Dear TEAM partners,
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:3-6)
This is definitely how I feel about YOU and our African partners! Thank you! Together, God has led us through many different phases and assignments, but we have remained faithful to our calling and core business: Training ministers. We have taught those who would be faithful to teach others (2 Tim 2:2). Then we have released and sometimes relocated so they can develop while we continue to support them. The apostle Paul had a similar pattern of training and moving, but continuing to write, advise, visit, and teach.
In Tanzania, Lake Victoria Christian College (LVCC) grew from 35 when we arrived to now having 550 students. We moved to Nairobi to teach missions students while releasing and supporting LVCC. After 8 years of teaching missions at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST), we sense that we have completed our major assignments there. My former students do missions, teach, pastor, doctor and lead around the globe. Others have completed or are completing PhDs.
After much prayer and discernment together with others, God has lead us to shift the focus of our training ministers. I will shift to adjunct at NEGST. As Lead Pastor at Bethel Christian Fellowship, I will focus on training members to minister interculturally. Instead of living in Nairobi and visiting MN every other year for some months, we will be ministering from St. Paul and visiting Africa for about one month each year. I will also focus on TEAM work one day each week while in the USA. Our “ligament ministry” connecting and growing up the body of Christ will continue (Eph. 4:16).
Communication with LVCC and about witchcraft and witch accusations will continue at the same pace. I will advise, visit once a year, and raise funds for LVCC. In 2017, Sam Kunhiyop and I plan to write our book for African pastors, What about Witches? A Christian Response for Sufferers and Suspects. BCF has allowed me to step away from pastoring from March 6 – June 5 to focus on TEAM assignments – especially writing the book and visiting supporting churches.
God surprised us by leading us back to BCF where I began ministering as a member 35 years ago and as full-time assistant pastor 25 years ago. Only such a House of Prayer for All Nations would encourage their Lead Pastor to spend ¼ of his time on TEAM. This allows me to train BCF’s leaders, but also not get in their way.
Please do keep praying during this transition for all the members of TEAM including us, BCF, and African partners. We trust God to carry on and complete the work He has begun. We pray He continues to lead and enable each of us in our part.
With gratitude and joy,
Rev. Steve Rasmussen, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Africa International University (AIU)
Director, Training East African Ministers (TEAM)
Kids finding their way… back to Africa
We praise God that Hannah continues to thrive in Nairobi. In fact, the Africa Study Bible launches today in Kenya! Justin is learning lots about public health research in Mbarara, Uganda. God has answered prayers for community and Christian fellowship for him. Isaac returned from Kenya today, where he did a water project with Northwestern’s Engineers without Borders. He plans to study abroad in Ghana this summer. Rachel is busy writing a grant to do a community development internship in a Nairobi slum this summer.
Letter from the head lay elder of our church, BCF:
Dear friends of TEAM,
It is my great privilege to write you today and share an important update about the ministry of Steve and Janice Rasmussen and their work with Training East African Ministers (TEAM). Our church body at Bethel Christian Fellowship (BCF) in St. Paul has had the joy of sending and supporting them in their ministry in East Africa since 1995, when they first went to Mwanza, Tanzania, to serve at Lake Victoria Christian College (LVCC). We are very grateful for your faithful participation with us in the ministry of TEAM, as shown by your generous support through prayer, finances, and relationship the past twenty-two years.
Many things have changed for Steve and Jan since they first went to Tanzania with their very young children Hannah and Justin. Their family grew to include a stillborn daughter named Esther Hope and their twins Isaac and Rachel. Over the years Steve’s ministry grew from his work as LVCC teacher and principal to the expanded role of training ministers in multiple sites and developing Tanzanian leaders who now run LVCC with advice, communication, and fund-raising assistance from him. In a visit to LVCC in 2002, I was both humbled and challenged by the authenticity of devotion to Christ and commitment to ministry that I saw in the Tanzanian leaders and the ministers who were training there.
Steve’s work to complete his PhD in missiology in 2008 deepened his understanding of ministry in Africa and led to its broadening. That same year, he began training missionaries from thirty-five countries at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST) in Kenya. After serving there for eight years, he and Jan returned to the United States for a yearlong sabbatical from AIU, beginning this past summer.
Shortly after Steve and Jan arrived in St. Paul, Steve graciously agreed to serve our church body at BCF as half-time Interim Lead Pastor while he continued to minister half-time with TEAM. As Steve ministered to us, prayed with our Elder Board, and worked with our staff, we began to see that he might be the person God was calling to be our next permanent Lead Pastor. With our calling to be a House of Prayer for All Nations, we recognized that he is uniquely qualified to minister across the various cultural differences in our congregation and to help train us as leaders in intercultural ministry.
Thus, when Steve and Jan expressed openness to serve as BCF’s new Lead Pastor, we began the process of discovering if God would confirm that this was His plan. Our Elder Board agreed to submit the possibility to our staff and ministry coordinators in December and January. Both leadership groups prayerfully considered it and unanimously affirmed our belief that this was of God. We presented Steve as our pastoral candidate to the entire congregation in early February, and our membership unanimously affirmed him as our new Lead Pastor on Saturday, March 4.
So what does this mean for Steve and Jan? What does this mean for the ministry of TEAM?
Steve will begin his ministry as BCF’s Lead Pastor on June 5. He and Jan will also continue their ministry with TEAM. Like you, we at BCF place high value on TEAM. Therefore, we are releasing Steve as our Lead Pastor, to give a quarter of his ministry hours to provide ongoing leadership support to TEAM through writing projects, communications, advising, fund-raising, and occasional travel.
Because Steve will be giving a quarter of his ministry hours to TEAM ministry, one-fourth of his salary will come from TEAM funds. We see this as an opportunity for expanded ministry, especially in Tanzania. With a smaller portion of TEAM funds required for Steve’s compensation, there is now an opportunity for TEAM to utilize more funds in strategic investment for the building of God’s kingdom in East Africa.
What does this mean for you as a TEAM supporter? As Steve and Jan’s sending church the past twenty-two years, we are very grateful for your partnership with TEAM. We appreciate the support you have shown for the work of TEAM, Steve and Jan, and the Tanzanian leaders of LVCC. Here at BCF, we are maintaining our current level of support for TEAM in this new season of Steve and Jan’s ministry. We encourage you to also continue or perhaps increase your current level of giving for the training of East African ministers.
Please be praying for God’s continued guidance and grace for Steve and Jan, their family, and the exciting developments of their ministry. We thank God that we can share together with you in the ministry of TEAM.
Sincerely in Christ,
Lead Lay Elder at Bethel Christian Fellowship, St. Paul, MN USA
Addendum from Dr. Jim Olson
One of the greatest blessings of being the Lead Pastor of BCF for twenty-six years was the opportunity to partner with Steve and Jan Rasmussen and the ministry of TEAM. As I have now transitioned into my new role as the President of the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation, it gives me great joy to know that Steve is stepping into the role of Lead Pastor of BCF AND continuing to lead the efforts of TEAM. I wholeheartedly agree with Ken and BCF in encouraging your continued support for Steve and Jan and TEAM in this new season of expanded ministry.