Hulda squeezed her face in close to mine as she held up her phone to take a photo. She and several members of her church had traveled from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Kenya to attend the first MTI training for publishers in Africa. Hulda was a part of the design training track for which I served as a trainer. I later met some of her team members and heard stories of the disease, abduction, and murder they and others in the DRC faced regularly. One team member who works with young boys who escape from enslaved child soldiering believes that ministry through media can spread peace and hope across the Congo. Hulda’s job is to produce publications that do just that.
Early in my professional career, I found myself volunteering as photographer and designer with a ministry that trained pastors in various places around the world. I’ve always believed global ministry should be collaborative, with members of Christ’s body from all vocations and from everywhere around the world, coming together to further the Gospel mission. I’ve brought this same philosophy into my teaching at Biola University, believing the work that our students do as journalists and media professionals can contribute to Kingdom ministry and to the impact on the world for Jesus.
When I learned of the ministry of Magazine Training International several years ago, I was quickly ignited by its mission. As I was looking for ways to connect myself and my students with their mission, I was asked to travel with MTI to Kenya for their first training on the continent of Africa. I knew I needed to contribute, but I didn’t know what to expect of the training. MTI’s materials appeared to be of very high quality, but I had never seen the organization at work.
I believe in ministry and I believe that God is able to use any willing vessel to accomplish His will. But, I struggle when ministries lack excellence in the presentation of their material and their brand. My experience in Kenya with MTI and their community of trainers was far from mediocre. I was very impressed with the caliber of trainers as well as the quality of the international publishers who attended the training.
Trainers from major organizations and publications were volunteering their time and finances to contribute to the mission. And, publishers from across the continent of Africa (and beyond) came eager to learn and grow the missions and ministries of their publications. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have had where my profession connected so intentionally with the passion of ministry, and at such a high-quality level.
Our days were long and the work was exhausting. But, the level of excellence these publishing professionals desired to achieve through their training inspired me and my fellow trainers.
That time in Kenya solidified my commitment to the ministry of MTI. I was later invited to join their board; and even though I am stretched professionally and personally, I felt this was a call to which I needed to respond. I believe in the mission and vision of MTI and I want to bring my skills to help the organization thrive. As new avenues of communication emerge, I want to see MTI on the front-lines, training Christians to take advantage of those new media in order to reach their communities with the message of the Gospel.
When I returned home to southern California, my son sent me a text with a photo attached. It was a picture of him (a white, young man) at work with a black man. He said, “This is Hulda’s uncle.” I was confused—and in awe. Hulda had posted the photo of the two of us to her Whatsapp account. Her uncle, who had only recently stepped out by faith to come to Biola University, was assigned to work with my son in the cafeteria for the first time. It was just the two of them, late at night, making pizzas for the next day. As they chatted, the story emerged. God was weaving our worlds together and confirming in our hearts his mission, his heart for Congo and for Africa.
Hulda’s uncle is now a mentor to my son. And, I am more than ever humbled to serve a great God and honored to do so through MTI.
Dr. Tamara J. Welter, associate professor of journalism, Biola University