One of the students at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, Tony Johnson, continues his work with the Tamale Institute of Biblical Studies. His most recent report about the work is posted below. If you would like to see more of Tony’s posts with pictures, you can visit his blog site.
Sunday – May 29
I made my first trip to the villages outside Tamale this morning. If you look on Google Map you can follow the Tamale-Yendi Road east out of Tamale until you come to the town of Jimle, where a congregation of the church meets. We stopped long enough to tell them we would be back after visiting some of the other brethren in the villages. Steven and I had originally planned to divide up and go to separate congregations, but after hearing that some of the groups were struggling, it was determined that it would be more encouraging if we all went to visit each group. So we headed north, leaving the nice paved highway for the much more common dirt road. We passed a number of villages, most too small to get a mention on the map as we headed first to Tijo, where we dropped a brother off who had travelled with us from Tamale, and the on to Bah, which is also too small to show up on the map, but is about halfway between Tijo and Gariwe.
Once we arrived in Bah we found the local congregation in the house they use to meet, but they had just finished their worship service. The congregation only has a few members, and some of them were missing the morning we visited, but there were two adults and a number of children present. The leader of the congregation is a man named John who faithfully attends with his two children, arriving every week on his bicycle with one child sitting on the back and the other on the front. Even though they had finished services John asked if we would come in and say a few “words of encouragement,” which is their way of saying “preach.” If we all looked at sermons as “words of encouragement,” which is what they really are, maybe fewer people would be worried about how long they were! Since they had already meet when we got there we kept it pretty short, singing a couple of songs, and I gave a short devotional from 1 John 4. Since none of the people in the village speak English the songs were in Dagbani, and Alhassan translated the lesson for me. After a prayer we stayed and answered some questions John had concerning what the Bible teaches about marriage between Christians and non-Christians (a question that comes up anywhere you go) and what the Bible teaches about Christians and animal sacrifices (a question that I have never had to deal with before!)
After leaving Bah we headed back to Tijo where the brother we had dropped off, Jaminja, had conducted worship services with the saints there. That morning there were 5 adults and a handful of children who meet to worship on a couple of benches under a tree. We spent a few minutes visiting with them before heading back to Jimle.
Once we arrived back in Jimle we were surprised that the congregation, consisting of 2 men and one young lady (with her baby), had waited many hours for us to return to have their service! The worship service consisted of prayer, singing songs, a “word of encouragement”, the Lord’s Supper, and giving – just like at home. When people follow only the Bible it will not matter where you are, you will worship God in the same manner. I was asked to give the “word of encouragement”, and the material I had prepared on being a servant just did not seem to fit. How do you preach to people who give up everything to become Christians in a Muslim dominated area that they need to be servants? They should preach to me! So I made up a lesson as we sat there from Matthew 5, and talked about the blessings God has in store for His faithful people, and the important role they play as the salt and the light in their village. I hope it was as encouraging for them as they were to me.
Monday – May 30
Today began my teaching career. Boy, do I have a lot to learn! But that is okay, I will learn, and thankfully the students showed great patience with me. The biggest thing I have to learn is how to talk slower. Much slower! English is a second language for all the students, and why they speak and understand it well, their tone and diction is very different from what we Arkansans call English. I am pretty sure that no one understood anything I said today because I was speaking to fast for them to hear me! They were too kind to tell me though,, so I did not find out until after the class. We will see tomorrow just how much they heard when they take their first test over what was covered today (we may have to use a big curve on this one!)
My class goes from 8 AM to noon each day. We started today with “How We Got the Bible”, then we will be taking a survey look at all the books in the Old Testament, followed by all the books in the New Testament. During the afternoon, from 1 to 5 PM, the students are taking a short course on the life of Christ being taught by the schools director, Joseph Baah. Next week they will begin taking a writing skills class and Faithful Christian Living class during the afternoons.
Tuesday – May 31
Last night it rained hard again here, which is good news for the farmers. A friend commented that it looked a lot greener than he thought it would be, and that is because the rainy season has begun a little earlier than normal and had produced more rain than normal. I am told that once it stops raining completely in October that all the vegetation turns brown and looks dead by January.
I should mention that there are 10 students in the class right now. The school had accepted 24 students in this class, but for various reasons many of them have not made it to the school yet. We are going ahead with teaching the 10, and thanking God for their decision to put aside all the things of the world in order to gain a better understanding of God’s word. There are plans underway to bring in additional students that will catch up by taking classes in July, when this class returns home for a month to be able to plant the crops their families will need to survive. Then the two classes will join together for the rest of the two year commitment the school requires.
The verdict on whether I talk to fast is in, and the answer was a resounding yes! However the tests were not too bad, not because of my teaching, but because the one student that could understand me formed a study group at 7AM this morning and was helping the other students who had no idea what I had said. Pretty cool!
Today I did much better – still need to slow down a little more I think, but the students are opening up more and letting me know if I get excited. We started on the Old Testament survey this morning, going through the book of Numbers. The students are quite sharp and know most of the stories in the Bible, so it is very encouraging to me. Tomorrow’s test should let me know if I have slowed down enough to be more effective as a teacher here.
Wednesday – June 1
Today’s test went much better! Either I made it to easy or they are beginning to be able to hear me better. Today we covered Deuteronomy through 1 Sam 8. I will have to make tomorrow’s test a little tougher to see what happens.
I am slowly learning the students names, but have a tough time with pronouncing them in a way that they understand who I’m calling on! The class includes Telinyi Johnson, Joseph Miatib, Donker Mathew, Kwame Lot, Loti Nlakidi, Bilam Philip, Timothy Niligrini. Fobil Joseph, Lanyon Solomon and Bentime Godwin. I will have to continue working on this!
This evening we ran out of water in the tank that feeds the bathrooms to both mine and Steven’s apartments. It is attached to the city water supply so no one can figure out why it is not filling up, as the tanks in the courtyard that the students use are full. Anyway, tomorrow morning I will get to experience bucket bathing for the first time.
That’s all for now. Thanks again for your continued prayers. I am privileged in that I get to see the results of the money you give and the prayers you offer that make this work possible. I can tell you that it is a very good work, one that is offering sound teaching to men who want to take the message back to their villages and tribes. You are helping to take the gospel message to places most of us have never dreamed of. God bless you!