MULEBA, Tanzania (October 11, 2022)—“It’s a powerful lesson on what it means to have vision,” Dr. Gene Wilkes, president of B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, says as he scrolls through videos of choirs singing and 16 Tanzanian pastors processing into graduation at Muleba Bible College in their red robes.
“Each of their families provides decorations for them to wear around their necks,” he adds. “They’re so proud of them, and they should be. They’ve worked very hard, drinking in all they’ve learned in a very compressed period of time.”
Red, like the robes the students wear, is a dominant color of the exposed landscape of roads and fields on the western shores of Lake Victoria. It is also the color of the dirt floor in the college’s dormitory. It is where the students sleep on blue plastic tarps for three weeks at a time, four times a year, for a three-year course of study. A single lightbulb hangs in the middle of the room to provide reading light for the eight-to-nine men sharing each room.
“I look at it, and it is a reminder of how much I have and how little they need,” Wilkes says. “They’re really doing the work. They have hands, a voice, and a commitment which is so deep.”
Three years ago, the Muleba Bible College did not exist. Its founding was the vision of local Christians, led by Elias Kashambagani, principal of the school, and Scott Whitson, director of missions for the Southwest Metroplex Baptist Association in Cleburne, Texas.
Whitson has a heart for the people of Tanzania. He was born in Mbeya, Tanzania, where his parents served as career missionaries. Wilkes met him when he was still in high school, and his parents were on furlough in the states. When they reconnected years later, and Whitson said he was ready to pursue a Ph.D., Wilkes invited him to study at B.H. Carroll.
Both men also shared a passion for climbing. In February 2020, Wilkes and Whitson climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to help raise money for the school in Muleba. It was Whitson’s second trip up the mountain. But they weren’t just climbing for the thrill of it.
Donors contributed a designated amount per foot of the climb, which resulted in $5,000 being raised from those who support theological education. And $5,000 goes a long way in Tanzania.
Last week, Wilkes and Whitson were present as the pastors—all of whom will return to their villages to serve a local church—received their diplomas. Wilkes says the most impactful moment of the graduation was when he began to contemplate the sacrifice of family and ministry time each student made to pursue their equipping in theological education.
“God gave a group of people a vision—a vision only three years ago,” Wilkes says. “To see it realized with 16 graduates all serving as local church pastors is a testimony to the power of faith and their commitment to the calling of God.”