END OF JANUARY 2020
Give thanks that I have been teaching at this Bible College in Tanzania from my arrival two weeks ago. This bible college really wants students who are serious about serving God in difficult circumstances:
One of the bible students articulated his thoughts on what will happen after his second year of studies: “We’ll be sent somewhere where we don’t know that could well be far away,” he said “knowing that there is no guarantee at all that there will be any support following us from headquarters.” That’s the prospect faced by the 9 or so second-year students come July, and the 12 first year students next year. After completing two years of study, students are assigned a town somewhere in Tanzania where the church does not yet have a work. They are given a one-way ticket to that place, plus a little pocket-money to help them to survive when they first arrive. From there on it is up to them. Two years later if they have been seen as working faithfully, then the church leaders, at their discretion, can invite them back to college to complete the third year of their studies. If they are not seen as having served faithfully, then the door to year-three will not be opened to them. Once they complete year three, then they will automatically be ordained . . . No one has yet done year three on this new programme. The first students will be expected to come to do so in September of this year.
I recently visited a place in town that used to be known as a ‘haunt’ for white folks. Years ago that is where I often used to find a number of Westerners gathered. This time I haven’t yet seen one Westerner since arriving in this town in Tanzania. I asked the fellow at the restaurant . . . “no, we don’t have many Westerners here these days. They’ve all gone home,” he told me. Partly this reflects Tanzanian government policy that is tightening up on immigration. Maybe it also marks a reduction in Western activism in Africa generally?
I have been given two courses to help facilitate. One, is on the theology of sin. The other is looking at the Major Prophets in the Old Testament. Both have so far proved very interesting and challenging. There are 12 students in one class, and eight in the other. In addition I am attending a lot of the twice-daily prayer sessions of students. This is where students learn to preach, amongst their colleagues. Worship is noisy and boisterous. The favourite preaching style is loud and energetic!
----- I am especially encouraged this year by the presence of a bishop who has come with me from Yala in Kenya who wants to be a student. He heard about the school from me. Originally he came by himself. Now we are here together. Pray that this will lead to a renewed emphasis on knowing the bible in Yala, my home area in Kenya!
-----The climate here is more oppressive than what I am used to in Kenya; we are closer to sea level. I easily find myself getting vey tired. Pray that I find all the necessary energy to continue!
I am to give the exam for what I have taught on 11th February. That means I am free to leave as of 12th February. I have an invitation to visit a Coptic church in the West of Tanzania, right on the border with Burundi. I hope to be able to travel there by bus – two days’ travel. That is apparently a very large church with thousands of members. I got to know both of the Fathers in charge of the church when they were at ordination-training in Kenya. I am to be there to teach members of this church for one week. From there, another long day’s travel by bus should take me to Mwanza. The Mennonite bishop there (once my student) has asked to consult with me in Mwanza: they want to initiate training for their unqualified church leaders. From Mwanza, its one long day’s travel back home. (Anyone wanting to know what it’s like travelling like this through East Africa, have a look at my recent novel; To Africa in Love, available over Amazon!)