Wesley Hosts Doctor of Ministry Students from West Africa

Oct 3

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Monday, October 3, 2011 2:17 PM  RssIcon

Muriel Nelson and Yatta Roslyn Yatta

For a month this fall, Wesley has been host to fourteen students from West Africa, who comprise the “Theological Education in a West African Wesleyan Context” track of Wesley’s Doctor of Ministry program. In addition to studying theology with Wesley Seminary professors, they have also been mentored by those professors, learning not only theology but how to teach theology, as many of them are also professors at Liberia’s Gbarnga Seminary, Nigeria’s Banyam Theological School, or the Sierra Leone Theological College and Church Training Centre.

We spoke to three students: Muriel Nelson, John Auta Pena and Ken Luseni. Student Muriel Nelson works as a Christian Educator at Stephen Trouwen Nagbe United Methodist Church in Monrovia, Liberia and teaches at Gbarnga Seminary. Student John Pena is from Bambur in Taraba State, Nigeria. He is currently a seminary professor teaching in the area of Practical Theology. Student Ken Luseni is from Sierra Leone and serves as the pastor of St. Augustine's Church, Hill Station Freetown and professor, Dean of Students and Academic Board Chairman at the Sierra Leone Theological College and Church Training Centre in Freetown.

Luseni was impressed by the hospitality of the American people. He noted that it put into context the mission-mindedness of this country. He explained how valuable classes taught by Peace Corps volunteers had been and noted that most of the churches in Sierra Leone were started by American missionaries. However, when civil war broke out in 1991, many of the missionaries were forced to leave and most have not returned.

Churches have decided to try to help heal people in the aftermath of that war, which ended in 2002. According to Luseni, “The churches minister to amputees and feed people, all the while reminding them that they are loved by God, that they are still human beings despite what they have suffered and that there is still hope for them.” Churches continue to play a role in the repatriation of refugees and in the redevelopment of schools and hospitals as well, both locally and in cooperation with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

However, in the midst of this good work being done by the churches of Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, these students see a definite need for improvement in theological education.

Pena noted that there are many more worshippers than pastors in Nigeria and though there are theological schools, they are not associated with the United Methodist Church or teaching Wesleyan theology. “We can travel to South Africa or the United States for education, but it is expensive and there are visa hassles.”

Mr. Luseni added, “It is really difficult for people who are doing theological studies to find sponsors. It is a blessing to be sponsored by the one or two agencies out there. There are many who have the calling, but not the means. Scholarships are not always available. It is particularly difficult for women, who must often decide between [paying] their school fees and [paying] their children’s school fees.”

Ms. Nelson added, “We are hoping that this program will lead to increasing the standards of education for lay educators as well as clergy.”

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