Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Expanding Our Vision

When I was in Tanzania this past winter I had opportunity to sit down with both Bishop Kwangu and Bishop Jackton and listen to their vision for educating the “evangelists”, the lay leaders of their churches.  They have been grateful for what we have been able to do to assist them with this task, but have seen the need for something more.  What they would like to see is not just a few weeks of training by an American once a year, but a three month “Bible School” that could more fully address the ministry education needs of their church leaders.  This school would be a low budget affair ($2 a day per student) where the men and women would stay in simple dormitories, cook for themselves, and assist each other in their studies.  In both Nyakato and Muleba there are facilities already in existence that can be used for this purpose.  These small schools would be taught by African priests and pastors who would either take turns donating a week of their time, or by a single pastor receiving a small stipend for his work.  In fact, they have already begun to implement this plan with what limited material they have on hand.

There are some needs to be met to achieve their goal, and it is not necessarily “just more money”.  While financial assistance is always received with gratitude, the real need is in finding the appropriate ministry material.  We have material that we have been teaching from, but it is in need of revision and expansion.  There are several challenges that lay before us.  Some people ask, “Aren’t there seminaries in Tanzania where the priests are educated?”  Yes, there are a couple of seminaries in Tanzania, but their courses are all conducted in English, as is all higher education in Tanzania.  Most of the evangelists we are seeking to train do not know English.  Besides that, the seminary material is written at an educational level that most of the evangelists cannot practically comprehend, for most of them have only a grade school education.

What is needed is a manual of basic, practical ministry training courses that are written in simple Swahili that can be taught by an African priest or pastor. The following courses were suggested to me by the African Bishop during our conversations.

1)  Christian theology and doctrine.  Basic catechesis.
2)  Bible knowledge.  Bible stories, history, and outline.
3)  Church history.  Anglican and African Church history.
4)  Church Finances.  Financial Stewardship.
5)  Christian ethics.  Leadership training for church leaders.
6)  Bible Hermeneutics.  Sermon preparation and public speaking.
7)  Personal Evangelism and Church planting.
8)  Children’s Sunday School and church programs.
9)  Understanding  Worship.  In context of liturgy and church history.
10)  Practical training in leading various church services.

Another part of the challenge is that we cannot just take English courses written for Western Christians and translate them word for word into Swahili.  These courses have to be designed to be used in the context of African issues and culture.  An idea that came up in our conversations was that I could locate course material to take with me and stay for several months on my next trip.  I could work with Rev. Damson (who has done translation work for me in the past) and others to help edit and rewrite various materials into courses that are suitable for the needs of African Christian leaders.  I have discussed this idea with several people whose wisdom I respect and there is a consensus of approval for the general plan.

We should be realistic and realize that this project is something that will take some time, perhaps several years, to fully develop into what it needs to be.  We should not be tempted to slap something together quickly – it needs to be of high quality; because we want a curriculum that could be used to train church leaders anywhere in East Africa.  This project has the potential of reaching and affecting the lives of an enormous amount of people.  We have to have VISION to reach beyond what we have been.  To create a curriculum that can be taught by African pastors; for them to do what I have been doing, but with much greater effectiveness.  We would continue to “teach the teachers” – those who will then train other teachers, who will be the ones to evangelize and teach the common people.

My desire is to stay for 4 - 6 months this coming year in Tanzania to get this project going.  I would not want to leave my family for that length of time, so we have discussed the potential of bringing them with me on this trip. This would also bring about another benefit for the ministry.  The most important unit of society in Africa is “the family”.  For me to bring my wife and three youngest children would greatly strengthen our relationship with the African people.  It would tell them that we value them and are committed to them in a deep way.  We will continue to explore this idea over the coming months to see what works out.  As you can imagine, there are many details to consider.  Obviously, it will involve more expenses, but we feel that it would be worth it.  We will let you know if this plan comes together.

May the peace of Christ be with you,
Br. Nathan

Nyakato - Dining hall and classrooms

Nyakato - dormitories for students

A dormitory room for four people

The other side of the room

Muleba - a "classroom" in a church

Muleba - new facilities being constructed

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