A Short Story
In 1980 the Academic Dean of Open Bible College in Des Moines, Iowa, walked across the campus to the office of the Director of International Ministries of Open Bible Churches. She shared with the Rev. Paul Canfield an idea about a theological education by extension program for Spain. Rev. Canfield sensed that God was indeed in this plan. Dr. Leona Janzen (later Venditti) arrived in Spain in 1982 with a mission. First though, she’d have to learn Spanish. One intensive year later, INSTE was born. Those were hectic days, staying just one lesson ahead of the students. As INSTE grew, God brought many dedicated people to work along side the Director, an army of wonderful Spanish brothers and sisters, Vince and Lois McCarty…and Nick. Some day we’ll have to tell you the whole story. Suffice it to say that Nick Venditti, originally from New York City, accepted the Lord in Spain. He heard about INSTE in a church in Madrid, so naturally—as he tells it—he enrolled. Soon he began ministering in various churches, preaching, teaching, and evangelizing in Madrid, Valladolid and other parts of Spain. After a good long period of “fellowshipping,” Nick won Leona’s heart and hand in marriage, and they dedicated themselves to the task to which God had called them. They returned to the United States in 1990 to redesign INSTE for multi-national implementation. The process led them to Pasadena, California, where Nick worked on a doctorate in the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. Meanwhile, Leona and he began the arduous task of rewriting the curriculum.
A New Challenge
In 1991 another challenge came. INSTE had been born in Spanish, and even in the revision process, the materials were being produced in that language. Could it be translated to English so it could be used throughout the United States both in English and Spanish? Happily the Lord brought along persons of kindred spirit to translate the books from Spanish to English. That same year, Rev. Juan Cruz came to Pasadena to be trained as director of INSTE Honduras. Under the direction of Rev. Cruz, now Director of INSTE for Latin America, INSTE extended to other Latin American countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. In fact, half the students of INSTE throughout the world live in Central America. The INSTE office moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1996 and continues to grow, not only in the United States, but around the world. Nick and Leona Venditti have been called “hard-core missionaries”—an apt description, for God has placed the world in their hearts
Extension Around the World
But that’s not the end of the story. Through a series of God-planned encounters, the Lord moved INSTE into the French-speaking world through the efforts of a French pastor and his wife, Gerárd and Angéle Moya, and a dedicated team of translators and co-workers. The first national convention of INSTE France was celebrated in February 1999. At the same time that the French project was being launched, the Vendittis met a dynamic young Hungarian pastor named Michael Guylás. As he left Des Moines, Pastor Guylás’ parting words were these: “In one year, INSTE will be in Hungarian!” Nick and Leona were not a little skeptical, for they know how hard a task it is to translate from one language to another. But God and Michael are a formidable team. Sure enough, in 1996 they had in their hands the first INSTE book in that language. About this same time, the Lord began burdening the hearts of the INSTE team about a Russian translation. They prayed and God provided a team of gifted translators. INSTE in Russian is now being used to disciple believers in Ukraine and other parts of the world. Missionary Tammy Swailes oversees INSTE in Europe. A gifted linguist, Tammy directs the INSTE national offices in Ukraine, as well as overseeing INSTE in Hungary, France and Spain. Under her direction, in addition to Russian, translation projects have begun in Ukrainian and Romanian. In January, 2008, Mike and Nancy Juntunen were sent as missionaries to Hungary to direct INSTE in that country. Meanwhile, the translation of INSTE in two Filipino languages was started, in Cebuano and in Tagalog. God has also provided a Portuguese translator for INSTE. For several years, a group of churches in Brazil studied in Spanish, hoping that some day they would be able to study INSTE in their own language. Their dream has come true. Most recently INSTE has completed the translation of the Certificate Program to Mandarin Chinese, the third most spoken language in the United States. Many more languages and people groups are to follow. The passion of INSTE is to make disciples of all nations through accessible, Bible-centered education, and to provide practical Christian leadership development to churches throughout the world.