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Steve and Jan Hobson
January 2013 Update:
Dear Praying Friends,
With the seasonal beauty of Christmas still around us and the new year approaching, we look back with wonder and gratitude for these past months. Wrapping up our year at the International Graduate School of Leadership (IGSL), we have much to thank God for!
What a Great Savior! Jesus is the heart and passion of our service! He is mighty to answer prayer, especially your prayers for us! Here are some of the stories we celebrated this past year.
Police Raid! - A bus drives up to our IGSL campus and out pile 13 officers/instructors of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) plus four selected senior cadet leaders. They are part ofan investigation - checking out our school, testing us to see if our training might be useful in developing future police, fire, and jail officers. We are hosting them for a one day leadership seminar, exposing them to our servant-steward leadership model. If they like it, the doors fly wide open to the academy in fresh ways. If not, it may put at risk our ongoing ministry on their campus. No guarantees. Trusting God, we take the risk!
It's an interesting bunch - a blend of believers and non-believers, and a Catholic chaplain for good measure. He sure seems a bit testy! Attending the seminar are some rigid, traditional military hierarchy types - command and control thinkers who are challenged to broaden their approach on how to lead. There are also some open hearted, reform minded people there who totally "get" our approach to leadership! We do presentations, use case studies, a film clip.
Discussions get energetic, especially when we unearth some hot issues. The tension rises and we face some sticky moments. We wonder if we've turned off some important people.
At the end of the day General Guinto, commander of the academy, shows up and we hold our breath. He gathers feedback, consults with his leaders, and then . . . asks us to be sure we give this training to all the rest of the officers and every cadet in the academy!!
Whew! Praise God, and thanks for praying!
[P.S. In mid September an IGSL team of twelve faculty & students trained 280 graduating senior cadets at PNPA!]
God's Healing Grace
It begins as a stomach ache and fever. But the flu symptoms don't die down after a week. Visits to the doctor are inconclusive, so they are told to wait. The concerned parents, however, pray hard and are joined by the IGSL community. Santosh and Mina are from Nepal, from Hindu backgrounds. They are new students in Jan and my mentoring groups, far away from home and family. Their son Aashish, 13 years old, grows weaker, his fever up and down, the discomfort increasing. The concerned parents pray harder.
Finally it is clear, appendicitis! Surgery is scheduled - a scary first time experience for the family. Jan and I are at the hospital with them that night. After hours of waiting we see the surgeon come out to report to the parents. Then we watch through the recovery room window a long, animated conversation between Santosh and the surgeon.
Aashish's appendix had ruptured, and based on the record of Aashish's symptoms over the previous week, the doctor estimates it ruptured more than six days before surgery. He concludes: "You are lucky your son is still alive."
Santosh replies: "We've trusted in and prayed to Jesus Christ. This is not luck. It is God's answer to prayer." The doctor replies as he is turning to leave, "Well, that's fine. But I believe there are many ways to God." And Santosh shoots back, "Then you must be a Hindu, because that is what my countrymen believe."
That stops the good doctor in his tracks! In the ensuing conversation Santosh shares how Jesus Christ has changed his life, has healed his mother and father from diseases. Most importantly, Jesus died on the cross for Aashish and for the doctor. The surgeon listens respectfully and carefully, asking clarifying questions.
After a difficult period of recovery, Aashish is alive and as energetic as any healthy 13 year old can expected to be! God is good!
Jailed! - After finishing the first term at IGSL the faculty and student body divide up into ministry teams and scatter across the Philippines for five days (Ministry Week) of practical ministry, church training, and outreach. My ministry team is five first year students, my mentoring group: two from the Philippines, the rest from Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Nepal. We prayed hard for a ministry setting that would provide a good first exposure for our group. God answers by sending us to prison!
One of our alumni, pastor Noel Alberto, offers to host our group in his church a few hours away from IGSL. Noel has an ongoing ministry in two prisons. An ex-convict himself, he is a gifted evangelist and bold preacher of God's transforming grace. So on our first day he plunges us into a high security prison to share our testimonies and preach!
Our students meet and mingled with former murderers, thieves, rapists, and drug lords. I have the privilege of sharing my salvation story and preaching to over 200 prisoners crammed into two large jail cells. The longing in their faces, the tears, and the gratitude reminds me of just how powerful the gospel really is (Rom 1:16)!
The rest of the week involves, among other things, outreach at a flood evacuation center (remember the August floods in Manila?), street preaching in a busy market, a ministry to street kids, and an evangelistic talk on "Positive Parenting" for parents at a local school.
