In June the Gambia Theological Institute (GTI) hopes to hold its first graduation ceremony for the students who have participated in these courses from the first (about three years ago) and successfully completed ten courses. So this time we want to feature some of these students in the context of their regular activities.
Since February we have taken time to follow up with them at their places of work and ministry. We had this opportunity because the Christian Studies program at the University of the Gambia has not yet fully started. We were in the Gambia first in 2010, when we each taught two GTI courses. This year we each taught one.
Adrian and Wendy meeting the new crop of GTI students
We begin with the brothers Henry and Bola, who have participated in the program from the very beginning. Both are lawyers, and as such they have been very helpful to the Christian Volunteer Movement as it has worked to be registered as a charitable organization in the Gambia. Henry and Bola come from an old established family in the Gambia, and belong to the Methodist Church, where both are active as lay preachers. This is one of the reasons why they have appreciated and benefited from the variety of courses on the Bible and Christian theology in the GTI program.
Bola (in forefront) at our GTI courses
While both brothers practice law, Henry is also our colleague at the University of the Gambia, lecturing in the Law Faculty. In fact, at the recent graduation ceremonies the Law faculty was singled out for its outstanding performance in an international forum for debate on legal issues, and Henry himself has been invited to represent the Gambia on many occasions.
Adrian and Wendy with Dr. Henry at Law Faculty
Dr. Henry with Wendy at UTG graduation ceremonies
We have enjoyed having Jude in our classes. Jude was always faithful in attending classes and did well in all the courses he took with us. Even for the most difficult questions we could count on Jude to give some constructive answer. His primary involvement is with a sports evangelism group, but he is also involved with prayer ministry as a means of establishing a group of believers.
Although Jude comes from Nigeria, and has spent some time in Canada, he has already worked in the Gambia for many years, and has a commitment to spreading the gospel here. In March Jude invited us to attend an evening session for evangelistic outreach in the center of Serrekunda. Most of the sessions were held at a hall owned by the Methodist church. We made the mistake of coming at the hour this program was supposed to start: 5.30pm. Even at 6.30 the only ones in the building were trying to get the musical instruments and sound system working. But by 7.30 -- at about the time we wanted to leave (so that we would not have to drive home in the dark) -- the hall was filling nicely.
Jude and Dorcas (seated)
Jude surprised us when we came back this past January by bringing his wife Dorcas. In the time that we had been away from the Gambia (since 2010), Jude had gotten married. Dorcas, who is also from Nigeria, attended only some of the GTI sessions, but at the outreach event we recognized that she is fully involved in ministry with Jude.
Mary with David Reed and Adrian
Mary at graduation
Mary has attended all our courses. At the February graduation ceremonies at the university, she received a diploma in Early Childhood Education, a real asset for her work with the New Life Children`s Centre, where she teaches small children the stories of the Bible. A few weeks ago we were privileged to attend the Sunday worship service held for these children, many of whom come from non-Christian homes and have no other place of worship. Coming from the Jola tribe in the Gambia, Mary has learned a number of languages, and so when the worship leaders use English she translates for the children whose primary language is Wolof.
Mary translating at children`s service
Children`s worship center sign
Mary is also involved in various outreach programs. From time to time she works as a translator for an evangelism group which goes into Senegal and has interacted with local religious teachers there. On Saturdays Mary also teaches at the Bible Training Centre (BTC). She told us she owed her own primary understanding of the Bible to the courses at this school, and is happy to be able to give back that training as she helps to disciple new believers.
Mary at BTC gate
Stephen is the pastor of Joy Baptist Church in the center of Serrekunda. We visited his church in April, when Stephen asked Wendy to preach on the Sunday after Easter. She was happy to share with these people the significance of the resurrection. It was the first time we have worshiped with a `Pentecostal Baptist` congregation. And we discovered that 'Joy' is certainly an appropriate name for the church. As the congregation, both men and women, came forward to pray, sing and dance, we recognized the joy with which these people worshiped.