James and Shermaine Tan
Missionary teachers at the Bible College of East Africa, Nairobi, Kenya
Matthew 6:33–34, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
Time has flown by since our last mission report in April 2021. Since then, we thank God for completion of another term which ran from 17 May to 28 July, for the 2nd to 4th year students. Going forward, the college prays for the completion of another 2 intensive terms for the completion of all subjects that should have been taken in 2020. These have been planned for 2 Aug to 8 Oct (2nd term for 1st year/Certificate, 3rd term for 3rd/4th year); and 11 Oct to 10 Dec (3rd term for 1st year/Certificate, 3rd term for 2nd year).
Covid cases have been on the rise the past weeks. The infection rate is between 13–18% daily. The full impact of the delta variant may manifest itself in time to come. Amidst the uncertainties, we pray that God will be merciful and gracious to grant the college at least the completion of this current term, that the graduating batch of students may not be delayed for another year. Even so, our human will and wisdom aside, may the Lord grant us all patience and trusting submission to His perfect and good will (Rom 8:28).
Some may wonder why the college does not consider e-learning as an option to cope with the volatile situation. The reason is simple. Many of our students are not able to get access to the internet because of infrastructure and financial problems. Thus, the Lord’s provision for the college was to grant a smooth 11-week period for the resumption of studies.
The rigour of running the terms intensively due to Covid-19 can put a toll on the physical strength of both students and faculty. However, the greater worry is for the impact that the pandemic had upon the students’ spiritual condition. Many of our returning students had spent more than a year away from the college, ceasing from their studies. Not a few of them had spent the year making ends meet either on farms or doing odd-jobs.
Unlike the supportive environment we are blessed with in Singapore, it is not a common practice that churches provide financial support for pastors/teachers in training. It was an observable struggle for some to make the overnight switch from ploughing the ground to ploughing through books. We found many not doing well for the examinations during the review weeks. Nonetheless, we saw the Lord’s hand in helping the students to settle back into the academic rigour progressively. God willing, we continue to pray for their learning and equipping in the remaining 2 terms of the year.
For a handful, we have painfully lost them to the world during this year of stoppage. We know of particular students who chose not to report back for studies as they wanted to put focus on businesses they started. “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Though a disappointment, we still thank the Lord for proving the true hearts of these students who had professed themselves to be called to the full-time service of the Lord.
Another surprise came mid-way during the term when graduation request letters came one after another from our 3rd year students who did not want to go on to the 4th year. 13 letters were submitted out of 17 returning 3rd year students. The faculty lamented. We knew a few of them had been doubled-minded since returning. Likewise, they were managing businesses started in the past year. However, for others, we wondered if the zeal and love for God’s Word had grown so cold that returning to the college was just a desire for the paper certificate. Could it also be a class effort to reflect displeasure against the college for not resuming earlier? After speaking with individual students, we came to understand that the students had made independent decisions. For most of them, the pandemic had placed such a financial burden upon their families that paying the school fees for another year seemed impossible. The college understood that many families are going through great financial stress under the pandemic measures.
Need for Faith
However, we were concerned that the deeper issue was a lack of faith on the part of the students. God’s provision for His servants is ever sufficient if only we will learn to seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Matt 6:33). The Lord moved the hearts of the faculty to emphasise upon the Lord’s calling to ministry over the pulpit, both in the chapel services and in classes. We thank God for the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction through His Word in the students. We have since received a few requests for continuation of studies from those 3rd year students. We continue to pray that some others will decide not to have an early exit, but rather to stay on the course and to keep the faith, even in this training phase of the ministry (2 Tim 4:7).
News of Death
In the past months, the death of many loved ones has also been a struggle brought along by the pandemic. News of death have become a frequent occurrence, be it family members of the students and church members, or even missionaries who were taken home. We had a student who lost 4 family members within a period of few months. How tragic! At times, the reasons of these sudden deaths are unknown, we can only pray for those bereaved to receive comfort and strength from the God of all comfort through His Word (1 Cor 1:3–4). Financial difficulties and deaths are just but two obvious manifestations of a country suffering from a lack of governmental support in battling the Covid pandemic. Much focus had gone to the General Elections coming up in 2022. We pray especially for the rulers of this land (1 Tim 2:1–2).
As much as we have seen the spiritual struggles of the students over the past months, we have also been burdened by those of the Campus Church members. A single case of Covid on campus may force the college to end a term. Thus, the college maintains a strict policy in terms of low contact with people outside the compound. This includes the Campus Church members who come from all around. To minimise the risk of Covid transmission, all other Campus Church activities remain ceased, with the exception of the Lord’s Day worship service and children’s Sunday School.
To balance the needs of the students and the needs of the church members is one that requires much wisdom especially during this time of the pandemic. We pray as we reach out to the church members with the Word of God in limited ways, the Lord will keep the souls of His people in fear of Him, in remembrance of His Word, and in seeking Him first.
Indeed, the precious lesson of seeking God first, and trusting in His provision found in Matthew 6:33–34 has been a prominent one in the past months. And we give all praise to God for granting us to learn this truth even experientially for the college’s needs. Significant repairs and upgrading works have been done all around the campus. New computers and class projectors have been bought, solar water heaters installed for the student dormitories, iron doors reinforced for enhanced security of the mission kindergarten, construction works ongoing on the Rwandan campus to fulfil accreditation requirements etc. Travelling expenses between the colleges have also gone up due to Covid measures like PCR tests and hotel quarantine stays.
Throughout these many years, the college has been sustained by God’s sufficient provision through the love of His people from countries all around (e.g. USA, Korea, Singapore). The burden of support falls especially upon the shoulders of our dear Principal, Rev (Dr) Mark Kim. In the 30 over years that he has laboured sacrificially for the college, we witnessed and continue to see how the good hands of the Lord provide for the needs of the campuses.
In the months to come, two major projects are in the plan: (1) Installation of solar water pumps for the borehole to ease the overall electricity consumption of the college. This would cost about USD5000, and would hopefully last for the next decade or two. (2) Installation of alarm systems for the outlying areas of the campus in cases of emergency. Recently, an elderly Korean resident fell from the water tower and is currently receiving treatment for broken spinal and collar bones. Thank God she had access to her phone and could call for help.
In our morning faculty meetings, we pray often for those who give lovingly to the college (2 Cor 9:12–14). Especially in such times when we see that the health pandemic has also brought on economic struggles in the lives of people. Perhaps some are also facing financial challenges of their own. Therefore, we take not for granted the agape love that they continually show towards the college. We are assured that God will continue to sustain the college as we stay on the course, with a single-minded focus on the cause and fight for His Word, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev 1:9). Amen!
On a personal note, we give thanks to God for being able to start on Kiswahili lessons since early May. Already we experience how a better understanding of the local language can aid effectiveness in the ministry. We pray for completion of the Kiswahili course in God’s good timing.
We give thanks to God for the loving support of the church, especially in prayer for us. As we are remembered in prayer, we too forget not to pray for the church. Days have been dark in these last days, yet may we all press on in our labours for the Lord, looking in faith unto the perfect suffering example of Christ our Lord (Heb 12:1–2) and His glorious return (2 Cor 4:17–18).
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