With the designation of Dr. Paul White as Dean of FATEB and a Board of Governors that had begun to function, the local Action Committee was no longer needed. The management of the seminary project shifted away from three years of guidance by committees to the personal leadership of Dr. White as Dean, now accountable to the FATEB’s Board of Governors. White’s communication in July 1976 to the members of the General Assembly (including the members of the Board of Governors) reflects this change in the management of the project (7.20.76 White letter to the General Assembly of FATEB). White had planned to move his family to Bangui in the fall of 1976, but the shortage of funds needed to continue campus building construction persuaded him to spend the 76-77 academic year in the USA in order to raise funds for the seminary (November 1976 White newsletter to friends). At the same time, he made appointments for faculty and staff in preparation for the school’s opening.
During their 1976-77 residence in America, White moved his family to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where he also taught several courses in New Testament and Missions. Although Paul’s wife, Arline, had given birth to four daughters, on March 9, 1977, they welcomed a boy into the world, Paul-André. In April, Paul began an intensive series of fundraising visits in North America, Europe, and Africa. He continued to communicate with prospective students about FATEB’s formal opening in October. The number of applicants had reached 59 by that summer (White correspondence of 1.27.77, March 1977, 7.1.77, and 7.8.77).
In July, the White family began its relocation to Bangui. En route, Paul flew to the Ivory Coast for the Third General Assembly of AEAM, July 30 to August 2, 1977, held in Bouaké. More than 300 participants from Africa, Europe, and North America gathered for this Continental meeting of Evangelicals. The delegates included 175 Africans from 32 African countries and 130 expatriates. 123 organizations were represented. Tokunboh Adeyemo of Nigeria was elected as General Secretary to replace Byang Kato. Nigerian President Odunaike requested that a memorial service be conducted in honor of Byang Kato, whose widow was in attendance. Tite Tiénou of Burkina Faso was named Executive Secretary of the Theological Commission (12.6.77 White newsletter).
As Interim Executive Director of the Theological Commission since Kato’s death, White made a report to the Assembly in which he announced that about 30 students would enroll for the beginning of classes at FATEB in October. He also reported that Phase I of the campus program was virtually complete and that funding was now needed for Phase II. This included the construction of a two-story building for classrooms and administrative offices (7.30-8.2.77 Minutes of the Business Sessions of the 1977 AEAM General Assembly, Bouaké).
Most of the White family arrived in Bangui the first week of August. Two months later, students and professors were onsite and ready to work. That first day of school, October 15, 1977, was devoted to fasting and prayer. The new students and professors were joined for worship by over twenty Central African pastors. A week of orientation followed as professors and students got to know one another. Working methods were explained. A series of messages by the Dean were presented on the nature of the theological task and the importance of integrating academic excellence with authentic spirituality. Classes began October 24th, and White described the students as “serious, engaged, and full of enthusiasm” (12.6.77 White newsletter).
The professors included Don Hocking of the Grace Brethren. He had returned from a study leave in the USA with a doctorate in Theology. Floyd Shank, professor and theological school director in Gabon, joined the faculty. Dr. White also taught classes. Nineteen students had come to study: 1 from Chad, 1 from Guinea, 8 from the DRC, and 9 from CAR. They comprised 12 married students and 7 single men. One of the full-time students was a married woman. The oldest student was 37 years old, the father of 3 children, and a former police officer in Kinshasa. He gained the respect of the other students and became their informal leader. After several weeks of study, students primarily complained about the weight of their work and the amount of time spent in research. White observed that this kind of discipline was essential for preparing them to serve the Lord. In a message to the Board of Governors, he explained that the students spent 18 hours a week in classes but that FATEB’s philosophy put a strong emphasis on research. Hence, considerable time in the library was necessary (12.2.77 White to the Board of Governors).
