The New Class: Committed Bible Students in East Africa

Nearly a decade ago, we began sending DVDs of our Institute classes to our cooperatives in East Africa. In a candlelit room with a dirt floor, they would listen to teachings on the bible on a small DVD player, everyone huddled around so they could hear. Trying to sort through English (their third or fourth language for most of them), translating American sayings into something they could understand, the men would sit and discuss the teachings for an hour or two after each lesson. Once a month, one of them would scan their hand-written homework assignments and email them to us for grading and feedback.

Peter Kimbugwe translates at a bible seminar in Bombo, Uganda in 2006. Kimbugwe has been one of our primary translators on every trip to Uganda since 2004 when we met him. Translating countless bible studies, classes and seminars has prepared him for the teaching he does today, where his knowledge of Biblical Hebrew and English helps explain the biblical text appropriately in his local Luganda language. 

The men were not privileged Africans who were able to attend a theological institution full-time. They were just hungry to learn the Bible, and were committed to do so. They came to the lessons after working hard as brick-makers, builders, farmers, and teachers. Similar to their children in school during the day, they would walk for miles back home after lessons in the night.

The teachings changed their lives. Wives testified that they had become better husbands and fathers, who took time to teach their children--not just how to develop a skill, but how to obtain a moral compass. They began to regard the bible, not as a magical spell book of blessings to be collected (a common approach in their part of the world), but as a text that made them responsible for their lives and the well-being of their neighbors. Their properties began to transform from disordered, unclean, and unfinished dwelling places, to neater, cleaner homes, filled with more contented inhabitants. They began taking responsibility for impoverished neighbors who were sick by offering knowledge, or prayers, or funds, or transportation to get help. They accepted Jesus’ call to “Come and Follow,” and are still daily committed to learning more about what that invitation means.

Students get to choose an area of focus where they are able to grow in skill and competency in something that will benefit their community. These focuses include sustainable building, gardening and primary school teaching. 

Now, we have a new class of students eager to begin the process, not just of higher education, but holistic training in the Word of God. Eight college-aged students now gather in an elementary school classroom after school hours to receive a biblical education. However, they no longer have to learn from DVDs.  The class is taught by Peter Kimbugwe, one of the original (and exemplary) students of our distance education program. He is teaching them their first class, Genesis--the book of beginnings.

In addition to their bible class, each of them have been able to choose an area of focus to develop practical skills. From building to gardening, teaching at St. John’s (our primary school) or tailoring, students are complementing their biblical training with practical skills that benefit their community. Living on our property in Uganda affords the students the opportunity to not just learn the Word, but practice living it out together.

We look forward to watching these students grow and develop into competent people of God who possess moral aptitude and skills that their community desperately needs. Please pray with us for this new class of students, with a new range of possibilities before them.

Below are a few testimonies from our new class of students.

“Through studying this class I realized that this book [Genesis] deals with the things that take place in people’s lives everyday, not just history a long time ago. It deals with how we can make our relationships better, with God and other people.” --Henry Milo

The college students also gather weekly for a community bible study.  Here, Henry Milo raises a question regarding the text studied that week. 

“Going through Genesis class has helped me to know more about God. He preserves life at every turn. It’s human beings that move away from God, and in the process we do things that are against his will, which ends up destroying us and others. I learned that if I keep quiet, it can lead to disorder. God needs me to be articulate so that I can speak up when things are wrong.” --Andrew Nsubuga

“Genesis is a challenging story, and it has changed my life into a man who can now control himself and look out for what is best for others.” --Simon Peter Habayo