by Bob Lunt
SEAN (pronounced SAY-ANN) is a method of Christian education for people without means, opportunity or education to study at Bible or theological college. From humble beginnings it has built partnerships all over the world, its courses now translated into over 70 languages. Its International Director, Terry Barratt, son of one of its missionary founders, recently revisited South America where it all began and was particularly struck by growth in Bolivia, where nearly 2000 are doing SEAN courses. Recently they were approached by a church of 5000 members, founded by a converted Paraguayan professional footballer (these things happen in South America!). He is now the senior pastor and has requested that his 30 assistant pastors do the Life of Christ course, before opening it up to the rest of the congregation.
In the highlands and isolated areas, SEAN’s partners have over 1000 students. One Saturday morning 20 pastors gathered to share their news, some travelling nine hours from remote areas. One testified: “Fifteen years ago, due to the lack of work in Bolivia I emigrated to Argentina. I suffered tough times there, which by the grace of God led me to meet Jesus in a church whose pastor represents SEAN in Argentina. So from day one I was discipled and trained to serve the Lord in ministry. By following God’s Word, my life improved and eventually I was able to return to Bolivia. I began to witness and started a church. Now we have a large congregation of all ages which I lead following that pastor’s wise counsel: ‘People need God’s word’. For this we use SEAN courses”.
Another pastor shared: “Several years ago we visited the local prison. A slow chain of conversions led to the establishment of a prison church and a SEAN Bible training ministry in the prison. After a time the impact of the new Christians’ witness, discipline and conduct became so noticeable that the authorities sent a judge to investigate. He made the extraordinary decision to shorten the sentences and set free ten Christian prisoners, stating that ‘What has happened here needs to be made public’. These freed men serve in different churches to this day.”
These accounts are a pattern repeated worldwide in places where motivated Christians and Theological Education work together. Over in Paraguay there are more than 2000 students. A significant advance has been made in their Tacumbu Prison ministry, where there are now 1600 prisoners in the Christian-run section of this 3500-inmates prison. 300 are studying SEAN courses.