The library was named the Byang Kato Memorial Library and opened with 1,600 books. White hoped that it would one day become the best theological library in Francophone Africa. In addition to the building needed for classes and offices, a residence for single students was also included in the Phase II plans. Total cost of this phase was estimated at nearly $200,000, of which only $20,000 was on hand (11.1.77 B.E.S.T. Information). Students also faced steep financial challenges. The cost of education at FATEB exceeded the resources of virtually all the applicants. Help from their churches was important, and most churches could not easily bear the costs of sending a student to FATEB. The economic challenges were substantial both for the students and for the new seminary. However, pressures of another sort were approaching during FATEB’s first year that would be even more difficult to manage than the shortage of funds.
During the first year, in early 1978, the students identified an issue that would test the stability of FATEB to its limits. In a message to FATEB’s leaders, the students said that they “regretted very bitterly that the President of the Board of Governors had put two leaders…at the head of FATEB” (3.25.78 Students of FATEB to Board of Governors). They noted that Don Hocking was not only functioning as a professor of the seminary, but that he was also serving as Vice-President of the Board of Governors under its President, Isaac Zokoué. However, with the frequent absence of Zokoué on his travels for the GBU, the students reported that Hocking saw himself as authorized to intervene in the affairs of FATEB and to do so without conferring with the Doyen. Hocking had told the students that the Association of Evangelical Churches in Central Africa (AEEC) was the permanent representative of AEAM in the country. The AEEC was indeed a member of AEAM but had no part in AEAM’s oversight of the school. The students saw Hocking using AEEC to exert his authority over the affairs of the school in opposition to White’s formal leadership. The students’ letter clarified exactly how this situation impacted their lives. Tensions between Hocking and White had now become visible to the campus community.
On March 28th, Isaac Zokoué, President of the Board of Governors, sent a letter to the 40 members of FATEB’s General Assembly in which he made reference to the “deep division” that existed between the two leaders. In addition, he wrote that the Dean had declined to commit to serving a second academic year because of the tense situation. The conflict had grown so acute and intractable by late March that Zokoué could see only two alternatives: either to close the seminary for an indeterminate period or to request White to leave FATEB at the end of the academic year. He requested the members of the General Assembly to send him their vote by telegram on whether the Board should accept the first alternative, the second, neither, or abstain (3.28.78 Zokoué to the FATEB General Assembly).
The Board of the Association of Churches in Bangui (AEEC) met on March 30th to discuss the problems at FATEB. Two members also served on FATEB’s Board of Governors. They both saw the Dean as the cause of the conflict and decided that if the AEAM Executive Committee did not take action, the AEEC would withdraw from AEAM, and two of their members, Pierre Yougouda and Don Hocking, would withdraw from FATEB’s Board of Governors. The AEEC also expressed hope that, in such a case, AEAM would ask the Dean to resign from FATEB (3.30.78 Minutes of the AEC Board meeting). (At this time, the AEC (Aliance Evangélique en Centrafrique) was known as AEEC (Association des Eglises Evangéliques en Centrafrique).)
The AEEC President, Doko-Manga, wrote a letter to the head of AEAM’s Executive Committee requesting that White be replaced as Dean of FATEB. He mentioned 3 reasons why the Dean’s leadership was unacceptable: 1) He had admitted non-Evangelical students to FATEB; 2) He was conducting weekly communion services on campus, twice with wine in the communion cups; 3) He had participated in an ecumenical event outside of FATEB. The AEC President saw these as the reasons why Hocking had decided to resign from FATEB as professor earlier that month. Under such circumstances, Doko-Manga felt it impossible to collaborate with the Dean (3.30.78 President of the AEC to the President of the Executive Committee of AEAM).
