Bishop Bright Kombe and Pastor Jaston Justin Jere: The Traina Legacy, Part 6
This is the sixth installment in a series. You can read the previous articles here:
In my last article featuring Rev. Sam Lael Mwase Zulu, I mentioned a trip I made to Zambia to speak at a conference Lael was hosting in the capital city of Lusaka on behalf of the International Center for Biblical Understanding (ICBU)—a ministry of The Word Is Out. That was a big experience for me, and Lael knew that. He graciously offered to let me sleep in the morning after my first long-haul flight, for which I was immensely grateful.
It was shortly after lunch that Lael arrived at my hotel with four of his colleagues. They were Bishop Daniel Chikavizu, (a gentle and unassuming man with a warmth that will melt the iciest of hearts), Elder Dominic Sevelian Ngoma (who, at fifty-nine, sheepishly confessed he thought he was too old to engage in this kind of work), Pastor Jaston Justin Jere (“JJ”—a poised, handsome young man with a respectful but commanding presence), and Bishop Bright Kombe (a gregarious, well-spoken individual whose confidence is well-balanced by his humility).
We sat down around a table to discuss the plans for the three-day conference that would begin the next day. It seemed readily apparent that they were intimidated and a bit bashful being in the presence of a “PhD from the U.S.” (Truth be told, I was the one who was intimidated, having ventured away from my native North American continent for only the second time in my life.) They were each scheduled to present portions of the conference, and as we introduced ourselves, I asked them to share with me the content of their presentations. One by one, they systematically walked me through their outlines—and it was obvious that this was no motley band of ragamuffins. These were carefully trained, very well-prepared students of the Inductive Bible Study (IBS) method of reading Scripture as pioneered by Drs. Robert Traina and David Bauer.
As the conference began, I was immediately struck by both the confidence and competence of this team. I was particularly impressed by the work of Bishop Bright and JJ, each of whom now serves under Lael’s leadership as instructors at the ICBU in Lusaka. Bishop Bright not only knows how to navigate IBS, he knows how to work a crowd. His presentations were dynamic, impassioned, and—at times—hilarious. JJ, on the other hand, stepped to the front and was transformed from a soft-spoken young man in his twenties to a teacher speaking with authority. His commanding presence captivated those in attendance.
Each of their stories needs to be told.
Bishop Bright Kombe
It was in 2016 that Lael held his first Conference, Exposition, and Seminar on IBS featuring the work of Bauer and Traina. Founder and President of The Word Is Out, Dr. Alan Meenan, was in attendance and served as the keynote speaker. While the ICBU’s conferences continue to grow in attendance, this inaugural event held special significance, for it was at this conference that Lael would meet someone who would have a lasting impact on his life.
Bishop Bright Kombe was at that time pastoring a church attended by Lael’s brother-in-law, who mentioned the work of the ICBU to Bishop Bright. His curiosity led him to attend that June conference in 2016. He says this about that experience,
My encounter with the IBS approach made me appreciate the wisdom with which God put together His Word. I have seen that God has relayed through His Word the very depths of His “heart”—to the point that, as I am knowing His Word better, I am knowing Him much more intimately and it is shaping me in all areas of my life to align with His will in His Word.
Along with thirty other students, Bishop Bright enrolled at the ICBU for training. And perhaps it was only fitting that he should land among such company for it had been his desire since 1990 to ensure that “the real person relates to the real God in a deeply real way.” Bishop Bright’s training at the ICBU has only strengthened that determination, and that determination has sparked his confidence in the Word of God.
I courageously communicate the Word of God with a profound desire to, in a way, help others see with me what I am enabled to see – and have been helped by – in my own walk with God. Our reliance should be on His Word which is clear enough about Who God is. God’s Word is the sure foundation that requires a sure and tested approach, and I find that the Inductive Bible Study offered at ICBU to be an approach of great significance. Furthermore, I treat each and every lecturing opportunity as suitable for passing on to the others a passionate drive I nurse to grow an appetite for the Word of God and, hopefully, engender Word-based ministers and ministries henceforth.
