Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Zimbabwe Trip Report, Part 1: The Where & The What


A month ago, I had the honor of being a guest lecturer at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zimbabwe (BTSZ).  It was an amazing trip.  In my next few posts, I'm going to record various aspects of my experience as a way to make people aware of what things are like there and as a way to say "Thank you" to the people who supported me through prayers and financial gifts. To kick things off, this first post will cover the basics: where I was and what I did.


BTSZ sits in the heart of Zimbabwe, near the city of Gweru.  As you can see from the map above, Gweru sits in the dead center of the country, so the school is in a prime location for pastors and church planters to get trained within Zimbabwe. Students in my course came from various places in the country. One of them traveled over four hours to get there for my class.  The school itself (as well as the rest of the country) has fallen on hard times, but I am excited about the future because it has the potential of making a strong impact on the theological education of Zimbabwe's pastors, which will then strengthen the faith and understanding of the church there.



Here are a couple of shots of the school itself.  It is just a single row of buildings, plus a chapel.  The school currently has only about 20 students, but has the facilities for training many more. Again, this school is strategically placed within the county and I'm excited to see what God is going to do with it in the future.


Finally, here is a shot of me teaching in the classroom.  As you can see, we had to get a little creative so that the students could see the slides in my presentations. And electricity was a bit of an issue (more on that in a later post).  But God was faithful to provide everything we needed.

While we were in the initial stages of planning this trip, I was delighted to be asked to teach a course on "Biblical Backgrounds."  I had 14 students who were eager to learn, and I received lots of positive feedback about the class. The class was set up as J-term, which means the lectures were all-day, everyday for five days straight.  Then I left and the students were to complete the readings and other assignments on their own, submitting them to me electronically.

So for five days, I was able to do what I love doing: teach students about the reality of the Bible.  The Bible records real events, real places, and real things. And through archaeology and historical geography, we have a window into the ancient world that helps us understand the Bible better.  It was a pure delight to share my knowledge with my brothers in Zimbabwe and to see them grow in their understanding of the Bible.  There were several "Aha!" moments when the students understood a passage of the Bible better because of what they were learning. For example, one day I taught them about how pottery was made in ancient times, including what a potter's wheel looked like. Then we turned to the passage in Jeremiah 18 where God tells Jeremiah to go watch the local potter work at his wheel. You could see the student's faces light up and see them nod their heads as they understood what that meant.

I'll dig in deeper in my next post about the material we covered and what it was like teaching in Africa.