AEAM’s President, Samuel Odunaike, wrote 3 letters on April 8th in an attempt to resolve the crisis. One letter went to the President of the AEC, one to Isaac Zokoué, President of the Board of Governors, and one to Paul White, FATEB’s Dean (4.8.78 Samuel Odunaike to President of AEC; 4.8.78 Samuel Odunaike to Isaac Zokoué, President of FATEB Board of Governors; 4.8.78 Samuel Odunaike to White, Dean of FATEB). The AEAM Executive Committee had met in Nairobi April 5 to 7, and Odunaike’s letters reflected the Committee’s consensus. Odunaike reminded the AEEC President that the relationship of the AEEC association of churches to AEAM was not connected to FATEB and that the AEEC relationship to AEAM should not have been called into question because of problems with FATEB. He also indicated that FATEB was under the direct authority of its Board of Governors, and that the Board was the body charged with resolving issues with the seminary’s daily operations, not the AEAM Executive Committee to which the AEEC President had written. However, Odunaike offered to have either the President or the General Secretary of AEAM go to Bangui to serve as a mediator in an effort to resolve the conflict.
In his letter to Isaac Zokoué, Odunaike agreed with the way the Board of Governors had dealt with the three issues raised by the AEC President. Only Evangelical students would be admitted to FATEB. No more communion services would be held on FATEB’s campus. Ecumenical encounters by faculty members would occur only in their personal capacities, not as representatives of FATEB. He also assured Zokoué that he did not want to see White leave FATEB, that the Executive Committee would not interfere with the work of FATEB’s Board of Governors, and that he would seek to send a mediatorial representative of AEAM to Bangui to assist in resolving the crisis.
To Paul White, Odunaike indicated that FATEB’s problem was under the direct authority of the FATEB Board of Governors, that he would try to send mediatorial assistance to Bangui on behalf of AEAM, and that he prayed for wisdom and grace for the Dean as he worked to resolve this problem.
On April 19, Don Hocking’s American supervisor, John Zielasko, General Director of the Foreign Missionary Society of the Brethren Church, known informally as the Grace Brethren, wrote to Dr. White to ask for explanations of the three issues that the AEEC said had led to Hocking’s resignation from the FATEB faculty. He added a fourth question about whether FATEB was encouraging students to speak in tongues (4.19.78 Zielasko letter to White). In a three-page letter, White responded to these issues. The AEEC and Hocking had raised these issues because they believed they represented non-evangelical beliefs and actions on the part of the Dean (5.9.78 White letter to Zielasko). White wrote in detail about his theological positions regarding the questions raised, how the accusations of his practice misrepresented the truth, and how he had dealt with these questions. He also affirmed that these concerns were secondary to the real reason for Hocking’s resignation, though he did not elaborate on that point in his reply to Zielasko. He also stated his continuing commitment to submit to the authority of the FATEB Board of Governors in all aspects of his leadership of the seminary.
Although the controversy over White’s leadership continued, on June 11th FATEB held an official ceremony marking the close of its first academic year. Children of the students, their wives, and students themselves participated. Songs and recitations marked the event. A student from each of the four countries represented in the student body recounted his appreciation for God’s grace during the first year of theological studies. Pastors and friends joined the campus community of over 50 people on this special occasion (6.15.78 White newsletter).
Among the reasons for joy at year’s end were the experiences of the 12 married students and their families. They had arrived in October with a combined total of 19 children. By June, 6 new infants had increased that number to 25. In keeping with an African tradition that sometimes led parents to name a new-born after a circumstance associated with the child’s birth, the couple that welcomed the first of the babies born that year promptly named him Fateb 1 (July 78 White Information Bulletin No. 3). Besides the joy of family additions, gratitude was expressed for the work of Paul White’s wife, Arline, who directed a practical learning program for the wives of the students on biblical and social topics. She contributed to the education of the pre-school children as well (8.2.78 Six FATEB students from DRC to Dirinda Barini-Bodho).
After the closing ceremonies, Floyd Shank decided to communicate to Paul White his evaluation of the Dean’s leadership. Shank was the other professor, besides White and Hocking, who had taught at FATEB throughout the first academic year. He wrote about many concerns that he laid out in a long letter to White (6.16.78 Shank letter to White). Shank presented eight issues in his document, noting that some of his concerns were shared by Hocking as well. On the morning of June 17th, Shank hand-delivered his letter to White, who later in the day asked to meet with him. Shank agreed but asked that Hocking also be present. White declined to invite Hocking to join them. White talked about the letter for half an hour while Shank listened. At the conclusion of the interview, they both prayed. Shank then asked for a meeting in which Hocking would be present, but White did not agree to such a meeting.
