Travelblog 2: Belize
The Baptist Bible School of Belize meets for three weeks each year, one week in January, another in May, and another in August. Students attend classes at the Baptist Training Center on the assigned weeks, then work through a programmed textbook at home prior to the following session, when they show the work in their books and take a final exam on material covered in the textbook as well as in the earlier classes.
Most of the textbooks are from the Theological Education by Extension curriculum produced some years ago in Africa. The books are often very simplistic and the illustrations drawn from the African bush, but Belizian students, many of whom don’t read standard English very well, have found them to be helpful. The curriculum is also used by the external studies program of the Cape Town Baptist Seminary in South Africa, and Lamb has arranged for students who successfully complete the 21 courses to earn a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry from the Cape Town seminary.
Days typically begin with breakfast and a brief worship service. Final exams for classes taken in the previous session are given on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, then other classes are held. The schedule is rather rigorous: this week I teach Old Testament 1 from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and after an hour for lunch, Mike Browder teaches New Testament 1 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. After the briefest of bathroom breaks, I teach a class on preaching from the Old Testament from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Supper is followed by dinner, and another worship time takes place at 7:00 p.m. Afterward, students typically gather in the classroom/worship center, a nice open-air building, where they complete homework assignments and study for their exams the next morning.
On the first day of class, I was impressed by the students’ commitment. I enjoyed talking with several of them at meals and after worship, hearing the stories of how they felt called into ministry and what difficulties they endure in order to get away from work in order to attend the classes. More than one has lost a job because of it.
Tomorrow I’ll share a student story or two, and explain why women students take the same preaching classes as the men, even though Baptists in Belize don’t generally support the notion of women preaching.