It has been a while since Gracie and I have sent you an update about our lives and ministry. We are doing well, enjoying the weekly rhythms of life here at home: Tuesday morning Tierra Nueva staff prayer, Bible studies in the jail and prison, Sunday evening worship, prayer appointments and advocacy. We feel very blessed- amazed that we have been able to continue forward in the face of big challenges.
This past year 2018-19 (we organize ourselves according to the academic year) we completed six Certificates in Transformational Ministry at the Margins. This has meant offering three separate, four-day trainings in these six locations: Glasgow, Bristol, Paris, Rabat (Morocco), Vancouver, and Wellington (New Zealand). Some 210 front-line pastors and ministry workers have completed our training in these six places—as well as many students I teach at Westminster Theological Centre.
We are deeply grateful to God that we were able to accomplish this during this past year. There has been a continuous threat that I’d have to start chemotherapy since being diagnosed with follicular lymphoma last July. After the first four months of treatment with a clinical trial drug the tumor had actually grown by 18%. Since December, though the tumor has shrunk by 65.5% and I’ve been feeling great!
So Gracie and I are moving forward with our calling—which will continue to keep us here at home 2/3 of the time—and on the road offering our trainings 1/3 of the year.
We describe our calling as “bringing the best to “the least”— referring to “the least of these my brothers/sisters” that Jesus calls people to attend to in Matthew 25:45. Through our trainings we seek to make Jesus Christ and his infinite wisdom know in the places of greatest need and darkness. The places where we teach are diverse and the participants vary greatly, even within the same groups. Some are illiterate and others have graduate school diplomas—though most are somewhere in between. But one thing they share in common is a strong commitment to serve the most broken and needy people.
Our CTMM trainings are designed to equip ministry workers in Word, Spirit and Street perspectives (see video description of this here). There are many places where liberating Bible study, empowerment and gifts of the Holy Spirit and advocacy/justice are separated— but we are committed to bringing these critical dimensions of faith together.
We are deeply impacted by descriptions of Jesus going out by the seashore, with all the people coming to him, and he was teaching them (Mark 2:13). Bringing Jesus’ teaching to the margins requires deliberate effort of going outside the church- to the seashores of our time: workplaces, recovery houses, streets, homeless shelters, prisons. We love Jesus’ response to scribes and Pharisees who criticize him for receiving and eating with tax collectors and sinners: “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
We seek to do this through our work here with Tierra Nueva in Burlington—where we develop everything we bring out to the world. Through The People’s Seminary we bring this out to the larger world in specific ways.
We are nearly finished preparing a series of four volumes of Bible studies which we plan to start publishing in September under the titles Guerrilla Bible Studies. The first volume includes twelve Bible studies designed for use with people who have no exposure to Christian faith. The following twelve are for new Christians, followed by two volumes that take people further along in their journey of faith.
We have new CTMMs planned for 2019-2020 in Stockholm (Sweden), Lausanne (Switzerland), and Mumias and Malindi (Kenya)- with requests that are in process for Siberia, Casa Blanca (Morocco), Cape Town, and Hamilton, Ontario. Our highest priority now is equipping other trainers so courses can be offered without us. This is already happening in Kenya, where my brother Andy is currently offering two CTMMs with African teachers we have trained.
We value your prayers at this time—for continued shrinkage of the tumor and complete healing from lymphoma before my next July 31 CT scan. Please pray also for success in completing Guerrilla Bible Studies, translation of CTMM manuals in Russian and clear discernment about how to train and mobilize more trainers.
If you feel called to contribute financially, here are the options.
1) Online E-giving through: https://secure.egsnetwork.com/donate/5C7582D0-5705-4EF9-ABB5-F1DB00D9447B
2) Sending checks earmarked “Ekblad Support” to Tierra Nueva, PO Box 410, Burlington, WA 98233
3) Donating via PayPal through: http://give.fivetwo.org/give.tierra-nueva.org/
Thank you for your support and prayers! Please let us know how we might pray for you as well. We would love to hear from you!
Bob and Gracie Ekblad
Founders and Senior Leaders