It was a privilege for Wendy and I to end our active careers teaching the Bible in Tanzania to people who would minister in local churches. All the teaching was in Swahili, the national language of Tanzania and the lingua franca of eastern Africa. Before emigrating to Australia, we had worked in Kenya. Then we were back in East Africa, invited by a bishop to teach in the diocesan Bible College. One of the greatest challenges for our fellow staff and for the students was that there were so few books in Swahili—some commentaries, some translations of good books from Western authors, but few books that could be used as the basis for teaching a course. In recent years, a one-volume Bible Commentary written by African scholars and a Bible Dictionary have been produced. These are a wonderful resource for students but not the basis for a course. For neither Old nor New Testament did we have books in Swahili with an overview of the progression or theological emphases of the Bible as a whole.
Once we retired to Australia, we got involved with translating the Moore College Preliminary Theological Certificate (PTC) course material into Swahili. A team of us, Tanzanians and former missionaries, translated the six books of the first level of the course. Then I, and another former missionary, Michael Palmer, went to Tanzania and taught them to groups of clergy, and asked for their feedback. The final stage of this careful process was the checking of the translated material by a Tanzanian native. Then came the next challenge—the translation of the question banks that provided the multiple-choice exams and answers to go with the books.
The Moore PTC material gives a coherent overview of the Bible, and then more in-depth studies in key books. The materials provide a course, complete, showing how the Bible has a unity despite the diversity of books, and how it follows themes such as Creation to New Creation, and the fulfilment of the promises to Abraham that through him, all the people of the earth will be blessed. That blessing comes in Jesus, through whom believing people of all nations come into one People of God. The total course has 18 books in three levels, but even the first level of six contains a coherent basic course giving a good overview of Biblical truth, and studies in the first books of the Old Testament, a Gospel, and an Epistle.
This course is a great resource for the growing church in eastern Africa. Now the challenge is to get it to the people who need it, especially clergy who have had little training, and colleges with few resources. The challenge is to get it known, get it onto peoples’ computers and mobile phones. Please pray that the work of the Centre for Global Mission (CGM) in translating PTC resources into other languages will bear much fruit and resource the world with theological education.