How Sharon Bible School Started
by Jim Clark
Martin Barasa, in Bungoma, Kenya, was eager to start a Bible School for pastors in his area, and he asked me to help. With some trepidation, but sensing God's leading, I agreed to help, realizing that I have a number of resources available for this.
I had already been providing Bible lessons hosted on the Sharon Bible Study web site. Over the past 10 years, my wife Donna had been writing these lessons and teaching them to her women's group, and I had edited and published them, and assisted with research and review.
The Sharon Bible Study web site was originally for the women with computers. But several months before starting Sharon Bible School, without any initiative on my part, the Lord brought to me, via Facebook, one by one, several pastors in Pakistan, Philippines, India, and Kenya. Having heard that many indigenous pastors lack good Bible training, I began to encourage them with short commentaries on the Bible, then providing them access to the Sharon Bible Study web site. I accumulated an email list of 12 indigenous pastors to which I sent notices of new lessons.
Then Martin came, begging me to start a Bible school. I have no idea how he found me, because he wasn't even a friend of a Facebook friend. When I asked him, he simply said that he had been praying for a man to help him start a Bible school, and the Lord answered his prayer by directing him to me. Starting a Bible school was a scary thought. Especially when he said that he had 70 pastors eager to start, and he thought I should be the "founder and director."
I told Martin "I think that you are the one to be the founder and director." And to encourage him to take those responsibilities, I gave him the verse: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13) I told him "When God gave you that burden, He gave you the 'will' to accomplish something that will give Him great pleasure. But 'both to will and to do' implies that God also promises to 'work in you' the doing as well as the willing. God does not give us tasks without also enabling us, giving us what we need to do the task."
Then the Holy Spirit spoke to me, quietly reminding me that the verse applied to me, too. Then I realized that God had been giving me the willing to please Him this way, bringing these indigenous pastors on the other side of the world into my life, and giving me the urge to give them good Bible teaching. My own words to Martin, "God does not give us tasks without also enabling us" echoed back to me. And I didn't want to be another Jonah. God was promising that he would enable me. In fact, He had already been preparing me.
So I had to conclude that Martin and I were to be co-founders and co-directors. It isn't the first time that I have directed a team effort over the Internet with people that I have never met before or in person – God gave me that experience years ago as an engineer. Then, thinking about the process of distributing Bible lessons via the Internet and collecting the answers to the lessons, I realized that that wouldn't quite be a 'first' either. Years ago, I had designed a system for computing very large problems by distribuing smaller tasks to a network of computers and collecting and merging the results. I have been an 'elder' or 'board member' all my adult life. My wife and I have always heard good, solid Bible teaching, and have been diligent students of God's Word for many years, learning to 'rightly divide' it and to discern the apostasy and cultic ideas that increasingly are creeping into 'Christian' churches.
And I also had friends and relatives with the expertise to help me. Such as my brother David, who had started a theological seminary in Australia, and had created correspondance courses and taught seminars for seminary training in Southeast Asia and India. And a friend who is the principal of a Christian school.
Lord, use me; even me.
While I was discussing and planning the start of Sharon Bible School, I was also checking Martin's background. He said that he graduated from East Africa Seminary of Theology (EAST), so I wrote to EAST to confirm it, and I asked for a copy of his diploma. The registrar at EAST told me that no Martin Barasa had ever attended there, and the diploma copy that Martin sent me was counterfeit. I asked Martin for a copy of his ordination certificate, and that, too, showed signs of fraud similar to those of Barak Obama's birth certificate (which I have also examined). So I never sent any money to Martin, and I stopped all communication with him.
It may seem odd that God would use a dishonest man to get me started in a ministry, but the Bible has many stories of God using evil men, such as Pharoah, to advance His purposes.
Since then, I have uncovered two other fraudulent 'christian ministries' on the Internet.
History of AFM and SBS
2011 April -- Dave Shelton and Jim B, both volunteers for Global Media Outreach and both living in the Dallas, Texas area, met to talk about common interests. Global Media Outreach provides a means for volunteers to work as "on-line missionaries", counselling seekers and new believers anywhere in the world. Dave had led Ronald, a Ugandan youth, to salvation in Christ, and was helping him with school expenses. Soon afterward, Jim B was similarly helping Ronald's friend, Stanley.
2011 early summer -- Dave Shelton and Jim B created About-Face Missions.
At about the same time, I began talking to indigenous pastors in Kenya, Pakistan, India, and the Philippines via Facebook, encouraging them, discussing Bible passages, and sending to them by email the latest lessons that my wife Donna was writing. I soon found other ways to aid them.
2011 November -- I began talking with Dave and Jim B on Facebook. We shared common ministry interests and concerns, and soon we were sharing advice and experience relating to aiding indigenous pastors.
2012 April -- I started Sharon Bible School, setting up a website to publish the lessons and starting schools first in Kenya, then in the Philippines. The lessons were translated to Swahili (for Kenya) and Cebuano (for Philippines).
2013 May -- AFM was incorporated as a non-profit NGO. It was working in Pakistan, India, Kenya, and the Philippines, and sponsoring short-term mission trips.
I sometimes solicited donations to help pastors and ask that they be sent through AFM. I also recommended some pastors to AFM for support.
2015 June -- I started the SBS Tract ministry. Rather than shipping the tracts, I publish the tracts on the SBS website and send funds to pastors to print tracts after downloading them from the website. The initial tract was written in Cebuano, translated to English, then edited, translated to Cebuano and Swahili, and later to Urdu and Luo.
2016 -- SBS joined AFM, merging SBS financial accounting with AFM, and I was elected to the Board of Directors and appointed Director of Discipleship. Donations to the SBS and tract ministries could now be made through AFM and be tax-deductible. The SBS website was linked to the AFM website.