It is that time of year, the time before we continue the otherwise year-round work of encouraging generosity toward The Serious Joy Scholarship and pause briefly to pray for replenishment of The Alex Steddom International Student Fund. Would you please pray whether you are called to aid in this work of gospel ministry?
There is currently a long queue of qualified applicants to our seminary from theologically famished regions around the world, given the extraordinary global reach of Chancellor John Piper’s ministry. They are God-entranced young men who have become magnetized to “Big God” theology and the magnificent insight that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” They want, as do so many, to experience Christian Hedonism here at the Bethlehem headwaters, but they lack the wherewithal to support the tuition costs and living expenses they’ll have that cannot be satisfied by wage-earning here in the U.S., given the restrictions of their student visas.
We wish we could accept and support many for the sake of the nations, but gospel ambition combined with good stewardship compels us to proceed modestly in accepting one new man each year and praying that God will supply sufficient means to supply them, equip them and, ideally, send them back home to spread a passion for God’s supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.
This year’s report exposes a glorious flowering of our original ambitions for The Alex Steddom International Student Fund. We are so pleased to introduce you to Elison Tango of Yaoundé, Cameroon, the 2023 grantee of The Alex Steddom International Student Fund. His selection is noteworthy. Elison is an African student of the fund’s first grantee, Dr. Dieudonné Tamfu, who himself studied here as a Steddom scholar then returned to Cameroon to establish an extension site of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Yaoundé. Elison will be among the first cohort of M.Div.s to graduate from Bethlehem Yaoundé. He’s coming here for one year to complete Th.M. studies before returning to Cameroon to, as the Lord may will, serve the church plant, teach in the seminary, and be part of a Bethlehem-influenced church-planting initiative in West Africa.
The aim of all of our communications to you in matters like these is to produce thanksgiving to God. We rejoice with such thanksgiving that in but a few years, one gifted young man, Dieudonné Tamfu, was called out of a small African village, brought here to receive our “Education in Serious Joy,” and sent back to Cameroon’s capital city. He, and others, there established Église Baptiste Bethléem, a new church that serves as home to the Bethlehem College & Seminary extension site. Nine African seminarians there labor through the same Bible-saturated, academically rigorous curriculum as do their brothers here in Minneapolis. Now one of them, Elison Tango, will by God’s grace come here to be equipped to return and contribute more fully toward all that God is doing there. Oh, how thankful we all are—those of us who deliver the theological education, and those like you who are used of God to make it possible!
This is exactly how we have prayed this program might work, and how we convey it to every man who applies. Our aim is not to get them to the United States for any reason other than equipping them such that the nations may be glad in Christ.
Since the program’s inception, The Alex Steddom International Student Fund has permitted us to accept and graduate seminarians from El Salvador and Myanmar. When Elison Tango arrives next Fall from Cameroon, he will join Steddom scholars from Nigeria, Indonesia, and India already well on their way to graduation and gospel ministry on several continents.
We are being more careful here about how we speak about our financial need, such that God and you both would know that we are depending entirely on Him to supply the spiritual and material resources necessary to this work. You already know well what is required from both realms for a work so substantial as this.
We simply ask you to pray. Supplicate on behalf of the dark regions of the world so desperately in need of gospel light. Plead for these young men—the graduates, students, and applicants—that the callings on their hearts would come to fullest fruition for the sake of their theologically famished neighbors. Ask that abundance might be poured out from the joyful, grateful hearts of the saints, such that temporal things like tuition and living expenses might be gracefully supplied.
When the evangelist George Müller died in 1878, after his “evening of ministry” between ages 70 and 87—during which he traveled to 42 countries and addressed 3 million people in an estimated 6,000 personal appearances—his ministry organization, by then stewarded by his son-in-law, Mr. James Wright, published a report citing an Old Testament text. It strikes me as a fitting example of how we feel about the supply of grace that always finds its way to the annual task of replenishing this fund—indeed, of all so-called “fundraising” at Bethlehem College & Seminary.
He stretches out the north over the void
and hangs the earth on nothing.
He hangs the earth on nothing—that is, no visible support.
Wright wrote of Müller’s ministry as we now write to you of The Alex Steddom International Student Fund:
[The ministry] hangs, as it has ever hung, since its commencement…“upon nothing,” that is, upon no VISIBLE support. It hangs upon no human patron, upon no endowment or funded property, but solely upon the good pleasure of the blessed God. Blessed lesson to learn! that to hang upon the invisible God is not to hang “upon nothing,” though it be upon nothing visible.
And so to God’s invisible yet ever-present, ever-proximate, ever-faithful hand, and to your attention, we commend this work, with my respectful appropriation of this personal valedictory common to all of George Müller’s correspondence:
From a servant of the Lord Jesus, who, constrained by the love of Christ, seeks to lay up treasure in heaven, I remain,
His servant and yours,
Vice President of Advancement & Lecturer of History and Political Philosophy