More than 100 young people in Botswana have been through the renowned Alpha course with the help of Serving In Mission’s Paul Tanner.
Paul (pictured above, second from right, with Alpha students showing off their new Bibles) has been seconded to Flying Mission for the last four years and has been instrumental in encouraging trainee aircraft engineers to learn more about Jesus.
Based in the capital Gaborone, Paul began the course about four years ago with help from Alpha Botswana. As he and the team have grown more confident, they now run the course themselves using the material used worldwide.
He said: “The material is good and speaks well to most of our students, who are very much city dwellers and used to modern technology.
“Because the youth videos are produced in Canada we occasionally have problems of interpretation, or there might be an example which means nothing to our young people but on the whole it’s pretty good.
“Like many Alpha courses, we usually start with food and we might play a game to relax everyone before we watch the video and then discuss the topics raised."
“We have been amazed at the way the students have engaged with the material and at the questions they have asked. There is no doubt the Holy Spirit is at work in these young people and it’s been enormously encouraging.”
One of the great problems in sharing the gospel in Botswana is the fact that so many people in the country identify themselves as 'Christian'.
However, there is a huge shortage of good Bible teaching in the country, the prosperity gospel is proving all too popular and there are many churches which have mixed Christianity with tribal religious practices. There is a great deal of false and/or shallow teaching.
Paul, sent by Poulner Baptist Chapel, Ringwood, said: “Most of the young people are very disillusioned with church, even though many of them have been going all their lives.
“They see that what is being taught does not match up to reality and are as cynical about Christianity as many Western youngsters.
“We often use the swimming pool illustration when we start talking to them early in the course. If the water represents true Christian faith, we ask them if they are the person swimming in there, the person just dipping their toe in, the person standing on the edge or the person still in the changing room."
“Alpha has been a useful tool to show them what true Christianity is all about. Many of the young people are amazed when they learn the truth and ask us if we can recommend a good church they can go to.”
At any one time, there are 30 students at the engineer training centre, split into two year groups. They range in age from 18 to 26 and the Alpha course is open to all of them.
Paul has been delighted with the response of the young people but he knows there are many temptations in modern Botswana which will test any faith they profess.
He said: “Gaborone is just like any other modern city, in that there are many distractions for young people. It’s great that we are able to tell them the gospel and we hope it has a great effect on them, but we know the reality is that not all of them will become mature Christians."
“I do know of several people who have gone through the course and are now members of good churches, so that is very encouraging."
“Ultimately, we know it is our role to tell people the gospel, but God will decide who comes to faith and who does not.”
That dependence on God is one of the hallmarks of Paul’s life, along with wife Tania and sons Thomas and Arthur. They are soon due to end their time with Flying Mission and return to the UK on home assignment this summer.
Their plan is then to return to Botswana and become more involved with discipling new and young Christians.
For the young people attending Alpha courses in Botswana, that they would be positively impacted for Christ, and in turn positively impact others.
For God to raise up a new generation of Christian leaders in Botswana who are seeking God's Kingdom first, are being 'discipled' and are discipling others.
For the Tanner family to finish their secondment to Flying Mission well and have a blessed home assignment.