Founder says Legacy stands at a crossroads
By Anita G. Showers
MONROVIA, Calif.--Legacy Institute, a Church of God ministry founded by Leon and Gloria Sexton, is at a crossroads, Mr. Sexton announced in a meeting of the Legacy board here Feb. 13.
Because "God is moving dramatically in Asia," where Legacy operates offices and the Legacy Institute International Leadership Training Center, a school for young people, the board has some hard decisions before it, he said.
Legacy's school is in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
"Small, new Church of God congregations are springing up all over South and Southeast Asia like mushrooms in the warm, spring rain," he said.
Personnel are needed to help with what Mr. Sexton sees as an "explosion" in growth.
Legacy Institute is a nonprofit charitable foundation founded by Mr. and Mrs. Sexton in 1999 to initiate and fund educational and self-help projects in Southeast Asia. The educational projects mainly serve existing Church of God fellowships as well as new congregations now being formed under Legacy's auspices
But Legacy also supports secular programs to serve poor and underprivileged people living in that part of the world.
Mr. Sexton likens Legacy to John 6, where Jesus fed bread and fish to crowds of people who came to hear Him.
"They didn't understand the precious spiritual message He was giving, but He fed them anyway," Mr. Sexton said. "Why? Because they were hungry."
Traditional church functions
The way Legacy Institute is organized confuses some people. Legacy is a foundation but also carries out traditional church functions in Asia such as sponsoring Feast of Tabernacles sites, the founding of congregations and even conducting evangelistic and baptism tours.
The Sextons formed Legacy as a foundation for several reasons, Mr. Sexton said. The main one is that it allows the entity the freedom to cooperate with many separate Church of God organizations and fellowships as well as secular nonprofit organizations without the encumbrances that affect some church organizations.
"People are just plain suspicious of other church organizations," he said. "Legacy doesn't have this problem. Since there is no such thing as the Legacy Church, we can go out and help anyone anytime, anywhere, without the people becoming suspicious that we are on a sheep-stealing mission or trying to bring their Church of God organization under some sort of Legacy Church umbrella."
At the meetings here Feb. 13-14, present were board members Mr. and Mrs. Sexton from Thailand, Herb Vierra of Monrovia and Anita Showers of Dundee, Ohio.
Al Garrett of Dallas, Texas, sits in on board meetings in an advisory capacity.
"We need help," Mr. Sexton said. "God is doing a work in Asia. He has put us on the front lines of that work. If He wants us to do the job He has given us to do, He must and will provide the support we need to do that job."
Agenda items included a call for better organization and how to increase the support base so Legacy can handle its growing workload.
"Now I really know what Jesus was talking about when He said the harvest is truly plenteous but the laborers are few," Mr. Sexton said.
Board members also discussed progress at the institute's school in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The ILTC (International Leadership Training Center) is the flagship project of Legacy's efforts in Asia. The Sextons founded the ILTC primarily to train young people as pastors and evangelists.
Mr. Sexton spoke of the challenges of starting local churches.
"Anyone called to head up an evangelistic and church-building effort in any new area is going to run into the same thing," he said. "Once you raise up a small, new church congregation, who is going to take care of them after you leave?
"You can't just go in, plant a tree, water it once or twice and then go away and expect that tree to grow. It will just simply die."
The ILTC is in its third year. The school teaches classes in English, Bible, computers, public speaking, music and vocational organic agriculture to students ages 18-25 from the "hill tribes" of Thailand and Myanmar (Burma).
"About a third of our students come from Church of God families," Mr. Sexton said, "but others are accepted who come from non-Church of God Christian backgrounds. We even accept Buddhist students."
The ILTC accepts non-Christians as students because "we don't really know who God has in mind to call to His service," Mr. Sexton said. "He can call the Hindu or Buddhist just as easily as the so-called Christian. He is God. He does what He wants.
"Anyway, Jesus told us that what we freely receive we are to freely give. The truth of the Bible is not the exclusive property of the Church of God."
Legacy's school operates on a volunteer basis. Teachers come from various Church of God backgrounds and come to Thailand at their own expense--sometimes helped by grants from members of Churches of God in the United States--and teach for one year.
"These young volunteers do an outstanding job of teaching our students. They are dedicated to God's way of life, teach in a spirit of humility and are willing to sacrifice."
Legacy sends selected volunteers out to teach the Bible to scattered Church of God members and prospective members living in refugee camps along the border and in surrounding countries.
"Young men like Ryan Foster and James Hostetter are incredible," Mr. Sexton said. "They travel to very remote areas and stay in very primitive conditions without complaint. They are much more concerned about seeing that the little ones of God are spiritually fed."
Sometimes Legacy's women teachers can accompany the men on teaching assignments. Mr. Sexton said the ladies can teach and encourage women and children in a way the men cannot.
In any case, volunteer teachers at Legacy's school experience what they invariably describe as the service venture of a lifetime.
"Finding appropriate manpower and building our support base pose the most crucial needs of Legacy at this time," Mr. Sexton said during the meeting here.
Legacy will need two or three more volunteer teachers for the academic year 2005-06. Those applying must be at least 20 years old, come from a Church of God background and preferably have completed at least two years of college or university.
Volunteers pay their own way over to Thailand and back. Legacy takes care of room and board while they are there.
Fields of God
Mr. Sexton explained the need for an increased support base.
"Since Legacy Institute is not affiliated with any of the larger Church of God fellowships, we receive no funding from them. Individual donors and some small Church of God congregations who believe we are actively engaged in the work of the Almighty in Asia do support us. So they want to join us in that effort. I call them fellow laborers in the fields of God."
Legacy actively supports the evangelistic and "church planting" efforts of local Church of God evangelists and pastors in Myanmar and on either side of the borders of India and China.
"Our job is to seek out and find where God is already actively working and support those efforts," the Legacy founder said. " There are several men, all Church of God , working in Burma, India and the far south of China who lack Bible education, lack training and lack the financial resources to do the job God has given them.
"But they do it anyway, and God has blessed their efforts, and fruit is being borne. We need to better educate them in the Bible, translate booklets and a Bible-study course into their own native languages and help them financially."
Mr. Sexton said some new converts in the remote mountainous areas near China and India have little education and have never owned a Bible.
"We are only beginning to scratch the surface of what needs to be done in Asia," Mr. Sexton concluded. "We need more support. We especially need the help of those willing to devote a special part of their prayer time for Legacy.
"Without God's blessings we could do nothing and Legacy would go nowhere. We are ever grateful for His grace, help and divine guidance in doing the job He has given us to do."
Anyone interested in volunteering to serve one year in Thailand, or interested in becoming a "fellow laborer in God's fields" by supporting Legacy Institute, or has a question about Legacy, may write Anita Showers at email@example.com or Legacy Institute, P.O. Box 7, Dundee Ohio 44624, U.S.A.
See the report from a young volunteer teacher at Legacy's school in Chiang Mai beginning on page 1 of this and many others issues of The Journal. See also, on page 20, a Texas congregation's offer to financially support a teacher at the ILTC for one school year.
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