On today's show, we have Dr. Tony Twist. He's the president of TCM International. He is the also chief executive officer and serves as a professor at the Leadership and Spiritual Formation. He holds a degree from Milliken College, a BA, an MDIV, from Immanuel School of Religion, a doctor of ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a PhD from Indiana University.
Christ’s Church of the Valley: https://ccv.church/
CCV Missions: www.ccv.church/missions
Pastor Larrie Fraley: linkedin.com/in/larrie-fraley-53445032
Larrie: [00:00:01] Welcome to another episode of Let's Go 360. Let's Go 360 is a podcast for listeners who want to know more about what God is doing around the world here, near and far. This podcast is sponsored by Christ’s Church of the Valley, also known as CCV, One Church with many locations across the Greater Phoenix area with plans to expand wherever God wants to go. And as always, our show notes will have links to helpful information discussed in each podcast episode, along with a complete transcript of every episode. Check out all episodes on letsgo360.org and be sure to check out CCV at CCV’s website Ccv.church My name is Larrie Farley. I'm your host and lead pastor of the local and global missions here at CCV. Well, I am so honored today to have my good friend Dr. Tony Twist with us. He's the president of TCM International. He is the also chief executive officer and serves as a professor at the Leadership and Spiritual Formation. He holds a degree from Milliken College, a BA, an MDIV, from Immanuel School of Religion, a doctor of ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a PhD from Indiana University. Tony was born in Texas, raised in Dallas and Alice Springs, Australia. Another interesting thing about Tony is that he is a voting member of the Cherokee tribe. As Tony's great grandfather was a young boy in the Trail of Tears. Married to Suzanne for 47 years this December, Tony and Suzanne served in churches in Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana, as well as serving in various capacities at TCM. He's authored several articles and in papers and magazine. He writes articles for the National International Newsletter and periodicals. He serves as a mentor for leaders around the world United States, Europe, Central Asia. And I consider him my mentor, as I have learned so much from Tony. Tony, welcome to the show, my friend.
Tony: [00:02:24] Thank you, Larrie. It's really good to be with you today. And I appreciate the opportunity to just hang out here with you.
Larrie: [00:02:31] Yeah, you're here for several days teaching a class in our cohort for TCM here in Arizona. But before we dive in today, tell us a little bit about your story, my friend.
Tony: [00:02:45] I would say that my whole life has just been a God journey. My father, who passed away this past year, dedicated me to the Lord when I was I was a little I didn't know that till after I was ordained in ministry. And I've had such a blessed life, Larrie. And to know folks like you and others all around the world that are so committed to the great commission. It's just a blessing to me.
Larrie: [00:03:15] Well, it's certainly been a great ride. I've known you for so many years now. Tell us a little bit about how about the history of TCM, It has such a unique history.
Tony: [00:03:26] Well, it started in Toronto, Canada. It's called Toronto Christian Mission, a Benevolence Organization that worked behind the Iron Curtain upon meeting people. The founder meeting people from Eastern Europe and finding out that many of the churches didn't even have Bibles. So began helping with benevolence and Bibles and literature and then operating from Vienna from 1971 to be closer to everything there. And that ministry went along very quietly for many years. And then in 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, there were these thousands of people in the network. And the founder said, What, what do we do and what do you need? And they said, Train us. And so they knew that they were they needed training so that they could work in freedom because many of them brought up under communism. But most of the people in our network were well educated in areas other than Bible and theology. So we began I came to his attention, I was just finishing my PhD. He wanted someone young to follow him because most of the capital that we have is relational capital in that part of the world. And so it brought me in, kind of mentored me. And then a lot of people from the region, men that had been persecuted and suffered for their faith, they discipled me. And I look back on it. And I realized that starting this training program, it was their idea. They told us what they needed. It was our job to try to find out how to get them a training that was accessible, affordable, accredited, practical, disciple- making prayerful, all the things that they were saying they wanted in their training to help bi-vocational leaders have the confidence, competence and credentialing to be their own missionaries, their own pastors, their own leaders. And in that process, I followed the founder. So I thought I probably won't last for more than a year or two. But it's just been it's been 30 years, Larrie, and it's just been such a God thing.
Larrie: [00:05:51] Well, first of all, TCM is not your normal educational organization. I mean, you have some significant accreditation, right?
Tony: [00:06:03] Yeah, we're accredited by the Higher Learning Commission here that accredits major universities and colleges. And that was very important for our leaders because they wanted accrediting that their governments would recognize so many of them, like there are schools today, Christian University in Moldova that started with six guys coming with us. And today they've got hundreds of students and graduates all over the world. Schools of business, education, ministry and social work. And we've trained of their core faculty, we trained 17 of the 19.
