After training pastors in a remote region of Kenya in the use of their newly acquired e-readers, Aaron Stewart is brimming with enthusiasm for the potential of a missions project conceived by his father, Dan. The chair of the Transformational Ministry degree program, the elder Stewart is part of the Global Life Mission Team of Life Pacific College (LPC, also known as LIFE Bible College). On this year’s visit in mid-May, the team delivered 20 Nooks and Kindles to Kenyan pastors.
“It was real exciting watching them work as a team,” says Aaron Stewart, an assisting minister at New Life Community (Pomona North Foursquare Church) in Pomona, Calif. “They caught on faster than we could have imagined.”
The Global Life team collected e-readers during this past school year after their 2012 trip to Kenya. During last year’s visit, they had shown pastors how e-devices could provide a theological library at their fingertips. On the way home, Dan Stewart thought of how many older e-readers were likely gathering dust in the U.S.
At LPC’s annual fall missions chapel, the professor told students how they could provide practical help to pastors in the Mount Kenya District, a mountainous area far from the nation’s capital. Word of mouth, Facebook and other speaking engagements helped spread the word.
Five Foursquare churches in California responded with donations: Lifehouse (San Dimas Southwest Foursquare Church) in San Dimas; Florence Avenue Foursquare Church in Santa Fe Springs; New Life Community Foursquare (Oxnard Northeast Foursquare Church) in Oxnard; His Way Community (Valencia Foursquare Church); and Graystone Chapel (Alta Loma Foursquare Church) in Alta Loma. One other church and seven individuals also donated used e-readers or cash for new ones.
Global Life Mission Team member Jason Mattos cleared old material from used devices. Then, primarily utilizing free e-books downloaded from the Internet, he installed 395 titles (including Bible translations) on used and new devices alike.
At one point, 20 Nooks and Kindles were lined up in a row, charging on Dan Stewart’s kitchen countertop. Expenses totaled just $60, primarily for USB adapters and charging devices. Those funds came from donations to the latest mission trip.
Although the collection drive fell a bit short of the first-year goal of 25 devices, the professor plans to keep collecting e-readers. He has led student groups to Kenya annually for more than 35 years.
“The ability to work and create in a team environment is the change the e-readers made,” Dan Stewart explains. “These pastors had never collaborated this way. The creativity was amazing. Many of them pastor by themselves in remote villages, and to get together this way was very different.”
Americans may take e-readers for granted, but the devices are a valuable possession in an area where residents don’t have Internet access and few own a laptop, Aaron Stewart notes.
“Besides giving them this material, we taught them how to teach themselves,” the younger Stewart says. “A lot were excited, because they want to use resources from other scholars. They can become students of people like Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John Piper and Matthew Henry.”
Many don’t have the opportunity to attend college, but one leader who had just completed his theology degree recognized the usefulness of e-readers. Aaron says having someone who could explain their value in a native dialect helped spread excitement among the recipients. Contributors to the project appreciate its value as well.
Theological tools for African leaders are a scarce commodity, notes LPC President Jim J. Adams. However, with wireless hot spots and cell phone charging stations becoming more prevalent, he believes this initiative will be one of the most efficient, low-cost ways of rapidly deploying ministry content.
“Having worked extensively in higher education with African believers over the past nine years, I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to transport and import paper-based books there,” says Jim, who donated a Kindle. “Dr. Stewart’s idea is genius—and inspired.”
Despite living on a fixed income, a retiree who prefers to remain anonymous contributed funds to buy four Nooks.
“I’m so glad that I was able to participate in both the project and the equipping of pastors,” shares the former librarian, who recognizes the value of the written word. “What an awesome God we serve.”
Those who want to donate e-readers for future missions trips can send them to:
Life Pacific College
ATTN: Dan Stewart
1100 W. Covina Blvd.
San Dimas, CA 91773
Devices should be cleared of content and unlocked so the team at LPC can download new materials.
Any checks should be made out to the college and sent to the same address, with “E-Readers for Missions” in the memo section. LPC can also accept credit card donations online.
By: Ken Walker, an award-winning freelance writer living in Huntington, W.Va.