Graduation Day

I woke to the sound of rain; I love rain, but not on this day. Today is graduation day at Mwanza Bible College and we expect to have lots of people on the campus and many activities are scheduled to be outside.
However, as I got ready for the day the rain ceased but it remained overcast; this was a blessing since it made for a cooler day.
We arrived at the Bible College, took a deep breath and plunged into the day. The guest speaker was our dear friend, Ron Swai, who was the first principal at the Mwanza Bible College when it opened in 2001.
The District Bishops were on campus and the students were busy with visiting family members and getting dressed in their finest for this special day. We began lining up in the library and discovered two students were missing; they arrived 30 minutes late. A catastrophe in America but a small glitch here; the students were attired in their red robes plus about 40 in a darker burgundy (we had to borrow 40 robes from another college since we only had 33). Teachers were decked out in our black robes and caps and we were ready to start the processional by 9:45; only 45 minutes late which is totally acceptable here in Tanzania.
The staff/faculty filed in and took our places on the platform. We were followed by the students stepping in perfect sync and rhythm with their music amidst cheers, clapping and encouragement from their friends and families. It was a very moving moment for me as I watched these 69 students proudly file into their places; each of their faces represented a story. There are numerous stories of struggles with health, finances and family situations. They and their families made great sacrifices over the past three years so that these graduates could attend Bible College. Most of these graduates are married, have children and pastor churches already; many are into their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and the oldest student is in his seventies. It is not just the individual who is graduating; it is his family, his village and his church and everyone present is personally involved in the process that has led to this day.
It is a great day! Every student crosses the platform as his name is called and has his/her moment of glory as he receives his diploma, congratulations from the faculty and guest speaker, has a lei (necklace of flowers) placed around his/her neck and has his picture taken before stepping off the opposite end of the platform.
After the graduation ceremony there is a feast provided for the graduates and all the guests; about 300-400 people are served food and sodas. There is a flurry of picture taking; Tim and I stand for a long time on the library steps as graduates and there families have their pictures taken with the “white” principal and their “white” teacher. I shake hands and hold babies and welcome families until we are finally excused to join the other faculty and visiting pastors in the library for our meal.
Later, I sit on the steps of the library and watch the crowds roam the campus; buying pictures from photographers who have rushed into to town and developed pictures of the graduates. The pictures are spread on blankets on the ground and others have booths set up to sale Bibles and other books. I am tired but happy that the day has gone well and it is nearly finished; but also I am a little sad that they are finished and leaving us. They represent our first year as Principals of the Mwanza Bible College; a memorable year for us as well as them.
We will meet them in the days ahead as we travel around Tanzania; they will be in their churches putting to good use their hard-earned education. We will have had a part in that training and will rejoice that they are now able to “rightly divide the word of truth”.

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