A week in the life of a missionary training college
Monday 23 August
Twenty-two students arrive bringing mounds of luggage, bicycles and five tiny children who look even more bewildered than their parents. Twelve second years come bouncing into the old convent building full of confidence and noisy greetings. One couple is missing as the wife gave birth yesterday, maybe a poor excuse but they will return next week with their toddler in tow.
We gather into the chapel for a welcome meeting and look at the eager and tense faces, assuring them of our prayer and support. Our job is to provide adequate training for the years ahead. By 2012 many will already be serving the Lord in difficult and dangerous places.
Tuesday 24 August
It’s an early start with breakfast at 7:15 and duties at 7:45. The college buildings ring with the sound of teams cleaning classrooms, sorting rubbish and chopping fresh vegetables for lunch. Later others clear tables, wash up and prepare the evening meal. With fifty-five adults and eighteen children living and learning together this is a very busy place.
Today is the first time that the whole college, staff, students and volunteers, gather for worship and preaching. Everyone is reminded that we are here to study God’s law, and practise His word before we teach others (Ezra 7:10).
Wednesday 25 August
It is time for some serious academic work as both year groups go to their classrooms for introductory lectures. The first lecture is about the weekly evangelistic ministry that all students must do. Some choose to join the teams, visiting refugees, prisoners or prostitutes; others are involved with activities for children or teenagers in the village. One team concentrates entirely on praying for all the outreaches while another brave group goes out onto the streets of Nijmegen and offer to pray for passersby.
After a coffee break, an immovable institution in Dutch life, the students do an introduction to Cultural Awareness. How do you get ten nationalities to live together in peace and harmony? This doesn’t just happen. It needs strong biblical teaching, constant monitoring and a good example from the fourteen staff who themselves come from different countries and backgrounds.
The students emerge from their first taste of academic life looking tired but the two girls who care for the pre-school children look even more exhausted.
Thursday 26 August
The first year students are on a field trip sampling the delights of Dutch culture. The morning is spent on a local farm, learning how cheese is made and then sampling the end product. The rain was torrential, reminding me of home! The afternoon is spent visiting an inner city café where Christians work with homeless people and addicts. A walk down a narrow lane brings the unfamiliar smells of drugs being sold and smoked in dingy coffee shops. We are soon out into a bright shopping street where the students are given an hour to do an ethnographical survey – they sit in a café, watch people and record everything that is different from back home. A fascinating exercise and one they can use anywhere in the world to help them observe another culture.
Friday 27 August
It’s back to the classroom today. The first years have a lecture on how to write an assignment. This is different in every institution and it can be very hard to adjust your style of learning if you come from an Asian country. For the second years it’s straight into a course on Ecclesiology.
The week ends with a treasure hunt around the buildings and grounds. All ages take part and enjoy being together. At the end of the evening nobody wants to leave. Are they happy chatting or just too tired to move?!
Saturday 28 August
The Sept/Oct issue of The Evangelical Magazine arrives bringing good news from a distant country (Prov. 15:30). Time to relax and reconnect with home!
Christine Owens was a resident member of staff of Cornerstone Centre for Intercultural Studies, Holland.