Josué and Kinani during a Sunday morning worship service at the Mennonite student hostel.
Every year young people from around the world travel to North America to participate in Mennonite Central Committee’s International Visitor Exchange Program (IVEP). Two young men from Burkina Faso left a couple of weeks ago to spend the year in Calgary and Montreal.
They are members of the Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso and were residents at the Mennonite student hostel in Ouagadougou. We are thrilled for them to have this opportunity and even more so because for a few months we were not sure that they would be able to participate in the program. The Canadian government first refused their request for visas, so they were not able to leave in August as planned. They finally received their visas in October and left on Oct. 28. After an initial orientation in Vancouver, they will go to their placements and begin their activities. Although the delay of their departure was worrisome, it did permit Kinani to take his third-year law exams which had been postponed since July and were finally given Oct. 10-26. We see God’s hand even in those circumstances that seem adverse. If he had not been able to take his exams, he might have been required to repeat all three years!
Nineteen years after the launch of the first seminar in the Systematic Bible Training Program in Cotonou, things are still going strong. I (Nancy) just got back from teaching Homiletics (the Art of Preaching) to around 200 students in the 7th class since the program began in 1994. Every three years the Benin Bible Institute (BBI) enrolls new students for its three-year series of courses. BBI has graduated over 1,000 men and women who work as pastors, preachers, Sunday School teachers, choir members, and youth leaders. The demand for the program doesn’t seem to diminish.
I taught the class first on the weekend in French (Friday night, Saturday and Sunday: 15 hours) and then re-taught it during the week (Monday through Thursday: 20 hours) with translation into Goun, one of the local languages. The final task was to grade the exams, 184 of them; I was happy to leave the 30 exams written in Goun for someone else to grade!
Sometimes the students complain that BBI is too difficult; they suggest the standards are too high and the demands too rigorous. Yet in Benin anyone interested in serious study of Bible and Theology knows BBI is the place to go. This has become even more evident this year as BBI test scores were among the best of 7 theological institutions in West Africa that participated in the exam regime.
Full-body worship is also part of the BBI program!
One of BBI’s programs in which we teach periodically is the Baccalaureate in Theology. The BAC is a diploma accorded at the end of secondary school in many Francophone countries and is the equivalent of a junior college level degree in North America. In order to attain the BAC, students must pass a series of exams which BBI students took in June. The exams, prepared by CITAF which coordinates the accreditation of institutions of theological education in Francophone Africa, covered a range of subjects including theology, philosophy, English, French, and Koine Greek.
Of BBI’s 9 candidates 7 passed, including 2 who passed with distinction. That is a success rate of 77% and compares favorably with the overall success rate which was 40% this year. So BBI has shown that it prepares its students well and that it has quality programs!