Pastor Jaston Justin Jere
It had been three years since JJ’s pastor had given him an opportunity to preach when JJ came across the ICBU offerings. Reflecting on his first opportunity to preach, he remembered flipping through the pages of the Bible, wondering what he was going to preach. He came to Titus 3 and—after reading through the chapter several times—felt he still could not understand the message in it without reading through the entire book of Titus. Even at this stage in his development, he had an innate sense of the importance of reading “books as wholes.”
Three years later, he was invited to attend the second conference hosted by the ICBU. Fascinated by the way Alan and Lael handled the books of Exodus and Matthew in their entirety, he knew his next step was to register and train at the ICBU. It seemed clear that their method of studying the Bible would help him to understand the message of each of the books of the Bible.
My training at the center has helped me to understand and trust God through his Word more and more! It is through his Word that he has revealed his greatness to me. Whenever I am studying, I’m able to pay attention to every detail of the text, in consideration that the writers of the Bible were not wasteful with words. Every term or phrase they used helps to reveal his message. Therefore, not only does the Bible reveal God’s message, but it also reveals his wisdom—and through my training at ICBU, I have come to appreciate God’s wisdom in His Word.
While Christianity grows exponentially on the African continent, it does so under the leadership of pastors who have little or no theological training. Their biblical understanding is often at or below an elementary level. In some cases, pastors are doing more harm than good. For Pastor JJ (who laments that the church in Zambia seems to be overwhelmed by the prosperity gospel, syncretism, and false prophets), IBS has been a critical tool. His dedication to accurately interpreting God’s Word enables him to help both committed believers and those still searching for God to be enlightened and to understand the significance of Scripture. Many of them have come to appreciate sound, biblical teaching—and as a result they are finding themselves more firmly grounded in the faith.
Interest in IBS is growing in and around Lusaka. Lael and his team are increasingly being asked to train pastors in areas outside their area, and even outside their country. Lael envisions a day (perhaps sooner rather than later) when he dispatches people like Bishop Bright and JJ to Malawi, Zimbabwe, and beyond. Just as the early church launched in Jerusalem, spread into the surrounding regions of Judea and Samaria, and eventually advanced “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8), so too is the ministry in Zambia expanding in southern Africa.
As former students and now teachers of the Inductive Bible Study method, Bishop Bright Kombe and Pastor Jaston Jere have earned a place alongside the competent leadership of Lael Zulu. Yet he observes a higher quality in each of these men, and one that the church will always benefit from: a posture of abiding. While they both have a significant vocational calling on their lives, they are keenly aware that their primary call is to God Himself. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV).” Bishop Bright and Pastor JJ have read that message. They have understood that message. And they are faithfully living that message—a faithfulness that honors the legacy of Bob Traina through the love of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father.
As we come to the end of this six-part series chronicling the legacy to date of Dr. Robert Traina, we hope you are encouraged by the ongoing commitment Asbury Seminary maintains in offering “the whole Bible for the whole world.” Bob Traina’s legacy is not only enduring, it is propagating. We have traced the ripple effect: Traina trained Abraham, Meenan and Bauer; Meenan recruited and Bauer trained Lael; Lael trained Bishop Bright and JJ; and now Bishop Bright and JJ are training others. That’s the legacy, and that’s the story we’ve tried to tell. We are excited beyond measure to see what lies on the horizon for the global church.
And part of that future lies with another global leader: Ms. Carol Lin. A 2021 graduate of Asbury Seminary, Carol is set to deploy back to her home nation of Myanmar (formerly Burma) to establish an ICBU in Yangon. Unfortunately, a military coup has created a dangerous political climate presently, preventing her return. She is nevertheless capitalizing on her time in the U.S. by traveling the country and connecting with Burmese Christian communities in Nashville, Dallas, Los Angeles, Louisville, and others. Her desire is to help her Burmese brothers and sisters become better readers of the Bible through Inductive Bible Study. We hope to share more of her story as it unfolds in the coming months. Stay tuned!
–This article was written by Brad Johnson, Affiliate Professor at Asbury Theological Seminary and Executive Director of The Word Is Out, a not-for-profit ministry committed to helping people become better readers of the Bible.