Bruce, Jeremiah, Deborah and I left our home in Benin on June 23, 2009, almost four years ago now. I was delighted to have the opportunity to return for a visit last week after the Benin Bible Institute (BBI) asked me to come and teach a class. I was in Benin from April 12 through April 21.
When we lived in Cotonou, Benin, Bruce and I taught regularly in the different programs of the Benin Bible Institute. BBI began as a systematic Bible training program in 1994. Since then, it has offered a three-year seminar program in Bible and Theology that attracts students from many different denominations. Most of the students are lay people who want to understand their faith better, or who feel ill-equipped for the ministries and services they offer to their local congregation. Many serve as Sunday School teachers, occasional preachers, choir members, worship leaders, Bible study leaders, or as leaders in the church in a variety of other capacities. Currently around 250 students are studying in the seminar program that offers nine monthly seminars each year.
Several years ago, once the Beninese trained faculty returned from study abroad, BBI began another program that was designed specifically for pastors and people involved in full-time ministry. This program is also offered in seminar format, but the program is more academically challenging and involves more hours. It is in this program that I taught the “History of Missions” class: thirty hours in five days to fourteen students!
Alongside teaching, I was delighted to see how things have progressed at BBI, especially in technology. I observed a Saturday seminar taught with the assistance of power point. I was astonished to find that BBI now has Wi-Fi. While my students were writing the final exam, I was able to follow events in Boston via the CBC News website. It was a firsthand experience of the strange new global world we live in.
BBI has continued to offer a viable and practical program to many Christians in Benin. Now BBI is launching an agricultural training program as well. A number of years ago, BBI purchased a farm and hoped to offer practical training to pastors and others who might live outside of urban settings. A candidate was hired to set up the program and after receiving special training has begun with crop production and livestock. Soon students will be welcomed to the site to learn about effective methods of crop production along with non-traditional livestock such as snails and rabbits (which are fairly new to the Beninese diet.)
I am grateful to God for BBI’s many years of faithful assistance to the people of Benin.