Partners in truth
Posted on: 20th February 2023
CMS missionaries Dan and Olivia Webster serve in Namibia, where Dan helps to train local gospel workers at the Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS). Dan reflects on how the Lord has worked through the long-standing partnership between CMS and NETS to declare the good news of Jesus Christ, the serpent-crusher.
“Mamba. Big one.”
The local guide spotted the ominous tracks in the sand with a start. Two NETS students followed the track to where it entered a shelter. No one was inside, just a Black Mamba snake.
When they looked inside another nearby shelter, they found an old mamma and her grandchildren eating. She was beside herself. “Don’t worry meme [‘maam’], we will kill it,” the two NETS students assured her. Ignoring her protestations, they flushed the serpent out and broke its back with sticks.
This event took place on our NETS mission trip to Rundu, in the north of Namibia, an area known to be one of the most spiritually oppressive places in the country. Witchcraft is rife. Fear and suffering are palpable.
The Black Mamba is so named not for the colour of its scales, but for the inside of its mouth. It is one of the deadliest snakes in the world. Unsurprisingly, in such a spiritually aware place, it is generally believed that a visit from a Black Mamba means you have been cursed. Someone wants evil forces to visit you and your family.
The Kingdom advances
The Mamba was driven out and killed, which could serve as an illustration of the NETS mission trip to Rundu. The serpent was crushed under our heels… well, sticks. Overreaching? Probably. But you get the idea. By the power of the Spirit, God’s Kingdom took a step forward in enemy territory.
The gospel was preached. Hundreds of school children heard it. Many declared faith in Christ. People were healed of sicknesses. Joy and hope were seen on faces. The Sunday after we left, one church leapt in attendance from 30 to 120 people, many of whom kept coming. An infamous soccer team, known to be the worst behaved in the area, is now known to be the most positive, after interaction with the NETS team (whom they comfortably beat…).
“Will you come and help?”
In Rundu we served under local pastors, including Pastor Samuel*, who showed us how we could be most helpful. God has used him to plant many churches. But he is a model of humility. He confessed the poverty of his understanding of the gospel and of the Bible:
“We need you to help us read the Bible better. Will you come and help?”
We could see that Rundu was full of minds in need of “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”, the truth that sets people free (2 Corinthians 6:4; John 8:32). But for Pastor Samuel, the need is not just for Rundu’s unbelievers, but also for its believers, even for its pastors! How will the people know the liberating truth of the gospel if the pastors are unclear about it?
Three decades of partnership
Since 1991, NETS has been training local people to know the Lord and teach the Bible to others.
CMS missionaries have been working with NETS almost from the beginning (Hugh and Dorothy Prentice were the first.)
Pastor Samuel’s invitation burned in the heart of one of my mentees, Robert*, one of NETS’ Faculty in Training. He asked me to request permission from the Academic Dean for a week off to do training in Rundu.
So I went to the Dean, Misseline. (Misseline was trained theologically by former CMS missionary Simon Gillham. Her role was clarified and systematised by another, Mike Roe.) She agreed to Robert’s request, but asked that he encourage the church to enrol in our distance program (previously supervised and popularised by former CMS missionaries David and Alison Greeff).
Bachelor of Theology NETS graduates—one working as a pastor, one doing further training in early childhood education and one continuing with his Honours at NETS in order to teach at a Bible college; Anselm, who is now being trained as faculty, receiving his hard-earned BTh.
Robert has also learnt from our mission philosophy. He did not go alone. He took several NETS students with him. And he did not simply show the believers in Rundu ‘the right way’ to read the Bible. He determined to come alongside them and learn together with them.
Upon arrival in Rundu, they found that Pastor Samuel had invited his whole church. Missing a day’s work was a great cost, but they believe that “man does not live on bread alone.” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4) They wanted to feed on God’s word.
On the second day, Robert and his team realised that a third of the attendees could not read. And even those who could read, didn’t process information by reading. Theirs is an oral culture. A number of the preachers admitted that they only preached on stories like ‘David and Goliath’ that they had heard in Sunday School. But they didn’t know where they fitted into the Bible story, let alone how they pointed people to Jesus. They worked together for a week, under the direction of Robert and his team, learning together how to be people of the Word, whether or not they could read it.
Pastor Samuel farewelled the team with a joyous smile and warm hugs. “You must come again. We have learnt so much. But we need to go deeper in God’s word.” And they will go deeper, beginning with the NETS distance course, adapted for oral learners to study in community.
Making an impact
We are so grateful to be part of the long-term partnership between CMS and NETS, and give thanks for the numerous CMS missionaries who went before us. CMS supporters make it possible for us to be here. I train Robert. He trains other local students. Together, they train pastors in Rundu, and these pastors preach Jesus to their people. The partnership between CMS and NETS impacts grass roots.
And, by the gracious power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord works through his Word to deliver people “from the dominion of darkness” and to bring them “into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13–14) They can stand in the certainty that the “ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan” has been hurled down (Revelation 12:9). Please pray for God’s word to dwell deeply in the hearts of NETS students, so that the gospel would be clearly proclaimed in Namibia and across Africa.
*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.
CMS missionaries are teaching in Bible colleges and seminaries across Africa to help train leaders for a fast-growing church. Could you partner with them by giving financially to support this important work? Give a generous gift today or find out more about partnership here.
 Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS) is the only government-accredited evangelical seminary in Namibia, offering study at certificate through to honours level and attracting students from all walks of life, culture, age, socio-economic and denomination. NETS seeks to train its students with the knowledge, skills and character they need to serve their churches, Namibia and the world.