Great Lakes Leadership Training (GLLT)
In 1997, David Niyonzima returned to Burundi after having taken his family to Kenya for safety during one of the troubled times in his country. He saw the need for training pastors and other leaders to strengthen existing churches and plant new ones. From his vision came the Great Lakes School of Theology (GLST), a four-year Bible college located in Bujumbura, Burundi. Beginning in 1999, men and women from the three countries began taking courses in Bible, Christian ministry, and related subjects. Fifty of them completed their four-year degrees in the coming six years.
As peace returned to most parts of the three countries, yearly meeting leaders in the region began laying the groundwork for the next phase of ministry training. Students who studied at GLST needed to have completed their secondary education before enrolling, which meant that many capable and godly men and women did not qualify. To meet the need for training potential leaders who had never finished primary and secondary school, Friends leaders launched the next phase of ministry training, calling it Great Lakes Leadership Training (GLLT.)
Rather than following the same model for training in each yearly meeting, the leaders in each country found differing ways to meet their training needs. And they naturally turned to some of the graduates of GLST to teach the courses and direct the programs.
GLLT in Burundi
At the heart of Burundi Yearly Meeting’s GLLT program is a Pastoral Training Course that covers many aspects of Biblical knowledge and ministry methods in eight weeks of full-day classes. Twenty-eight students completed these studies in 2007, another 29 in 2008, and 19 in 2009. The yearly meeting has been growing rapidly in recent years and many of the new pastors are graduates of the Pastoral Training Course.
Two additional GLLT programs meet different kinds of nurture and encouragement needs. A seminar for pastors’ wives and widows helps these women leaders to become more active in ministry. And a “Catechist” training program helps those who train and disciple new Christians in the local churches.
GLLT in Congo
Civil war continues to be a major challenge for Friends in eastern Congo, whose churches are located across the border from the Friends churches in Burundi and Rwanda. Some have called the conflict in Congo the “Third World War,” since its victims number into the millions. Not letting these troubles stand in the way, Friends leaders in Congo organized a “Pastoral Formation” program, with terms of eight weeks of classes, alternating with guided practica in their home churches. Twenty-five students graduated from the two-year program in 2007 and another 13 from the classes ending in 2009.
Knowing that there were other emerging leaders in the Friends churches ready to study at a more advanced level, the yearly meeting added a new program in 2008, called the Great Lakes Institute. The institute is equivalent to a high school focused on Bible and Christian ministry. Students are helping with the construction of a building for their classes and are cultivating crops to help pay for their education.
GLLT in Rwanda
Friends in Rwanda adapted a pre-existing program called the “Regional Bible School” to meet their needs for training emerging leaders. With alternating blocks of courses and guided practica, similar to the programs in Congo, fourteen men and women completed two years of study in 2007 and another fourteen in 2009.
Rwanda Friends leaders are making plans for a more advanced program of study, similar to the one in Congo. The hope is to start this venture in 1012.
The Partnership with Friends in the United States
During the years when GLST was operating a number of Americans went to teach courses there. Almost all the GLLT teaching, however, is done by those who speak the local languages and know the specific needs of the leaders and their churches. Many of these got their degrees at GLST.
Partnership consists of: