Pastor Emmanuel Bileya is a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria. He came to Calvin Theological Seminary to learn more about worship practices and resources, especially the Lectionary of weekly Scripture readings for sermons and observance of the seasons of the church year.
Both of these had been part of his parents’ and grandparents’ experiences. In recent years, though, such practices have faded from use in the Nigerian churches.
Equipped now with a Th.M. degree in Worship from the seminary, Bileya is ready to return home to help train worship leaders for the churches in our sister denomination.
Pastor Emmanuel would not have been able to spend two years studying for his Th.M. degree at Calvin Seminary if it not for the scholarship funds provided for him and other international students. In a recent letter to President Medenblik, he wrote:
“I am very thankful to the school for providing me with financial aid that took care of all my fees and living expenses. If the school had not done so I would not have been able to study at Calvin Seminary. During my study here I depended fully on the scholarship, with no other financial support.”
He went on to describe how he decided to show his gratitude in a very tangible way—by cleaning windows at the seminary. (And if you know how many windows there are at the Seminary, this is no small gesture!) He never kept track of his hours—just kept cleaning until the job was done.
Finding a practical expression of what was in his heart is evidence of what Pastor Emmanuel says he has learned these past years at the seminary.
Though many of his friends warned him that he would not find true Christians in North America and that his faith would be hindered if he studied at the seminary, the opposite was true.
Through his relationships with seminary professors and experiences in his local church, Woodlawn CRC, Bileya found authentic Christians “who serve God from their hearts.” These encounters have inspired him to be a more practical Christian, he said. Cleaning windows without being paid was a “first fruit.”