Larrie: [00:06:42] Well, now there's, what, over 2500 students enrolled at TCM, correct?
Tony: [00:06:47] Yes, about 2580 at the moment.
Larrie: [00:06:52] From all over the world. How many countries?
Tony: [00:06:56] Right att 51, I think, 52. We keep adding them.
Larrie: [00:07:01] Yeah. And that split between it's not only men, there's male and female, right?
Tony: [00:07:08] Yeah. About 40% of our students are women.
Larrie: [00:07:11] You know, you recently TCM recently started….Well, first of all, explained the cohort model to us.
Tony: [00:07:19] Well, we'll try to when we open a new area because of our background, we don't assume we know enough about any culture that we're going into. So Jesus’ model was disciple making. So we start with just a few and then we try to find the champions, the ones that are going to really promote the program. And so what we do is we'll work with them and then learn everything that we can. Our motto is start small, fail small. And so we we just and then they often lead us to another country or another group. And so it's kind of like the grapevine, the network. And so our capital really is relational capital.
Larrie: [00:08:07] Mm hmm. Mm hmm. So the idea behind the cohort is that there is a small group of students that start their degree program. And they stay together until they graduate?
Tony: [00:08:22] Hopefully, unless things get in the way sometimes. Sometimes it's, you know, a baby or two or three. Sometimes it's a war or a pandemic. There are lots of lots of things that get in the way. And because we don't take any government money, if a student needs to take longer to finish, that's no big deal to us. We're more important where they go, what they do than how fast necessarily that it's achieved.
Larrie: [00:08:55] Mm hmm. So I. I need to share with the audience and come clean here. I, I'm actually a graduate of TCM. I was involved in one of the first, like the first United States cohorts because TCM primarily works with the Eastern European countries but decided to start a US cohort. So I was involved with a group of men and women out of Indiana in a master's program in in practical theology that started a little over four years ago. And so every morning I would be up studying and primarily through an online course, took master level classes in theology. And then at the end of each class there was a four day residency where you would go and listen to your professor for that particular class and interact with the students. It was a tremendous learning experience, without exception. Each of my brothers and sisters in that cohort really experienced a life transformational experience and an education. And so I was able to graduate here last December. And so through our partnership with TCM, we have the opportunity to offer some scholarship assistance to leaders within CCV that would like to to look into this. And so I would encourage you that if you are a leader at CCV and want to further your education, contact me at CCV and I can explain how the program would work. And you would could very well become another cohort here in Arizona. Tony, let's talk a little bit about some of the graduates and students who have gone on to pastor, be pastors in some Eastern European country. I know they go through some of them have gone through some significant persecution. Could you share with us an example of what some of these students go through?
Tony: [00:11:09] Yeah. You know, right now there's the war in and in that part of the world. And we have 550 students between the two countries that are at war. We have directly around 3000 students, graduates, key contacts that are that are involved by this war right now. One of the things that we have discovered happen is that is that our students in Ukraine, many of them, when they've been called up to service, they find out about their TCM training and they just on the field make them chaplains. And we've had some real scares. We had one recently that that he just went silent for about two weeks and we feared the worst. Fortunately, he turned up and he's okay. But we've had people in cities where they've been surrounded and just hunkered down with very little food, keeping the lights off, the window shut. We have many that are having to immigrate west often is for reasons you really wouldn't think about. Like, for example, in some places the children were literally losing their minds with the bombing and all of that. And so they they get out to a neighboring country to try to give their children some respite because of that. So I, I've had to spend a lot of time in the Psalms lately because when people you love, when family are suffering like this, it's really, really hard. And. To see a dad at the border, the Polish border, hugging his children and his distraught wife, watching that as she goes. And they walk away from the border not knowing if they'll ever see each other again. It just breaks your heart. Then they go across to the Polish border, and there the Polish moms have lined up all kinds of baby carriages waiting for them to take their children. And it's so bittersweet to see things like that in the midst of the war.
Larrie: [00:13:43] We have Sasha Marchenko is one of CCV’s supported partners. He's a missionary in Ukraine. He is from Ukraine. And so we talk with him regularly and he shares the same kinds of stories that you're you're sharing, Tony, that it's a it's a difficult situation, especially in Ukraine, because of that separation, where they will allow women and older, older people across and children to to leave Ukraine. But the the fathers have to stay. So there's this separation that occurs at the border that is just heartbreaking.
Tony: [00:14:27] Yeah.
Larrie: [00:14:28] So now you I know we've we've partnered with you. We have such a generous congregation, and they was able to provide some assistance for TCM to help with a lot of the food and medicine and clothing transportation needs. And you've been able to use that, correct?
