I recently returned from a teaching trip to Asia, teaching two courses each in Bangkok, Thailand and Manila, Philippines. We have just completed the second full year of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Academy, and the results have been heartwarming.
This last trip, soon after the catastrophic natural disasters in the Philippines and other Asian nations, was both heartrending and heartwarming. In Manila, one student’s father was having his leg amputated while his son was taking my course. Some people died in the flood; others died or became very ill as a result of the deadly pollution in the flood waters. This father lost his leg due to an infection that started from the flood waters. Other students were literally wading through water in their own houses in order to attend classes each day. At least 12 of the APLA attendees in Manila were flood victims (i.e. had water inside their homes). At least one of them had to relocate because of flood waters, and had to move houses while studying for the seminar. One of the students saw three in-laws die in the two weeks prior to the Seminar (two of them flood-related). Asian disciples in this part of the world have an amazing resiliency, a staunch determination and a highly commendable desire to serve God. I am so blessed to have them as friends and students!
A few facts about the Academy and its students during this most recent trip are well worth sharing. For the first time, we had students from all five of the Mekong nations, with six new students coming from Myanmar and two from Laos, in addition to those from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Sometimes the teaching sessions are only taught in Manila, since the majority of our students live in the Philippines, but we have occasional sessions taught in one of the Mekong countries. This was our first time to offer courses in Bangkok, but last December we held one course in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and this past spring we had a course conducted in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In Cambodia, a trend was started by having an increasing number ask to take the courses as audit students, and we had 24 first time students there. Although the fees are much lower for audit students, in that economy they still attend at a great financial sacrifice, a sacrifice which they made joyfully. In Bangkok we had about 70 students overall for our Shepherding Track course on Leadership Development.
In the courses taught in Bangkok and Manila, we had 33 churches represented (including Guam, a US Territory). For this third trimester of 2009, we had 32 new audit students in the Mekong and 27 in the Philippines. For our Ministry Track course in Church History, we had 19 audit students from all six countries in the Asia-Pacific Region, and for Leadership Development course, we had 83! Since APLA started in the early part of 2008, we have had 173 different students take courses, on either a credit or an audit basis. About 88% of the enrollees are married; about 70% of the enrollees are more than 10 years old as disciples; and over 65% of them are not fulltime in the ministry. It was indeed an amazing time. The thirst for the Word in that part of the world should be quite an upward call to those of us who live in much better physical circumstances. It is my privilege to teach them about the Bible, but it is my humbling blessing to be taught so much about the heart of a disciple from them!
For more information see Gordon Ferguson's new website: gftm.org