Student trains pastors, brings reconciliation in West Africa
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – A group of young pastors in Côte d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) approached seminary student Preçois Norcilus at the end of October with a confession. They confessed that they had heard nothing good of Norcilus’ homeland, Haiti, but they rejoiced when Norcilus’ ministry in West Africa helped them lay aside their prejudice. Their story of cross-cultural reconciliation depicts only one way that ministry has spanned the globe through Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s partnership with seminaries worldwide.
Norcilus had traveled from Fort Worth to Côte d’Ivoire, Oct. 19-29, at the invitation of Brent Ray, associate director of global theological innovation in Southwestern’s World Missions Center. According to Ray, Southwestern has dozens of partnerships around the world intended to help train pastors so that they can better proclaim to men and women the spiritual reconciliation and life offered in the Gospel.
A Ph.D. student at Southwestern Seminary, Norcilus taught a church history course at the Baptist Institute for Pastoral and Missionary Training in Cote d’Ivoire. According to Ray, the president of the school “reported that the time was very profitable, and even went so far as to extend an invitation for Preçois to return and teach again.”
“My goal was to make it alive and to make it something they could utilize in their daily ministries,” Norcilus said. Along with teaching this new material at the institute, he provided the school with teaching notes, a PowerPoint slide, and textbook materials in French that can be used by other professors. He developed the curriculum for the church history course with the help of Dongsun Cho, assistant professor of historical theology at Southwestern. In his class, Norcilus highlighted especially the 16th-century Reformers’ emphasis on faith, grace, and Scripture.
“I travel to Haiti every summer, and that is what I go over there to do—to train pastors,” Preçois Norcilus
According to Norcilus, the pastors in Côte d’Ivoire were also burdened by the growing Muslim population and asked how they might continue to make an impact for the Gospel. As a student in Southwestern Seminary’s Terry School of Church and Family Ministries, Norcilus reminded pastors that, while sharing the Gospel broadly, Christian parents should also labor to make faithful disciples of their children.
Training pastors, Norcilus said, is a familiar activity and an important part of his life, although it was not his first career choice. He actually desired to train as a doctor. But God changed his heart and, since 2006, he has trained pastors in Creve, Haiti, where his father has ministered for nearly three decades.
“I travel to Haiti every summer, and that is what I go over there to do—to train pastors,” Norcilus said. “This is where my heart is. I really enjoy it, so I’m hoping for more of it because I think that training pastors is the greatest thing since you can contribute to people’s lives in impacting the kingdom. This is the best thing we can give them, and it is a privilege to do that if God calls us to do it. And I think we ought to take advantage of that and utilize that for His kingdom, for His glory.”
During his trip to Côte d’Ivoire, Norcilus not only trained pastors, but he preached at a local church. As a result of his message from Romans 8, four people professed faith in Christ at the end of the church service.
“The Holy Spirit was really moving,” Norcilus added. “After I finished preaching, several young men came to talk to me. And (one of them) said, ‘I’ve never seen a young man like you speak with such authority in the Word of God, with that conviction, with that enthusiasm and energy, and as a young man myself, you really give me a lot of motivation for me to serve here and get really serious about the Lord.”
Norcilus was also challenged by the students in Côte d’Ivoire, each of whom as a part of their ministerial training would plant a church before graduating.
“It was very eye-opening to me to see that, on the other side of the world, people care to reach other people for the Gospel,” Norcilus said, “and they really are taking seriously what God called them to do. And they want to make sure that they get sound doctrine and that they are reaching people for the kingdom.”
Norcilus also reached people for the kingdom of God. Walking along a street, Norcilus and a student pastor from Côte d’Ivoire discussed Scripture. Unbeknownst to them, an influential teacher from the area heard their conversation. After a short time, he interrupted them to ask them questions about Scripture. As a result, he professed faith, kneeling on the street as he surrendered his life to Christ and was reconciled to God.