The Snowball training programme for evangelists ran amazingly well in the first year. We had four students - two each from Austria and Slovakia. The course ran from September 1999 to June 2000.
Since they finished, all four students have been using what they learned in their native countries. It has been very exciting to see them engaged in evangelism and training others to do the same.
During this time, we were talking to other people about the possibility of taking part in Snowball. By the Summer, we had around a dozen people who had expressed an interest, but not one of them was in a position to start in September 2000.
The initial plan was for us to have a break from running the course for one year, and use that year to get the course documentation in order and either achieve accreditation or make serious progress twoards achieving it.
However, it soon became clear that the changes within MEPA - the French part of OACI - had left Mark Howe insufficiently clear about the details of the ministry we were preparing people to go into.
The focus of Europe Now has always been on Southern Europe, as this is by far the most needy - in Christian terms - part of the continent. There are a number of patterns of ministry which work well in the Northern European context, but when we started the course, MEPA was the only example of a successful OAC ministry in Southern Europe.
The restructuring of MEPA means that we no longer have a viable example of a team of evangelists working together in Southern Europe, so attempting to prepare people for such a ministry is not straightforward.
In addition, none of the people who have so far expressed an interest in taking part in Snowball either come from Southern Europe or have an intention of going to work there as an evangelist. While this is not a fatal problem - we always knew that we would be training some people who would not go on to work in Southern Europe - it does raise questions about the viability of the programme as a way of establishing evangelists in Southern Europe.
The availability of the key members of staff have also changed since June 2000.
Mark Howe is now highly committed to establishing an evangelistic Cybercafé near his home in France. This project will take a great deal of his time for the next few years, and he is consequently unable to commit a siginficant amount of his year to the training programme.
Rob Davis is seriously looking at the possibility of moving with his family to Italy, to engage in evangelism there in a more 'hands-on' way. The preparation for this move is likely to take much of his time and energy when he is not running puppet shows and puppet training seminars, so his availability for the training programme is seriously limited.
Paul Hazelden is working as the General Manager of Crisis Centre Ministries in Bristol, and has agreed to continue in this role for four days a week until the end of June 2002. This has left much less time than planned for working on the course documentation and making progress with accreditation.