Monday, October 18, 2010

Beginning teaching in the Gambia

It is hard to believe that we have been here in West Africa less than two weeks. For some reason it seems that we have been here much longer already! Perhaps that is an indication that we are able to pick up from our former experience teaching in Africa, in both Nigeria and Tanzania. Indeed, aside from the considerable heat (between 28-32 degrees C indoors) and humidity, we have not found the adjustment very difficult. And we do realize that this represents the answer to many prayers on our behalf. So we thank all those who prayed! The Lord has answered our prayers in a wonderful way. So it is time that we update you on what has happened in these first days in the Gambia.

Adrian at Barcelona airport

To begin with, our travels went very smoothly - something we have learned not to take for granted - and we are grateful for prayers for safe travel! We left Toronto on Monday afternoon, Oc.5, and flew BA to London, Heathrow. By noon of Oct. 5 we were on our way to Barcelona, where we made the transition with AirMorocco to fly to Casablanca and Banjul. We arrived almost exactly on schedule at midnight that Tuesday - a feat that is by no means the norm, as we discovered.

CVM House -- The sign above the door reads 'Welcome to CVM House, The Gambia, West Africa

It was great to meet Martin, the driver assistant of the Christian Volunteer Movement (CVM) here in the Gambia, who took us to the compound rented by CVM in Kololi, one of the "suburbs" of Banjul, not too far from the ocean. This is the place which we will regard as home for the next few weeks. It did not take long to find a bed - after such travels we were thankful to sleep on solid ground.It has not been difficult to settle in. The home, two concrete buildings, is relatively new and well-built, thus in good shape, and with running water.

Archway, the approach to Banjul

Those first days Martin took us around for some essential shopping, particularly for things we would need in teaching, and to orient us to our new environment.

Adrian and Martin near ocean in Banjul

Crocodile (a tame one)

Dance costume (in museum)

Ancient trees

We took much of the rest of the week to prepare for our first classes at the Gambia Theological Institute, an ecumenical institution for pastors and Christian leaders. Wendy was to begin on Friday, and Adrian, Saturday. There was little electricity those first two days, but toward the end of the week the situation improved, and with it our ability both to tolerate the heat (with fans), and to set up email communication, since the internet connection does not work when the power is off.

Faraja Anglican church

Although many of our students are pastors or church planters, in the class we also have some involved in other professions, including two lawyers who are brothers. Our students also represent a number of different countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, the USA, and Nepal. They are a lively enthusiastic group, not afraid to ask questions! Sometime we have to cut back a bit on questions, so we can present at least a fair percentage of the materials for the course at hand.

Ad for our courses in local paper

Wendy is doing four sessions of five hours on Friday on Introduction to the New Testament, while Adrian on Saturdays for almost six hours introduces students to Systematic Theology. Friday afternoon is prayer time in this country. The courses were advertised in the local papers, and on the radio, and many students were contacted by cell-phone, but even so not all those who had enrolled in previous courses heard about these sessions in time. But the turnout of 11 and 18 in the respective classes the first meeting was sufficient for the courses to be held.

We have not yet met with officials at the University of the Gambia, but by God's grace we hope to do so in the coming week. Thank you for praying with us on these challenges. Prayer is the backbone of our ministry; so, please continue to pray that we may help our students constructively, challenging and providing them with adequate tools for their various ministries.