July 10, 2015
Time flies! I can hardly believe that another academic year has come and gone.
The last couple months have been filled with special events. The “Synode Général” (like the Churchwide Assembly) took place May 6-10 in Bertoua. At the closing worship service, six new pastors were ordained. These are students who graduated from the Lutheran Institute of Theology in Meiganga two years ago. The way the ordination process works here is that after graduation, students spend about two years as a “candidate for pastoral ministry” working with a supervisor; then, if all goes well, they are ordained. Although these students graduated before I started teaching at the Institute, I was present for their graduation and have gotten to know a few of them, so it was a joy to be present for their ordination. In late May and early June, several had special services of thanksgiving at the congregations where they have been serving, which I also attended, and even preached for one of them.
Newly ordained pastors with the national bishop, Ruben Ngozo (left) / Preaching at the service of thanksgiving for one of the newly ordained (preaching in French with the evangelist translating into the local language of Fulfulde).
June was filled with activities for the end of the academic year. In addition to final exams, students finishing the “licence” degree (equivalent of a B.A.) also submit a “mémoire,” which is like a senior research paper, only they have an oral defense of their mémoire, like a defense for a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation. For every mémoire, one faculty member serves as director and another as assessor – a jury of two who question the candidate during the oral defense and then decide on the final grade. It is an intense but also rewarding experience.
Relief and joy after successful defense of mémoires
Our graduation ceremony was held June 20. It was a small group graduating this year, but a joyous occasion nonetheless.
Graduation : June 20, 2015
Now we (the faculty) are in the midst of recruiting students for next year. In addition to new classes of licence and master’s degree students here in Meiganga, we are recruiting for a special program that will take place at the Bible school at Meng. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon has four Bible schools for training catechists and evangelists and one seminary (the Institute) for training pastors. Here at the Institute, we accept candidates for three degree programs: the Baccalaureate degree or “Bac” (roughly the equivalent of a high school degree + one year), the Licence (equivalent of a bachelor’s degree), and the Master’s degree.
At the Bible schools, students enter with various levels of education, but most have not finished high school. The program for catechists lasts two years, and for evangelists, three years. Because the need for pastors is so great, the church has decided to offer a special opportunity those already trained as evangelists to be trained as pastors at the Bible school at Meng. But because there are far more candidates than there are places available at the school, we are holding a “concours,” a competition of sorts that involves written exams and interviews. As of now the written exams are finished and graded, and those who qualified on the basis of the written exams will be invited for interviews.
The Bible school at Meng / Worship in a congregation near Meiganga (The pastor in the photo, Pastor Timothée, is responsible for seven congregations.)
To illustrate the need for pastors: Here, it is not uncommon for a pastor to be responsible for seven, eight, nine, ten congregations. And since most do not own cars, they travel from congregation to congregation by motorcycle or on foot. Needless to say, they cannot be at every congregation every week, so it is the evangelists and catechists who lead worship, preach, teach, and do pastoral care when the pastor is not there. In some of the very small congregations, the catechist is a volunteer who does not have any formal training. This often means that church members are not very well taught even the basics of the faith. So there is a need for trained church workers at every level. The harvest is plentiful, but the (trained) laborers are few!
This is why I find my work here so rewarding. It is a privilege to be part of educating pastors and leaders for the church, especially where the need is so great.
+ Grace and peace +