In the 1970′s the church in Africa (as in many parts of the world) was trying to find new ways to train pastors and leaders. “Theological education by extension” was one of the phrases used to describe education that would be offered to people closer to where they lived. I was invited to Congo to explore new ways to offer training. One of the pioneers was Rev. Charlie Ross, who had already begun a pastoral institute at Bulape. He and Pastor Mishenge had selected a group of about ten evangelists and church leaders to be trained as pastors.
I was involved involved with the school from early 1975 through the middle of 1978. It was probably the most important part of my work. The students came to Bulape for a month long stay at least three times each year. Lodging and food was provided by the school. Classes were held Monday through Friday from early morning until bedtime at night. On Saturdays and Sundays we rode together in the Land Rover, placing the students in pairs in different villages. Occasionally we would go to a city and all work together in one place. Village meetings and church services were scheduled with the host churches. Students used this practical experience as a balance for the course work during the week.
Between school sessions Pastor Mishenge and I often visited the students in their home villages. We formed deep friendships and loyalties. Conversations with this group gave me a most honest and accurate picture of what was really happening in the African churches.
For the last couple years I was with the school we began asking the General Assembly to approve the non-traditional education we were offering as a basis for pastoral ordination. After I left, the Presbytery of Lutschadi did ordain the graduates as village pastors. I was confident they had all the necessary skills to be good leaders of their congregations.
The photo above was provided by Charlie Ross. The three graduates are Bope Bope, Mingishanga, and Mafuata. May God guide and bless all who serve the church in Congo.