Over the last 50 years, the European Missionary Fellowship (EMF) has been investing in training Christians for the work of gospel ministry in Europe and, as it subsequently turned out, many other parts of the world too.
The 50th anniversary of EMF’s involvement in training was marked at the Open Day of EMF’s School of Biblical Studies, on 10 May at Welwyn Evangelical Church, Hertfordshire, when around 150 supporters attended specially arranged meetings.
During the day, God’s faithfulness was celebrated by giving thanks for the last 50 years, hearing from current students, and looking forward to future schools.
Rev. Paul Bassett (Melbourne Hall, Leicester) spoke in the morning from Hebrews 13:7-8, reminding us that spiritual leaders need to have divine authority and be imitators of Jesus Christ. At the close of the afternoon meeting, Rev. Andrew Davies (Cwmbran) turned our thoughts to Jesus Christ, from the opening verses of Hebrews 12. He exhorted us to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’ as we battle with sin, weariness and discouragement in our Christian lives.
Watford and Welwyn
EMF’s involvement in training began in Watford in 1964, when EMF director Omri Jenkins started a school to train UK and other European nationals. In those days, most students came from the UK or Western European countries, with the first student, Evangelos Tzelis, coming from Greece. Evangelos went on to plant a church in Volos.
The idea of such a school had the full support of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones and other well-known ministers. Although it was never the intention to train men and women exclusively for work with EMF, it was not surprising that a good proportion of those attending the school sought to do so.
Then, with the move of the mission’s headquarters to Welwyn in 1981, and the collapse of communism by the end of that decade, churches from Central and Eastern Europe were also seeking places at the school for pastors and would-be missionaries. Indeed, students from countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, and the Ukraine, often formed classroom majorities.
As time went on, the school’s reputation for nurturing a well-grounded, head-and-heart Christianity drew the attention of churches in Africa, America and Asia too.
Throughout these past 50 years, the training has centred around a clearly articulated biblical and Reformed theology and the need to prepare people — male and female, young and older — to effectively serve the Lord and engage an ever-changing world with the unchanging message of God’s saving grace.
Many of the students passing through this course have readily spoken of the life-changing consequences of having done so.
One such former student, Jan Hábl from the Czech Republic, who studied at the school in 1997-98 and now combines a pastoral role in Usti nad Labem with a professorship in the philosophy of education at the local university, writes this about his experience: ‘
The EMF biblical course virtually changed my life and saved my faith.
‘As a young Christian, I had a number of questions and no solid answers. The course helped me work with the Bible and think biblically. It also showed me that the point of all studies is not just knowledge, but also a desire to serve the Lord better’.
Several hundred students have so far been through the School of Biblical Studies at Watford and Welwyn, where the principals have included David Marshall, Hywel Jones and Daniel Webber.
Many have gone on to serve the Lord in the harvest fields of Europe and other parts of the world, with almost half the current 85 missionaries supported by EMF, in 16 European countries, having attended the school.
Some occupy positions of pastoral responsibility, while others are involved in church-planting activities. Still others have simply returned to their home churches, where, having gained insights from their studies, they give themselves to their local church life and ministries.
Further information about the 2015 School, which begins in mid-January 2015, and how to sponsor students is available from the EMF office: [email protected] (01438 716398).
Principal, EMF School