Tony: [00:14:49] Oh, yeah.
Larrie: [00:14:50] Yeah. And I know there's countries that have been involved in this. Like Hungary and Poland, Czech Republic, Estonia and Romania, Moldova, Latvia, Bulgaria. Those are all students, students or existing students of TCM that's actually assisting and acting as these chaplains, correct?
Tony: [00:15:15] Yeah, Larrie, providentially, I believe we had planned a meeting of all of our regional representatives. We have 26 centers around the world. And we'd planned that meeting for this this winter time in March. And so we were together at house Edelweiss in Austria the day the war broke out. All of our regional representatives, they'd be planning two years before. We immediately hit our knees. We sought the Lord, and said, “What? What should we do?” And together we came up with a program. They they have experience with this in that part of the world. They know what this means. They know the aftermath of this. So the idea was, let's put together a response that's short term and long term. Because it's not just the war, it's the aftermath of that. So we just came up with a little acrostic for it H.E.L.P., you know, humanitarian aid, evangelism to supplement training, logistical networking and prayer and fasting movement. And that's both short term and long term. And the people distributing the aid, we wanted to do it smartly because we knew governments are going to be throwing a lot of money at this and there'll be a lot of aid coming. But the thing is, who's distributing that? So we networked together to make sure that it was the churches showing up first when stuff gets dropped off at a warehouse or a pier or someplace. And it's a network through the churches.
Tony: [00:17:01] Then the money we raise provides some of that networking assistance and provides a lot of on the ground know how doing creative things. For example, in Czech Republic, the assistance that went there was used to help provide daycare for children so these moms could actually go in to the government offices and sign the papers and do all the stuff they needed to do. But knowing that their children were secure there in a local church, under the under the care of people who love them and that they could trust. And t the churches we found food, clothing, things like that in other places. Similar thing in Austria when we all just shut down our training, our face to face training went totally online so we could use our centers all as as humanitarian aid stations. And so they're in Austria even. When the neighbors saw what we were doing, they came over and said, you know, my goodness, we see all these Ukrainians coming through. How can we help? So they started bringing toys, nappies for the kids, all kinds of things like that. The local burger meister, our mayor calls and says, how can we help? And and so the churches in Austria kind of looked for us to sort of take a lead with this. And so we're using those funds to help in some creative ways to make sure God gets the glory.
Larrie: [00:18:46] So I know because I watched what was going on, that TCM was able to respond almost overnight, as opposed to some organizations that were trying to get positioned and get their logistics and infrastructure in place to provide support, which is all wonderful things. But but I know TCM because of your network and you actually have a presence in these countries that you were able to respond very, very quickly. And so that's how God used you. Well, as we wrap up today, Tony, tell us, how can we pray for you and for TCM?
Tony: [00:19:24] We are trying to pivot to a mid to long term process because some people are not going back. And the Europeans, they resonate with this. They've been bombed. They know what this means. And so, for example, the Austrians, when the refugees show up, they're greeted at the border with a multiple year visa and a work permit. Larrie, you don't get those in Europe, but right now there's this moment of openness. And what we want to do is leverage all of these relationships to see if we can't make an impact in Western Europe through these unintentional missionaries that are coming through. So we're wanting to like get believers from these countries networked in good ways, helping them find employment, even if we can. And we want to find believers in Western Europe who are welcoming them, helping the ones who are not believers coming and see if this is a moment in time that God could be glorified through. So pray that churches, cultures, countries will be impacted for Jesus through this and that God would be glorified, that he would he would bring resurrection out of crucifixion.
Larrie: [00:21:01] Well well, we'll certainly do that. And again, as we wrap up, I want to thank you for what you're doing, your team. It's just such an amazing organization to to be at least on this side of the pond and watch what God is doing through TCM. And again, if any of our listeners is interested in some higher education and perhaps a cohort here in Arizona with TCM, please contact me. I'm going to include all of the links and important information in our show notes so that you can check that out. Tony, thanks for joining us.
Tony: [00:21:38] Larrie, thank you. We're very grateful for you, for your partnership, your love and your prayers all over these last 30 years we worked together. Thank you.
Larrie: [00:21:48] Well, as we wrap up today's show, we want to thank you for listening. You can follow us on your favorite podcast app and leave us a five-star review if you like what you've heard today and want to hear more that way more people can hear about what God is doing around the world. Also, you can follow us on our website at www.letsgo360.org. You can also check out CCV at CCV’s website at ccv.church. Thanks for joining us. And as we talk with those living out the great commission inspired by the Great Commandments so that we might stand before the great multitudes, before the throne, when the mission of God is complete. May God bless you as we go and send those here near and far.