church leadership in Malawi and contribute to the transformation of one of the poorest countries in the world.
Jonathan and his wife, Ruth, hosted Langham Partnership’s Director, Chris Wright, when he visited their church preaching at a conference. Hearing of Jonathan’s research in Malawi, Chris suggested that he seek publication with Langham’s fledgling publishing house. The book Reading Romans at Ground Level was born and became the first title in the Global Perspectives Series, a series of insightful research for the global church.
The evolution had begun. A master’s thesis centered upon biblical interpretation and research highlighting the value of Romans to predominantly untrained pastors in rural Africa, now published and available to Bible colleges across Africa and the rest of the Majority World through Langham’s book programs. The publication of Jonathan’s book proved to be just the beginning of the evolution however. During his research in Malawi he developed a number of relationships, and in particular became good friends with one of the local pastors, Connex Ijalasi.
Connex says: “When Jonathan and I met and shared our ideas, the Spirit of God confirmed that we should partner in disciple-making and training.”
Jonathan’s research was transferred to the creation of a ministry training program called Learn2Serve and a train-the-trainer course, administered by J-Life, a Malawian organization dedicated to holistic ministry and developing Christian leadership. Learn2Serve comprises a basic toolkit for ministry with four 1-week courses delivered over a two-year period equipping healthy, strong, biblical church leadership. To date around 1,000 people have received ministry training under Learn2Serve. Whilst establishing Learn2Serve with Connex and J-Life in Malawi, Jonathan and Ruth founded a UK charity, The Kerusso Trust, to support the work in Malawi. The creation of Learn2Serve was undertaken in partnership between J-Life and Kerusso Trust.
Langham heard about the great need for resources not only for Learn2Serve participants, but also leaders coming out of the program keen to develop further. Jonathan also told of the plans currently underway to build a training centre and how they dreamed of the possibility of having a library. As a result of this meeting and in partnership with other ministries and supporters, Langham brought together a shipment of books that would form a modest library and kick-start the J-Life Centre library with appropriate and accessible resources for preachers and leaders.
It was around this time, following a Facebook post by Jonathan, that he was contacted by the principal of the Scottish School of Christian Mission, formerly International Christian College, where Jonathan attained his Master’s degree. They were looking to place their large theological library in alternate institutions and this large contribution to the J-Life Centre library, along with other contributions, took the library beyond 5,000 volumes. What a gift from God!
Jonathan and Connex had been busy working on the training centre on the outskirts of Blantyre getting construction underway on a facility that would house offices for J-Life staff, a training room seating 25 participants, a library alongside pre-existing accommodation for 40 people to enable residential weeks as part of J-Life programs – and now a substantial library had been provided! With a grant and logistical support from Langham the library donations were collected, stored and eventually shipped out on 4 pallets.
The centre is still a work in progress with water and electricity just now being connected, but the accomplishment is already significant and the blessing the centre will bring has already begun. The 5,000-volume library arrived safely at the centre on Connex’s birthday! What a wonderful present to celebrate the fruit of so much faithful service to the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Discussions between J-Life, Kerusso Trust and Langham’s preaching ministry are beginning regarding future partnership and encouragement in mission. God knows the future he has for J-Life’s ministry in Malawi and the people of that great nation. We are excited about the future evolution of Jonathan’s thesis and thank God for its impact in His kingdom.
Tags: Africa, Evangelical Bible College of Malawi, Langham Literature, Malawi