After returning to the USA, Shank sent a copy of the letter he had given to White to the members of the Board of Governors and to AEAM President Odunaike. In an accompanying cover letter, Shank said that White did not acknowledge the validity of any of the eight points that he had raised. Shank also said that he would respect whatever decisions the Board of Governors and President Odunaike reached regarding his concerns about the Dean’s relationship with the AEEC and with his faculty members. Shank expressed hope that solutions would be found that would help FATEB. At the same time, he indicated that his work at FATEB was finished (6.23.78 Shank letter to members of the Board of Governors and to the President of AEAM).
With considerable uncertainty about what would happen to FATEB as a result of these relational problems, Isaac Zokoué held a Board meeting July 28 to 29, 1978. Three decisions were made by the Board: 1) To ask White to cease his responsibilities as Dean of FATEB but not as professor; 2) To ask Hocking to resume his duties as professor at FATEB (Hocking had resigned in March immediately following negative student evaluations of his teaching); 3) To announce to both White and Hocking that they were suspended from the Board of Governors as of July 29th. In addition, the Board invited Tite Tiénou to become Dean of FATEB (7.29.78 Zokoué letter to Harold Alexander, Director of Overseas Ministries – Worldteam).
On July 31, White wrote a letter to the 40 members of the General Assembly of FATEB who had been sent a copy of the three decisions made by the Board of Governors, including his own dismissal as Dean. White contested the manner in which the decision of the Board of Governors had been made to release him as Dean. White argued that it failed to respect the process for such an action as outlined in Article 17 of the FATEB constitution and Article B of its by-laws. In addition, White reported on the reaction of the students when they were told that the Board had voted to request Hocking to return to FATEB as a member of the faculty. In a meeting with Tite Tiénou, a member of the Board of Governors, and with the Dean, the students expressed their categorical refusal to take courses taught by Hocking, giving two reasons as reported by White: his incompetence to teach at a university level, and the quality of his spiritual life that contributed no edification to their own spiritual formation (7.31.78 White letter to members of the General Assembly of FATEB).
In his letter to the FATEB General Assembly, White offered two options on which he asked the members to vote and to send their choices to Governing Board President Zokoué: 1) White remains Dean; Hocking does not return as professor; Tiénou joins the faculty as professor; or, 2) Tiénou becomes Dean; White remains as professor; Don Muchmore, former professor at the evangelical theological school in Bunia, DRC, joins the faculty as professor; Hocking does not return as professor. In the two alternatives he suggested, White expressed willingness to step out of his role as Dean in the second option, but in neither option does he accept the reinstatement of Hocking to the faculty.
A month later, Isaac Zokoué proposed that the Board assume FATEB’s leadership instead of the Doyen. He went on to assign responsibilities to three men: Paul White – Academic Director; Don Muchmore – Administrative Director; Don Hocking – Responsible for finance, construction, and government relations. All three would serve as professors (8.31.78 Zokoué proposal). This proposition was never carried out because in the fall of 1978, Don Hocking left Bangui for Bata to found a seminary for the Grace Brethren. Don Muchmore refused to join FATEB’s faculty until the conflict between Hocking and White was resolved. In the end, Muchmore chose to join Hocking and teach in Bata at the new Brethren seminary (Robinson 2006).
By late August 1978, White realized that both the President of the AEEC, Doko-Manga, and Professor Floyd Shank had written letters to FATEB’s General Assembly members that contained multiple accusations. White felt he needed to defend his actions and correct misrepresentations of his positions and decisions. In his own lengthy letter to the General Assembly, White answered their negative comments point by point (8.23.78 White letter to the General Assembly of FATEB). Two weeks later, White began a general message to his friends with the words, “We’ve just come through what is probably the most massive attack on our ministry that we have ever experienced” (9.9.78 White letter to friends). White went on to write that the President of AEAM, Sam Odunaike, had come to Bangui in July 1978 to attempt to understand the conflict’s underlying causes. By the end of his visit, Odunaike had decided to continue supporting White as Dean. Even though this left White, for the moment, as the only professor, he reported that the students were pleased with this outcome and that he and his family were grateful to be able to continue their ministry at FATEB.
