END OF JANUARY 2019
I am half-way through my anticipated 6-week stay here at Babati Bible School. It is a school I have been associated with for over 20 years, although I have never previously taught here. Many of the lecturers, as also many of the leaders in the Church of God here in Tanzania, were once my students in Kenya. Three weeks into my time I continue to be very impressed by the ways in which the school turns out men and women ready to fill leadership and pastoral roles in the church. Morning and evening daily students run their own services, before coming to class to receive instruction from a variety of experienced practicing church leaders. My own assignment has been to teach the ‘Bible Survey’ class, meeting 1st year students for 8 classes weekly. A recent innovation has been to make ‘successful ministry’ a condition of receipt of the students’ diplomas. In their third year, instead of being here in class, students are sent (some a day’s travel away) to various of Tanzania’s cities to plant churches. They must plant a church in order to acquire their diploma.
I took opportunity for us to do introductions during a couple of my classes with students here at the school. When I asked for questions, one student asked me what ‘particular difficulties’ I find myself facing in my ministry there in Kenya. I took a few seconds to think about that question. Then I told him, ‘the major problem that I meet, is that I am a white man.’ I explained how that affects ways in which everyone perceives me and wants to work with me – for money. The students laughed in acknowledgement!
Here is a view of the entrance to the bible school (far right), student dormitories and chapel, from the door of the house in which I am staying with a couple of Tanzanian lecturers.
I have long been impressed by the bible school here in Babati. The school produces pastors – men with sufficient knowledge and profound dedication who are equipped to serve God in difficult indigenous Tanzanian contexts . . . Some might say the educational level of the school is low. Many of the students have only a primary With one of my students visiting the church he plantedschool level education before they come. I wonder – how much that matters? It may, on some scores, be counted as ‘low level’ education. On the other hand, the language of instruction being Swahili, puts it out of the reach of nearly all Western scholars. Does the fact that a language other than English is used not result in education being, as far as Westerners are concerned, ‘advanced’? I think so.
It is an additional privilege to be ‘home from home,’ here at this bible college . . . I invited those of my children who have recently finished their schooling in Kenya to come with me to Tanzania, and to study at this bible school. One was able to take me up on that offer, so while being two long-days travel away, having one of my children here makes me feel at home. Indications are that she is very much valuing the opportunity to learn of and share in church ministry here.