On his first morning in the United States of America in August 2007, having just arrived from Cameroon to become a student at Bethlehem, Dieudonné Tamfu lifted this prayer to God:*
“Lord I will be going out to see the new world into which you have brought me. I do not now know how it looks like but I can guess it is wonderful for it is your design. All you ever design is good. Help me Lord by your Spirit to truly appreciate the beauty of this city and America only to the degree that it helps me see you. May I not be won by its beauty and miss out on the beauty of the glory of God on the face of Christ. Take my eyes and let them be fully consecrated to you. May this city and America at large remain what it is or rather will be to me when I set my eyes on it in a few moments. May Jesus mean everything to me! Spare me Lord from becoming more American than becoming more Christ-like in my stay here in the US. May US be US and Jesus be the all-satisfying Jesus still and more. May I not for once trade the beauty of Christ with the small and contingent beauty of America. Help Lord that I may never decide to stay here for there is work to be done back at home. May the thought about the new earth and the new city Jerusalem fill my heart so much that I will seek its coming by doing what you have called me to do. Indeed your glory has to fill Cameroon and Africa as the water cover the sea. May I live and study while here for that great end. Oh God help for I cannot do without you. Guard my burden for the church in Cameroon and the unreached tribes in Cameroon and Africa that I will always want to go back to serve. In the name of my all-glorious and all-satisfying Christ” AMENNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
Dieudonné Tamfu was the first beneficiary of what was ultimately to become the Alex Steddom International Student Fund, a ministry of generous saints created to accommodate the extraordinary expenses associated with being an international seminary student at Bethlehem College & Seminary. The recipients of this grant receive not only The Serious Joy Scholarship, but also the student-paid tuition required of others, a modest work-study assignment, and a similarly modest stipend for living expenses, since their student visa restrictions preclude them from being employed anywhere other than the school. One Steddom Fund grant is awarded each year, and the fund requires $185,000 annually to support four seminarians in the school at the same time. This letter represents our annual appeal to you to aid in the replenishment of this fund.
When Dieudonné completed his Bethlehem “Education in Serious Joy,” he continued his education at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, where he earned his Ph.D. He returned to Minneapolis to pastor at a Bethlehem church-plant and to teach at Bethlehem College & Seminary. All-in-all he was in the U.S. for more than a decade, but he never wavered in his commitment to Christ on behalf of the lost in Cameroon and West Africa. Today, he serves us as Assistant Professor of Bible and Theology and as director of the Bethlehem College & Seminary extension site in Yaoundé, Cameroon, where 9 seminarians are already enrolled. He also serves as lead pastor of the newly planted church, Église Baptiste Bethléem, in Yaoundé.
Christ purchased Dieudonné’s heart. He was called to gospel ministry in a faraway place with few resources available for equipping him. Your generosity enabled him to come here to study the God-centeredness of God and the joy-centeredness of man in God. He returned to Cameroon. He planted a biblical church amid popular affinities toward tribal syncretism, Roman Catholicism, and the soul-damning teaching of the prosperity gospel. He has mustered two cohorts of Cameroonian seminary students. He now has a vision of a Cameroonian church-planting endeavor and of outreach to unreached people groups inside the established borders of Cameroon. This is God’s work, to be sure, but it is undertaken with the coordinated support of Bethlehem College & Seminary, Jubilee Community Church, Bethlehem Baptist Church Global Outreach, Training Leaders International, the Treasuring Christ Together church-planting network and, equally as important, you and the other generous contributors to The Alex Steddom International Student Fund.
Earlier this year, Professor Tom Steller taught the missions class to the Cameroon seminarians at the Yaoundé extension site via Zoom from his den in Minneapolis, drawing in Bethlehem Baptist Church global partners from China, India, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The Cameroonian students were spellbound at the magnificence of God’s work among the nations and spurred to contemplate missionary endeavor in their own future ministries. How amazing is that!?
Coming up behind Dieudonné Tamfu are two recent graduates of Bethlehem College & Seminary who just received their Master of Divinity degrees in May after four years of support from The Alex Steddom International Student Fund. René González is, for the while, serving as an elder on staff at Bethlehem Baptist Church, channeling resources and organizing mission trips to his native El Salvador. Chyingtawng Naw Zau Naw—who by God’s grace survived a serious bout with COVID-19 during his final year of seminary—plans a season of additional graduate-level education before returning to Myanmar as a theologically equipped pastor and worship leader.
Then there are the students who will be with us again in the Fall. Chinechetam “Jeremiah” Ogazi prays toward the day when he will soon return to Nigeria to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ—even as the death of one of the African continent’s most-followed prosperity preachers, Bishop T. B. Joshua, unleashes his successor-lieutenants to continue to spread their hellish lies.
Benaya Ariel of Indonesia is midway through his degree program here. His heart remains inflamed for the nations, and he is praying that God will show him just where in the world he is to go to preach, teach, and shepherd after school. In August, by virtue of your generous support of The Alex Steddom International Student Fund last summer, Edison DSouza of Mysore in India will be part of the incoming seminary cohort. His educational adventure is just beginning, but his future ministry to one of the most populated and theologically diverse nations in the world was conceived before the world began—as was your participation in it.
There’s an urgency to our appeal. Your prayerful response to this annual appeal, and that of others, will determine whether we have financial resources sufficient enough to invite another international student to join the seminary in the Fall of 2022. In just the few years since Bethlehem College & Seminary became accredited and thereby able to enroll international students in the seminary, your support of The Alex Steddom International Student Fund has either activated or aimed new Bethlehem-influenced ministries in Africa, Central America, Asia, and Indonesia, regions where the growth of Christ’s church has such great potential for gospel ambition.
In God’s infinite economy $185,000 is a pittance, less than a pittance, less than less than a pittance, really. Still—even while he supplies so faithfully and with such ease—the work of planting, cultivating, and gathering such sheaves is ours, and it is the season during which we are assigned to do so. Won’t you please pray earnestly over the lives and ministries of these students and graduates, as well as those men whose grant applications are presently under consideration? And won’t you please pray whether or not you might be called to provide some measure of this financial support from the overflow of joy in Jesus spilling from your faith-filled heart?
Alex Steddom, though born an American, was a young man whose heart for the nations was so full. The Lord took him home on the mission field in Ireland just before he was to begin his first year in seminary at Bethlehem College & Seminary. The Alex Steddom International Student Fund was created then in the hope that Alex’s seat in the seminary classroom would always be occupied by a man from the nations who shared Alex’s hope for the lost peoples of the world—and so it has been since, by the grace of God-stirred generosity in the hearts of others who share that same hope. Please respond soon such that we can invite another such student to join us next year.
His servant and yours,
- Pray that the Lord would bring in funds sufficient to cover the costs of our current Alex Steddom Fund grantees and to invite a new student for fall 2022.
- Pray for the incoming students and their families as they begin to settle into Minneapolis and prepare for classes to start.
- Pray for the international students planning to come this fall as they work on visas.
- Pray for Jonathon Woodyard and Darcy Enthoven as they continue to shepherd new students towards matriculation in the fall.
- Pray for the staff and faculty as they prepare for the school year to start again.