Rachel Kobusinge is your typical first year Bible Institute student. She spends her days filling in notes and studying hard for her classes. She spends her weekends doing ministry, catching up on sleep, and getting off campus whenever she can.
Rachel, 24, is a student at Word of Life Africa Bible Institute in Uganda. Her home village is in Western Uganda, the Tooro Kingdom, but she has been living in Kampala most of her life. She is proud of her rich, traditional Mutooro roots, and though her native tongue is a language called Luganda, she can do a pretty impressive American accent.
In Uganda, most students take some time off between their last year of high school and their first year of University. During this break in 2012, Rachel attended a Source One Seminar event put on by Word of Life in her local church. At that seminar, they announced the opening of the brand new the Word of Life Africa Bible Institute in Uganda.
“They invited us to attend, but most of us couldn’t because our parents expect us to go to University.” Rachel went on to study at law school as her parents had hoped. A few years into her program, she knew she needed a change.
From law school to the Bible Institute
“After my final year of University, I decided not to continue on with pursuing a career. I took a gap year to think about life, and during this year I went on a few missions trips with my home church- one to Karamoja and another to Kenya- which is where I interacted again with Word of Life. They were training other students to perform the Born Again to a Living Hope drama, and I was asked to go along with them, which I did, and it was a major factor in my decision making to come to the Bible Institute.”
Rachel says she knew she was done being a lukewarm Christian, so she applied to the Bible Institute. Classes began two weeks later.
“I wanted to know more about God and possibly at some point in my life take on vocational missionary work, so I thought it would be a good step in learning about God’s Word and applying it. It was not easy because I had to convince my parents that I don’t want to become a reverend or an ordained minister. They didn’t understand fully, but by the grace of God only, they allowed me to come.”
The same, but different
In some ways, the Bible Institute in Uganda is very similar to the Bible Institutes in the United States and Canada. Students have the same daily schedule and many of the same guest lecturers. They live together in dorms, eat together in a dining hall, and worship together at a campus church (with one service in Luganda and one in English). However, there are some distinct differences that distinguish this campus from others. Just like any other college, each student is responsible for their own laundry. In Uganda, instead of collecting quarters for the washer and dryer, students wash their clothing by hand. Instead of refilling coffee mugs between classes, students and staff take a mid-morning tea break to sip African tea with ginger and milk.
Just like any other Bible Institute property, the student body has a diverse population. The class of 2018 represents countries including Uganda, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and more. Even beyond that, students who share the same homeland may differ in tribal backgrounds, meaning there is a number of different traditions, languages, and subcultures represented on this campus.
“My favorite part of this year has been interacting with people from completely different walks of life, different countries. I never dreamed I would meet these people. I get to fellowship with believers from a completely different world, and actually have to love them, like really love them with practical love, in service assignments, awarding D-points, in sports we play together, whatever it may be, and seeing us grow together over the whole year. We have formed a very close-knit bond. It’s just amazing that we are completely different and yet one thing unites us, and that’s Jesus.”
Learning for life
Like many students, Genesis 1-11 with Mark Strout was one of her favorite classes. Studying the book of Acts, however, was the most convicting and life-changing. “I always thought, well, some people have the gift of evangelism so they do it naturally. Me, I’m not so gifted so I’ll just be a good Christian. My actions will speak for me..but God expects more. It was the scariest, most challenging class, and that is why it is my best class. It still echoes in my mind now. I know God’s Word is working and He is bringing it to mind.”
Rachel is one of two female RAs and serves as the classroom RA. This means she is responsible to make sure the guest lecturer has what he needs before class, that class notes are available and distributed, that academic records are filed, and that the classroom is cleaned each afternoon.
“Learning how to balance academics, service assignments, and different ministries you are expected to do gets a bit overwhelming. It’s hard not to give priority to academics because you think it’s the most important thing when actually it’s just the head, it’s not the heart.”
Here’s a typical day for the students of the Bible Institute in Uganda:
5:30 am: Wake up/Get ready for the day
6:30 am: Breakfast (Bread & Tea)
7:15 am-7:45 am: Quiet Time (Most students do not actually have a physical copy of the WOL Quiet Time, but they study the same passages on the same schedule)
8:00 am-1:00 pm: Class (This year’s class has 29 students. The small class size allows for open class discussions and sharing. Each class is 50 minutes, with a 10 minute break before the next class begins. A student walks outside to ring the bell to signify the beginning and end of each class.)
1:00 pm-2:00 pm: Lunch (The Bible Institute shares a property with a K-12 Christian school. During lunch, the primary and secondary school students, BI students, and staff members eat together.)
2:00 pm-4:00 pm: Service assignments
4:30 pm-5:30 pm: Phys Ed Class (Monday & Tuesday only)
6:00 pm-6:30 pm: Dinner (All meals are cooked over an open fire and typically consist of rice, beans, stew, potatoes, or posho)
7:00 pm-9:00 pm: Study Hours
9:15 pm-9:30 pm: Dorm Devos
9:30 pm: Dorm Jobs (Because of the dusty red dirt roads, most rooms need to be “dusted” each day)
10:30 pm: Bed (Because of the prevalence of Malaria, Yellow Fever, and other mosquito-spread diseases, mosquito nets are a necessity when trying to sleep)
Students go on ministry outings of Open Air Evangelism, Music ministry, Bible Clubs, Local Church ministry, and all serve at camp throughout the year.
Rachel doesn’t plan to further her law career anytime soon. When asked what she plans to do after she graduates, she says, “I’d like to do what God wants me to do… I hope to get involved in full-time vocational ministry work. Especially in our setting in Uganda, one of our biggest problems is heresy and a lot of false teaching. If possible, I would encourage my whole youth ministry to do the Bible Institute because it opens your mind to so much in God’s Word. And yet, I know it can’t stop there. There’s so much more after the BI to study. That year is a beautiful opportunity to learn and study God’s Word and also apply it. You’re kinda forced to apply it. You’re living with people and you must be patient, must be kind, must be thoughtful, must confront. It’s more than just “theological school” …it shapes the person, not just the brain.”
Despite the insane traffic, a constant threat of malaria, and frequent power outages, Rachel has a huge heart for her home country. “The people here, they are just very special. There are days when you look at them and your heart melts and you are just glad to be a Ugandan… it’s a beautiful country. We usually complain about the heat, but we’ve been spoiled. But the weather is amazing, the people are amazing, and they are very willing to receive the Gospel. Most of their hearts are open.”
Pray for the Word of Life Africa Bible Institute class of 2018! To read about more Bible Institute students, click here.