The first batch of SEAN trainers ready for mission
Written by Mette Bjergbæk Klausen
Testing, testing, 1 – 2 – 3.
Are you ready for something completely new? To be equipped for ministry in your own congregation here in Sierra Leone, using a discipleship course developed by SEAN International in Latin America, through an online e-course from Crosswired in Asia? No need to be confused; we’ll take one step at the time. It’s going to be different, it’s going to be modern and hi-tech, it’s going to be great! Are you ready?
Ten sets of highly focused eyes shine back at me in response: Some very excited, some a bit doubtful, but all smiling in anticipation. I have young people, mature people, women and men, and from three different church denominations, so it is a good diverse group.
We are gathered in a small chapel inside Bishop’s Palace. It is a nice, bright room. The Bishop has helped me block out the strong sunlight with the liturgical coloured cloths, used for decoration during services. I am going to project my computer screen to the back wall, so we need to dime the light to see it clearly.
This is an e-learning course for people, who are going to lead their own study groups for Christian formation afterwards.
We have decided to move into e-learning, for several reasons. One reason is, that this way we can make use of good teachers and great programmes from around the world. Another reason is, that it is the only way to get teachings out to people without facing impossible logistics with large distances and bad roads. A third reason is, that it promotes a different kind of teaching, a teaching that is interactive, involving participants in contrast to the traditional memorisation of useless facts, which much teaching here consists of. This is very important when we are working on formation and not just sharing information.
The power is a bit jumpy, but we have a generator for back up. The internet is rather unreliable, but Crosswired has granted us permission to use an offline version of the course, and I have an Online Well ready (it distributes online materials via a closed wi-fi, like a small unconnected internet), so people can watch the course on their phones as well. I cannot help but daydream about the day, when the Mount Zion Retreat and Training Centre will be a reality and we will have all the right facilities for training such as this. But for now, this will have to do.
However, one thing is to get the technology to work, another thing is the human factor: Will our intended participants accept such an alternative form? It is with some anxiety I press the “on” button of the first module and let the teaching begin. The e-course narrator gives instructions, I guide the participants, making sure the instructions are understood, as we listen to the audio, watch the videos, and they work on the practical assignments together. It seems a bit odd a first, as a faceless voice tells us it is time to pray. But fortunately my participants are patient people who are ready to try new things. With a sigh of relief I note, that they are highly focused on the teachings and fully engaged in the discussions and assignments.
During a soft drink break one participant, Daniel, spontaneously propose a toast to SEAN for making this course available, and everyone joins him cheerfully.
Another participant, Benjamin, is snapping pictures of my screen with his phone to pass along to the others. “Where can we get more training?”, Solomon wants to know. Success: The new form is embraced whole-heartedly.
I am grateful for my colleagues in SEAN International for providing the content of the course and for my colleagues in Crosswired for making it into an accessible e-learning course. Together, they are making this course possible, so that we now have ten new trainers ready to lead discipleship courses in Sierra Leone.
Here, ten days later after the completion of the course, eight out of ten participants have formed their own groups and are ready to begin the work later this week. The baton has been set in motion.