Missionaries and ISUM (12/08)

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By Jim Billings
ISUM Director

The year 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of ISUM, the post-Bible school training program now serving 19 Spanish-speaking countries.  From its beginning in 1968 until the present, missionaries have played an important role in this ministry.  The five directors have all been missionaries and many of the classes have been taught by missionaries.  These are the most visible aspects of missionary participation.

However, missionary involvement goes farther in that many of our missionaries have studied in the ISUM seminars.  Some have personally told me that it was the most significant preparation they had received to help them with their ministries.  The relationships built while “rubbing shoulders” with national colleagues may be even more important than the information learned in and out of the classroom.

Also a number of our missionary fellowships, and many individual missionaries, have been instrumental in offering scholarships to help nationals attend the seminars.  Probably the number one obstacle to increased attendance is the lack of finances.  Although $300 to $400 for a month of studies might sound like a bargain to most of us, to the majority of our national pastors and leaders this amount represents a huge sacrifice.  I would like to personally thank every missionary and every missionary fellowship that has helped encourage one or more nationals to attend a seminar, not just by your words, but by your giving.  I believe it is one of the best investments you can make in a national minister!

As I write this article, the last two seminars of 2008 are winding down in Paraguay and Cuba.  I thank God for the 618 students who studied this year in the sixteen seminars, and for the 73 graduates who joined approximately 1300 others who have graduated since that first class many years ago.  Numerous national leaders, Bible school teachers and administrators, leading pastors and others are graduates of ISUM.  We are now seeing Latin missionaries going out from our ranks especially to the Muslim world. 

We don’t want to rest on past successes and miss the present-day opportunities.  Forty is a significant biblical number.  For ISUM, I see it as a time to thank God for His past blessings, but also as a time to ponder the future and plan for greater things in years to come should Jesus tarry.  I believe that missionary participation is still a key to ISUM’s success.  If you have never studied in an ISUM seminar, ask yourself, “Why not?”  Your participation may do more to build important lasting bonds between missionaries and nationals than you could ever imagine.  Who knows how many nationals you would encourage to attend future seminars just by your presence in the classroom?  If you or your Field Fellowship has never helped worthy students with scholarships, why not begin now?  A $100 scholarship might be just the incentive that some need in order to attend the next seminar in your country or region.

I would love to have some feedback as to how we can better serve you and the National Church in your country.  Your suggestions and constructive criticism are welcome.  If you would like to know more about ISUM and its program, you can visit our web site at www.isumad.org  Most of what has been written here can be applied to CST with its comparable studies in English and to Facultad, the masters level of studies that follows ISUM.  I thank God for my colleagues, Lewis McCown and Larry McNeill, who head up these ministries.

Thank you for your support of Christian education in Latin America.  I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a blessed year in 2009!