Thursday, August 16, 2007
Bible Training School
The week of the monthly Bible Training School is a busy time for our family. Now that we are having the fifth session of the school, however, things are running quite smoothly. Here is what is involved:
Ahead of time, Dr Julio, who teaches the classes, chooses the training materials, and gets them to us. We make enough copies for all of the students, and punch holes in the pages, so that the students can add these to their notebooks. Russell makes sure that all of the registration information is updated from the previous session, so that he can be prepared for the current registration. A team of ladies from town purchase the food supplies for the meals they will cook. All of this takes place before the school session starts.
On the second Tuesday of each month, the school opens. The pastors, pastors-in-training, and church leaders travel to Gracias from the departments of Lempira, Intibuca, Ocotepeque and Copan, and even from the north coast cities of San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba. One regular attender travels 12 hours by bus to come each month. Several of the pastors who live far into the mountains start their trip on horseback, from areas where there are no roads, then stable their horses with friends and finish the trip by hitching a ride on the back of a pickup truck. Some of the students go directly to the school location, a retreat center owned by a local denomination, situated just outside of the city of Gracias. Others gather at one of the town churches, and we shuttle these pastors out to the school. We also make sure that the styrofoam cups, coffee pots, and coffee supplies are in place, for these students love their coffee!
At the school, Russell registers the arrival of each student. We are excited about the attendance we have been having - approximately 80 students each month. Dr Julio usually has time for a short morning teaching session before lunch the first day.
In the late morning, Allen (or Russell - he's 18 now, so he has a Honduran driver's license) picks up the ladies who do the cooking and the food they have prepared, and carries them out to the school, along with disposable plates, cups, and silverware. They stay for lunch with the pastors, and afterwards bring back the ladies and their dirty dishes . . . so that the ladies can get to work on supper!
At home, sometime during the day on Tuesday, at least one or two pastors will arrive who got to town too late for the morning shuttle service (this month, there were four late arrivals). We serve them coffee (of course) at the house, and either have them wait for the next scheduled trip out, or give them some money for a taxi. The road out to the school is pretty bad, and we've decided the cost of a few taxi fares is a better use of our money than the extra wear on our vehicles from additional trips!
At the school, classes go all afternoon, with only a short break for coffee, relaxation and fellowship, in the beautiful mountain setting. The students are extremely serious about these studies, and there is a lot of interaction during the classes. Dr Julio is a lot of fun, and a good teacher, and everyone has a good time, while covering a lot of material.
Back at our house, during the afternoon on Tuesday through Thursday, Rachel, Bethany, or I make cakes for the evening dessert. This month, we sent out 4 cakes each evening. Around 4:30 Allen (or Russell) picks up the cooks and the evening meal - and the cakes - and heads out to the school. They only forgot the cakes once . . . now, I think the students remind them!
After dinner, they bring the ladies and the pots back to town. Usually there is an additional class session after dinner, and then some time of fellowship, impromptu worship sessions, etc.
On Wednesday and Thursday, this schedule continues, except that Russell has to leave the house at 7am to take the ladies out with the breakfast, in addition to the other meals. The class sessions go all day on these days. On Thursday, Allen goes out in the afternoon, with a large selection of the Bibles and Bible study materials that we have for sale. He sets up a table so that the students can shop during their breaks from class. The book sales are subsidized, so that the prices for the books are actually less than what we pay to purchase and ship them. We tease Allen that his business degree didn't teach him much, since he seems to be setting up his bookstore to intentionally lose money!
On Friday, breakfast is served at the school, and then the pastors depart. Many stop by our house before leaving, to look over the books some more, or just to visit. Some bring us small gifts. They all tell us how extremely grateful they are for the chance to come to this training.
The pastors do not pay anything for these classes, or for the food and lodging during the school session. But they are all sacrificing as they pay the cost of transportation, and as they miss most or all of a week of work. None of these pastors is paid a salary by their church - they all work a secular job, usually in agriculture.
We keep pretty busy during the week of the Bible Training School, but it is exciting, as well. Even though Allen and I are not trained pastors or Bible teachers, nor do we have good enough Spanish to teach in the language, God has allowed us the privilege of starting this school and running it each month. We are able to use the funds from our donors, our vehicles, and Allen's ability to orchestrate the logistics, to help with the things we can do, and that the local Christians would not have the resources to do. God provided the teacher, and placed the desire to learn into the hearts of these pastors and church leaders.