Doctors and Health
At the end of September I teach a week long doctoral course on "Organizational Health" with 14 top leaders from several ministries. It is a great group, energetic with impactful discussions. Exciting to see how God uses the week, with several "ah-ha!" & "break-through" moments!
Peace Studies - Each October we hold the doctor of Peace Studies classes at IGSL. This year eight participants from seven countries reconvene along with three visiting faculty. Those four weeks are intense - challenging academics, practical skill development (negotiation & mediation this year), and personal mentoring for character development. Intensive - and productive!
Here's what one participant, a pastor and seminary professor from Lebanon, wrote me:
Dear Dr. Steve,
Ever since our courses last October, 2011 God has been working in my life in amazing ways! I have become more focused and anchored, celebrating the things I used to brush off before because I wanted what wasn't mine. I am becoming more in tune with God. I am celebrating my weaknesses and God's story in my life. . . I cannot believe how free I feel in building up others who have been bound by shame. This is so rewarding! I thank God for His grace and work, saving them from inner bondages of shame and guilt, giving them wings to soar to new heights. Thank you Steve for this amazing experience and awakening that has happened in my life. I am not the same.
To God be the glory for using this program in the Middle East!!
Ministry Mountaintop - Early in our second term my team of masteral students and I travel north 6 hrs by bus for our second Ministry Week. Leaving after classes we arrive at our mile high destination on Friday, 2 a.m.
Later that same day, we divide into three pairs to speak to nine classes in a public high school. With an hour in each class, we creatively share the gospel with over 200 high school students. It is great fun!
Most of the young people intensely follow the presentation, tears streaming down the faces of several. Using comment cards we discover that many students indicate they have prayed to receive Christ for the first time!! Then on Saturday night at a film showing, we see several students from the school attend who have never been to the church before!
Saturday morning we train the church people in how to share their faith in a conversational manner. Then we prepare to visit friends and family, invite them to the evangelistic film that night, share a testimony, and share the gospel if the opportunity opens up. Church people are rather uncertain about this, they've never done anything like this before. But we pray, trusting God to use the time, and launch out!
Nine teams talk with 28 people total. Several people trust Christ that afternoon and come to the film showing that night. One church leader shares Christ with his sister-in-law to whom he had witnessed several times before. This time she opens her heart to Christ in a sincere decision, comes to the movie that night, and then comes to church Sunday! Praise God!!
All in all, about 70 people came to the film showing, 38 filled out comment cards, and 15 indicated they trusted Christ for the first time.
One of the highlights of my year is attending the Global Leadership Summit, a ministry of Willow Creek Association. Since 2006 the conference has been offered in Manila via video presentation. This year I had the privilege of participating as a discussion facilitator for the 1,000+ attendees. Great fun!
Health Concerns - Amidst the parties and season's special musicals, we gave time to address some health concerns at IGSL. Our school leadership team completes a seven month long process evaluating our own organizational health. With the help of an organizational consultant, we set out a plan for addressing priority concerns in 2013.
THANK YOU FOR PRAYING:
> Leadership Role - Steve has been asked to act as "Chief of Staff" with the IGSL leadership team, assisting our Exec Director, Eric Agustin, in the running of the school. That has put him out front on several essential projects. Additionally, from January to March while Eric is doing personal support raising, Steve will be "Officer in Charge." Pray for him as he juggles many responsibilities.
> Staff needs - IGSL is looking for an Executive Assistant to help both the IGSL Director (Eric Agustin) and Steve with their work. Please pray God will send us a highly competent, motivated, mature person for the job.
> Accreditation Visit - This essential part of academic life is a grueling process that occurs about every five years. Extensive work goes into data collection, self studies, interviews, and debriefing. This year our IGSL DMin program is up for accreditation/recognition by the regional theological association (Feb 4) and the government education board. Pray we pass both!
> Church Health Seminar/course - Come March we will hold a DMin course on Church Health & Growth taught by Gary McIntosh, a "guru" in the field. Because of the interest in his coming, we will also hold a city-wide seminar for pastors and church leaders. Lots of work setting that up. Pray for the positive, strong impact!
> Military ministry - Momentum is building in our military ministry. The Philippine military has come to IGSL for help in addressing crucial issues (hazing, mediocrity, honor violation) in its training academies. A series of intensive seminars began last year (apart from those mentioned above) and will continue into 2013. Pray for these initiatives.
Thank you so very much for praying for and supporting our work here! As you can tell, IGSL is a school that does a lot more than hold classes! We are stretching, trusting God as we seek to make Christ known in all spheres of society.
Steve & Jan