Tuesday, March 1, 2011

February reflections

The end of February is a good time, perhaps, to take stock of ourselves: where we have been in the last year and where we hope to go in the future. A few snow flurries are still falling as we are writing this, but the sun is much warmer than it was only a few weeks ago, which is a sign that spring is just around the corner. The cherry trees in front of our house that are already budding are yet another sign.

The street where we lived in the Gambia

CVM House, where we stayed
In mid-December we returned from the Gambia. After our visit to Nigeria in early November, we each taught an additional course the Gambian Theological Institute (GTI), which trains pastors and other church leaders. We had many of the same students as in the first courses that we taught in October. We enjoyed teaching them, and from the reports that we continue to receive from them, they enjoyed it as well. Only recently did we finish marking the papers and exams for these courses, since we gave the students until the middle of January to submit their papers. A few papers are still trickling in, and we will have to mark them before we submit the results to our colleagues at Wycliffe College, which administers the diploma program at GTI. The students wrote their exams a few days before we left, which was a busy time for us, since we also had to pack for our return to Canada.

Adrian in class

Wendy in class

Some students

Three more students

Mary Jabang, one of two women students

The week before we left the Gambia we were interviewed on national television for a weekly program. Since this is the only TV station in the country, everyone watches it, as we found out later. We had been interviewed once before in November, when we told viewers about the courses we were teaching at GTI. This time we were asked, “What is the relevance for viewers of what you are teaching?” Adrian's latest course had focused on the nature and work of Jesus. In his response, he emphasized God's love in humbling himself and coming to us in his Son for our salvation. The divinity of Jesus is a major obstacle for Muslims, who accept him as the greatest prophet after Muhamed, but deny that Jesus can be the Son of God, since God has no children. Christmas was only a few weeks away, so that gave Adrian an opportunity to talk about the incarnation of Jesus to Muslim viewers. He admitted that evangelical Christians sometimes have the opposite problem: they find it difficult to accept the full humanity of Christ—that he was a person like us, who got tired and who wept, but who also enjoyed good food and fellowship.

The studio of Gambia Radio and Television

Wendy and Adrian at the studio

Wendy confronted the same question, and her response pointed to the theology of love developed by the 4th century North African giant of the Christian church, Augustine, who was the focus of the course she taught. In the legacy which Augustine left in church work, preaching, and teaching, his accent was on God's grace and mercy in coming to us, accomplishing for us what we could never achieve by our own efforts, no matter how sincere. In his classic work, The Confessions, he recognized the incarnation as a pivotal and irreversible point in time, demolishing the ancient understanding of time as an eternal circle, a view still prevalent today.We are grateful for the opportunity to share something of our teaching on the meaning of Christmas for viewers who might never enter a church but who do watch this weekly program.

With Rev. Junisa, the host of the program

We are also grateful for the opportunity God gave to serve at GTI for several months. We hope to be able to return to the Gambia later this year, but this time to teach in the new program in Christian studies at the University of the Gambia. While the senate of the university has not yet given its final approval to this new program, we have been informed that the Dean of Arts and Humanities, who is a Christian, has been instructed to find students for it. We are encouraged by this information, and pray it will lead to full implementation of the program.