East Mountain, a Training Ground
By Emily Haase
South Africa has a rich culture and a history riddled with violence, political instability, and a massive increase in the Christian population in the past 100 years. The year 1910 saw a Christian population of only 9%; today it boasts nearly 50%. This growth is because of several movements of mission work in South Africa, focusing mainly on salvation.
This would be a positive report, but a closer look reveals that although many have given their hearts to Christ, they have not been properly taught what the Bible tells them about how to practically live out their faith. This results in an accommodating church and even pastors who incorporate things that are not biblical into their teaching.
There are theological institutions in Africa, but even if they were operating at full capacity, only 1 out of 10 leaders, pastors and ministers would be able to receive solid biblical training.
East Mountain is an initiative to address this issue, inviting leaders to be a part of the East Mountain community, which is committed to the growth of knowledge and biblical living in South Africa and the world.
In operation for just over a year, their current and former interns are a testament to the mission’s success. Genevieve, a graduate of the first one-year internship program, has a lot to say about the practical knowledge she gained for the independent NGO she now works for, Kuyasa Horizon Empowerment. She works with young people in one of the most difficult neighborhoods just outside of Cape Town.
Genevieve shared that what she learned from East Mountain worked to change her outreach process. When she saw that outreach was very disconnected and brief, she suggested an initiative to help the community by developing relationships, helping them get employment, and investing in long term relationships with the people in the community. This is just part of the revolutionary training that interns – both short and long term – receive at East Mountain.
Active interns in a short-term program will tell us that the internship program has changed their perspective on theology because East Mountain leans heavily on community, rather than the classroom. It is not just a place to gain more head knowledge, it is a means to spiritual growth, to practical leadership training, and it is what binds this community of believers together.
They live under the same roof together and the visiting theologians and teachers stay with them in the intern housing situated at the base of a mountain and surrounded by expansive vineyards situated in Stellenbosch, a short drive north of Cape Town.
Gabriel Smith, one of the founders of East Mountain explains why they chose to call it East Mountain. “Throughout the Scriptures mountains are where the living God meets with leaders to call, transform and encourage them. Christian leaders come to East Mountain to meet with the Lord and with each other, to grow in love for God, knowledge of His Word and ability to lead His people.”
The atmosphere at the East Mountain house is nothing short of a family gathering. Local pastors, the interns, the visiting Ph.D., partners and board members and the full time missionaries all gather together for fellowship and to encourage and challenge one another.
The work they do is imperative to the continuing growth of Christianity in South Africa. Their South African partner and board member, Adrian, says, “As God’s message is being proclaimed, as they preach it more, I think it’s important that people get training on how to take that message further, and for that reason South Africa needs East Mountain.”
Lotando, an intern, has decided that the training he receives will be used in his small home church in Kayamandi. “I come from a community that doesn’t have the skill to teach on how to lead, how to minister, how to read the Bible or how to listen to God when he is speaking.” He wants his training to go to work as soon as he returns, loving people, ministering to them and if the opportunity arises, to be able to disciple and teach.
That’s the goal, to raise up leaders who are adequately trained to teach the Scriptures as it relates to theology, biblical living and personal spiritual growth; and that in turn they would teach others to do the same.
God is visibly working through East Mountain to impact many communities in Cape Town and the surrounding communities, and the heart of East Mountain’s training beats around fellowship and unity. Already they have seen the training help to develop other NGOs, young people who participate in the internship go deeper with the Lord and learn to lead. In addition to all this, local pastors have partnered with East Mountain in order to be trained, shaped and molded to the truth of God’s Word.
About the Author
Emily Haase is a photographer, videographer and journalist. She earned a B.A. in Communication Studies and Spanish from the University of Minnesota. Emily considers herself an idea-generator and dream-builder working to tell the stories of organizations by crafting carefully curated images, video and text to have greater impact.