“You’re living your dream,” I thought to myself.
In the middle of Hermeneutics class, we were discussing principles for understanding and teaching the Poetry and Wisdom Literature portions of the Old Testament. Between points in the outline, I glanced at the small group of students—all of them pastors or servant-leaders in their own churches—and I thought to myself, “Do you realize what this means? By God’s grace, you are helping equip pastors and teachers for the church—you are living your dream!”
Turn the clock back twelve years: I was in Central Asia finishing one more in a series of short-term ministry assignments, and I was considering what to make my lifework. Among several options, I knew of some missionaries training national pastors in South Africa, and I concluded: That is a worthwhile work—that is how I want to invest my life!Skip ahead a couple years: I was at The Master’s Seminary in Southern California retooling for fulltime ministry. God provided a job on campus as intern to the academic director of The Master’s Academy International—a family of seminaries and Bible training schools around the world. In the first semester of 2006, the academic director asked me to design an application form to be completed by new training centers requesting to be considered for membership with TMAI.
Never could I have imagined that 10 years later my form would come back to me. This past February my colleague Diego Ramos, academic director of our newly formed Escola Bíblica de Expositores (EBEx) in Fortaleza, Brazil, gave me the form and asked me to fill it out so that EBEx could be considered for membership with TMAI!
Elsiene and I praise God for His faithfulness, in directing our steps over the past decade and more, as we pursued the godly ambition of becoming useful instruments in His hands, workers in His harvest fields.
Please don’t get me wrong. When I say we are “living a dream” I do not mean we are living a life of ease. The hardships at times overwhelm us, and we do not always resemble that smiling portrait on our missionary prayer card. Our arrival in Fortaleza, for example, coincided with an outbreak of flies across the region. The flies carried some kind of virus that gave sudden and severe gastrointestinal illness and sent us to the Emergency Room twice.
Since we had just arrived, we thought the flies were normal here and that we were the only ones getting sick. We really wanted to go back to Goiânia. But then we learned our national colleagues were also suffering from the flies: our pastor had to step down from the pulpit in the middle of a prayer service to be taken to the ER; another colleague was unable to teach the final session at a church retreat because of the illness that overcame him. In our frailty we took some consolation in the discovery that we weren’t alone in our suffering.
But our true consolation comes from the words of Scripture. Paul writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18), and again, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17).
So now, after more than a decade in pursuit of this purpose, we count it a great honor to have the privilege of serving at EBEx, equipping pastors and teachers for the church. We are indeed living our dream!
We rejoice in the Lord, in His faithfulness to those who wait on Him. And we are grateful to each of you who uphold us in prayer and who partner in this ministry through your faithful gifts.
Matthew & Elsiene Carroll,