From Ukraine to Tanzania

Those of you who are on my daily devotional email list already know that we completed our three weeks in Ukraine and have now been in Tanzania for two weeks. Overall, everything has gone basically as planned without a major hitch.

Shortly after arriving in Ukraine, I participated in the welcoming and orientation of the students to the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Ukraine. We began with nine new first-year students and six existing second-year students for a total of fifteen students. Reflecting back at a very difficult time a little over a year ago when BVBIU was down to only four students, we were very pleased to start the new Sept. 2010 school year with fifteen students.

My original purpose for going to Ukraine at this time was to welcome the new students. However, because of circumstances with Andrew, Terry and Marina Harmon’s younger two-year-old son, I decided to extend my stay to also assist teaching in Terry’s absence. As you may know, little Andrew was diagnosed with Histiocytosis, a rare disease in children in which immune cells mistakenly attack the body instead of fighting infections. Because of the serious nature of the disease and the need for the best treatment available, the Harmons made the difficult decision to conclude their successful work in Ukraine.  

Fortunately for BVBIU, Terry had been mentoring one of the teachers, Denis Sopelnik to one day take over the directorship. And even while the new position is weighing heavy on his shoulders right now, Denis immediately and smoothly assumed the directorship. That’s not to say there are no new challenges. Having more students means more money is required to house, feed and teach. I’m not a prophet, but I don’t foresee things getting any cheaper. That means an increased budget and the need for more support. On top of this, cold weather is already on its way in Ukraine.

However, a project was already underway when I left to install four 1,000-liter hot water reservoir tanks enabling BVBIU to heat water when electricity is at its lowest cost (between midnight and 6:00 am). This will enable the building to be heated during the day from the boiler reservoir tanks without heating water during peak daytime hours. We believe the savings will be significant especially when the weather becomes bitter cold for long periods.

But cold weather wasn’t an issue during the three weeks Mary and I were there. I completed my class on Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, and enjoyed the other times of Bible study and fellowship while we were there. Denis, Natasha (BVBIU secretary) and I had a meeting the day before we left to tie up loose ends and discuss other matters. Mary transcribed the meeting notes.

With all that we could do in Ukraine behind us, we began the second objective of our trip—to spend time in Tanzania working with the Chimala Bible College. While the cultures are completely different, we love  the people just  the same. Once we  landed in Dar-es-Salaam, we had to wait an additional day for our luggage to arrive from Nairobi. It was so good to see Bill and Cyndi Stinson at the airport; and once we finally made the 11-hour road trip, to see the familiar faces on the Chimala Mission.

There were some logistic issues we had to address: exchange money, get cell phone and internet/email SIM cards, get my resident permit stamped in my and Mary’s passports, and renew my TZ driver’s license. Of course, the most important issue was getting some good Rift Valley coffee! 

Monday after we got to the mission, I received my class schedule teaching the book of Isaiah to the first-year students on Mondays, and teaching Church Planting and Development to the second-year students on Thursdays. The other six courses during the six-week fourth quarter are being taught by Garry Hill, Peter Kamatula, and Joshua Mwakyasima. Afterwards, Garry and I will teach the last four courses in the two-week short courses.

This visit to Chimala is unique in several ways. One, this is the longest visit to the mission we have ever spent—nearly two months; two, Bill Stinson—the Chimala Mission administrator, and his wife, Cyndi have left for the states for a few months to take care of matters at home leaving the mission without an administrator; and three, Garry Hill has now “moved-in” to the Chimala Mission as a permanent CBC teacher/missionary. So we have been left here also serving as the “eyes and ears” of the mission in Bill’s absence. However, Bill has left a system of responsibility in place for the heads of the different departments. I agreed to use our SKYPE every first Saturday afternoon at 4:00 for the department heads to communicate with the elders of the New York Ave. congregation. Probably by the time you read this report, we will have already had our first SKYPE meeting.

Here at the Chimala Mission there are a number of small matters we hope to address. One of the areas is to improve the library. A container is planned to be  shipped after the first of the year which will contain some books for the library; but in the meantime we want to implement some policy changes so the library doesn’t continue to shrink. We’re relocating the CBC/CSOP secretary’s office in the entrance so no one can enter or leave without her knowledge. We’ve also made a new break room for the students so they can have their ten o’clock tea or coffee. Other administrative matters will be worked on such as updating our student handbook and permanent student records. There are also plans to be made in preparation for our CBC 2010 graduation in November. Lord willing, I’ll update you on these things and other matters in next month’s newsletter. Until then we ask for your continued prayers

- Howell Ferguson

Posted on October 3, 2010 and filed under Reports.