Every other Tuesday morning, three dozen faithful disciples converge upon an unassuming church building in Framingham, Massachusetts. Whether they come from Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, or Massachusetts, they all come for the same reason—to change the world.
The New England School of Missions (NESM) is a response to the Biblical command to entrust the gospel to “reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). Its purpose is to train and equip the next generation of evangelists and women’s ministry leaders for service in God’s kingdom, especially those who want to serve in mission fields around the world.
NESM is the brainchild of Valdur Koha, Douglas Arthur, and Kevin Miller, who had a dream to raise up future leaders of the church. In the fall of 2010, their vision became a reality and the New England School of Missions was founded. Years ago, a brother from Oklahoma named Tom Beam bequeathed a generous donation to the Boston Church of Christ. His desire was that this gift would be applied toward high-impact missions. His generous donation allowed the dream for this school, as well as similar schools that have since begun, to become realities.
The list of graduates is always growing. Ranging from church leaders in Italy to campus ministers in London to youth and family ministers in Boston, effective workers are being sent out into the harvest field. Graduates include Jon and Rachel Buchholz, Christen McDuffee, Steve Schnell, Jesse and Alexandra Ghoman, Frank and Egle McDonnell, Collier Winters, Anselm Beach, and Will and Kristen Lambert.
NESM’s curriculum consists of seven semesters. Typically, each semester contains 12 hour-long sessions that are divided between three tracks: public speaking/preaching lessons taught by Doug Arthur, practical church-building lessons taught by Kevin Miller, and academic lessons taught by Valdur Koha. Every other week, the students gather from all across New England to attend a double session of classes: two public speaking lectures, two ministry lectures, and two academic lectures. In order to graduate from NESM, each student must complete all seven semesters.
Guest speakers and teachers are also part of the classroom sessions. Classes for women, taught by some of the seasoned sisters in the ministry, are offered, including a semester course on “Women of the Bible.” Another course called “The Inside of the Cup,” taught by Wyndham and Jeanie Shaw, covers studies on spiritual integrity and character. Throughout the sessions, students are often involved in projects such as organizing conferences, writing commentaries, and learning how missions societies are established.
While the workload is substantial, so is the reward. “The fellowship with the other young people in the ministry is invaluable,” said Kristen Balzer, women’s minister of the Burlington Church of Christ. “I always leave refreshed, inspired, and with more faith than when I came.”
Anselm Beach, a recent graduate, agrees. “My favorite thing about NESM,” he said, “is the camaraderie that I forge with the other ministers and leaders my age. I like to imagine all of us meeting 20 years from now. We’ve married, started families, and traveled all over the world. I imagine we’ll laugh and reminisce over the lessons that we learned together—the academic lessons and the life lessons.”
In addition to growing spiritual relationships, NESM is a place to build sturdy biblical foundations. “We are truth seekers together, trying to understand not only the elementary truths but diving into the rich depths of theological study," said Amber Lafever. "I love what I’m learning and I love that I’m making lifelong friendships in the process.”
Sarah DeSouza, a native of London who flew across the pond to participate in NESM, appreciates the quality of instruction that she is receiving. “My favorite thing is learning from and being taught by heroes in the faith in a small, intimate, classroom type setting," she said. "These are people who live out what they teach, who have decades of personal experiences, and who are not just knowledgeable but have shown themselves to be effective with that knowledge.”
While NESM has been having a great impact in the lives of its students, it has also become a model for other churches across the world. Inspired by what God is doing through the Boston church, new schools of missions have begun in the following churches and mission fields: Bangalore (India), Manila (Philippines). Kiev (Eastern Europe), Sydney (South Pacific), South Florida (South America), Nairobi (East Africa) and Johannesburg (South Africa).
Hopefully, many others will follow. “The idea is to build a leadership training concept… that is effective, that is practical, that is biblically sound, and that can be replicated around the world," said Valdur Koha. What began as a tiny spark in Framingham, Massachusetts, is quickly becoming – with the help of the Spirit – a shining light to the nations.