The 18 students enrolled this year in the Ashaninka Bible Institute (IBA) represent both a large class and a grateful one. Due to insufficient funding, the IBA was closed for the 2008 session last year, but with new donors committed to supporting training for national leaders, the Ashaninkas returned to Mazamari this August to an opening more celebratory than usual.
The Ashaninka Bible Institute offers two months of extensive Bible and pastoral training each year, with a Diploma of Theology granted to students after the completion of three, two-month sessions over the course of three years. The students board at the SAM Mazamari property with their wives and youngest children. In addition to regular classes for the men, there are times of worship and Bible study for their wives each day. Some women also chose to attend the standard Bible classes with their spouses.
While the typical attendance across the three grade levels has been 9-12 students in the past, this year IBA enrolled 14 first-year students alone. During a season when many young Ashaninka people are pursuing more lucrative careers, the IBA leadership is encouraged to see such new enthusiasm for ministry. On the other hand, only 2 second-year and 2 third-year students returned this session, emphasizing the impact of last year’s hiatus. Looking to the future, it’s evident that a continuous program is import to keep this strong first-year class dedicated to completing their studies.
Even during this season of what might be considered simply academic preparation, a longing is growing among the students to make an impact on the world around them. On the weekends, they leave Mazamari for their “obra práctica,” engaging in evangelism and discipling leaders in communities that have been resistant to the Gospel. Two new churches are budding as a result and after this IBA session is over, leaders from the Ashaninka Church Association will follow up on the seeds sown by these students.
Of course it is as they return to their own communities that the real work begins and the fruit of their studies is made evident. Francisco, a first-year student, comes to the IBA from an Ashaninka village on the Urubamba (Portobamba) River, miles away from any other association church and deep in the Matsiguenga territory. It took him 3 days by river to arrive in Mazamari, but the length of his trip isn’t the only indication that his devotion to Christ and the Great Commission is strong. Francisco is already brainstorming with the president of the Ashaninka Church Association about setting up a center for Bible training in his area.
Students like Francisco are an encouragement to the leadership of the IBA but also a reminder to believers everywhere of the value of training national leadership even and especially in remote regions of the globe. The IBA is in operation this year because of generous funding from new and [previous] existing donors, and this kind of support is essential to the ongoing mission of the Church in the Peruvian Amazon and elsewhere.
For more information about the IBA or to contribute to its work in Mazamari, please contact Diane Krestan at email@example.com.
PS- The guys in the photo writing on the chalkboard are learning Spanish. That's because it's their second language. Their first language is Ashaninka, which is also the language most of the classes are taught in.