Saturday, November 14, 2009

TOT in Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya

Tororo, UG--TOT class

Cutting cake presented to us at Webuye, KE TOT

Martin Odi teaching at Mbale, UG TOT

Kigali, RW TOT class

On Nov. 9 I returned from 3 weeks in East Africa, where we completed 4 TOT ("training of trainers") sessions in Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. This included our first-ever TOT in Rwanda. Fourteen pastors (including 3 from Burundi) got together for 4 days of intensive study, discussion, and Q&A concerning the book of 1 Timothy. Theophile Rugubira, a good man with much experience and many contacts in Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo, coordinated the TOT. Theophile is taking over as our new coordinator for Rwanda and Burundi.) Each of the participants made 2 oral teaching presentations (one toward the beginning of the course, and one at the end), and was then critiqued by the other participants. That was a valuable learning experience! (especially since most African pastors never have their sermons critiqued and evaluated--our critiques were both directed to style as well as substance).
Theophile had told me that, when he was inviting the pastors, one had said something like, "You mean we are going to spend 4 days on the book of 1 Timothy? What can we talk about for all that time?" They found out! Toward the end of the TOT one of the pastors said that, although he had been to Bible School, and had studied 1 Timothy at Bible school, he had never gone as deeply into the book, or seen such riches as it possesses, before. At the end when I asked for any final questions, a pastor said that he couldn't ask any more questions, because he was almost in tears at how significant this had been.
I was particularly pleased that, in making his concluding remarks, another pastor said that this TOT experience was particular helpful for him in that 14 pastors of different denominations and traditions had been able to get together. He said that he now had a number of new friends whom he could call, and was happy to welcome any of them, even those from denominations different from his own, to preach at his church.
The participants have now been commissioned to go and teach 1 Timothy on their own. They will be evaluated when they do so and, assuming they do a good job, will receive their certificates and be qualified to evaluate others. They will also be able to lead pastors conferences, just as Martin Odi and Theophile did in Congo earlier this year. May God be praised for the dedication and enthusiasm of these good African pastors. As time goes on, I anticipate that they will have a real impact in their churches, communities, and nations.
Similar results were seen in Uganda (TOTs in Mbale and Tororo), and Western Kenya (TOT in Webuye). At the conclusion of the Mbale TOT, one pastor commented: "Thank you very much for TOT. It has made a U-turn in my life. I had lost my commitment to ministry. Now I have regained it and my enthusiasm." In Webuye, the pastors have drawn up an agrement to form the "Western Kenya Equipping Pastors International Network." They will carry on EPI's work indigenously, and draw upon each other for support and fellowship. One church leader said that before he began working with EPI, the only people he associated with were those of his own denomination. Now he acts as a facilitator to bring people of different churches and denominations together.
Both EPI's Uganda national director, Martin Odi, and I see TOT as vitally important. In-depth training of smaller numbers of committed, capable pastors will pay greater dividends over the short and long term than simply focusing on larger pastors conferences. Thus, this year we have completed 7 TOTs, including our first all-African (i.e., facilitators as well as participants were all African) TOT. Over 100 pastors from all 5 countries of the East African Community have been trained. Your support makes this all possible. Thank you for your commitment to EPI and the churches of East Africa!