In FATEB’s December 1978, Information Bulletin, White reported on the beginning of the seminary’s second year of training. 16 students had completed the first year and were joined by 17 new students as the second year began. 11 were from CAR, 19 from DRC, 1 from Chad, 1 from Guinea, plus 1 Anglophone. 21 of the 33 were married. 53 children, 12 years or younger, lived with their student parents on campus. Programs for student wives and children continued with assistance by women from city churches. Paul White was still the only resident professor, teaching 5 courses, but visiting professors came from Africa and Europe to share the load. White also had an excellent bilingual secretary, Madame Annie, whose help was significant. The library had grown to 4,000 volumes, and lights in the library often illuminated students doing research until midnight (December 1978 White’s FATEB Information Bulletin No. 4).
At the end of December 1978, the Board of Governors met over a four-day period to consider a long agenda. Board member Pierre Yougoude had traveled to Burkina Faso to ask the Christian and Missionary Alliance Denomination to release Tite Tiénou to FATEB to serve as Dean. However, the Church there did not respond positively to this request. Even so, the Board still voted to invite Tiénou to serve as Dean for 1 or 2 years, to ask Muchmore to head the administration, to request White to serve as Academic Secretary, and to ask all three men to teach. Muchmore declined, and although Tiénou and White accepted this request, Tiénou was not released by his Church. Thus, White, in addition to his academic role, continued to function as Dean of FATEB during the second school year. Along with these major personnel issues, plans to construct a multi-story administrative and classroom building were approved, and the search for a competent builder continued (12.29.78 to 1.1.79 Minutes of the FATEB Board of Governors meeting).
By May 1979, all 33 students were completing their second academic year, even though White was the only full-time resident professor. In an information bulletin to those who were supporting FATEB, he described the results of FATEB’s second school year and its prospects. White’s biggest encouragement was the arrival on May 7th of a Congolese professor, Nzash Luméya, who had studied at the seminary in Vaux-sur-Seine. At the time, Luméya was serving as the Protestant Campus Pastor at the University of the DRC in Kinshasa. Teaching both theology and New Testament Greek during the last few weeks of the school year, Luméya expressed willingness to join the faculty as a resident professor for FATEB’s third academic year (May 1979 White’s FATEB information Bulletin No. 5).
In February 1979, a Central African contractor, brother José, had agreed to oversee work on the 3-story administrative building. Construction began in spite of delays due to lack of cement in the city. The library had acquired another 2,000 books, bringing the total to 6,000. Throughout the second year, students served in various city churches. The local language, Sango, was the traditional language of the churches, but the students had started French services in many parishes. They also led Bible studies in churches and schools. Some spoke at university student meetings and encouraged Christians in their faith. White believed that this activity offered students ways to translate what they were learning in seminary classrooms into practice that served the larger community.
White and his wife, Arline, were dedicated to creating learning opportunities for students’ family members. More than 50 campus children were divided by age into Chicks, Gazelles, and Elephants for educational purposes. Their mothers had access to two sewing machines, and they received instruction in sewing, family management, and biblical knowledge. Arline White supervised these activities. In his spring Information Bulletin, the Dean expressed thanks to FATEB’s supporters and gratitude to God for the second year’s many blessings.
In a letter to their personal friends, Arline offered a woman’s perspective on their first two years in Bangui. She began, “I have to admit that Africa has won our hearts” (6.1.79 Arline White, “To all our friends.”) Arline wrote of her 19-year-old daughter’s work to organize the 6,000-book library. She described how their 14- and 12-year-old daughters had created a library for students’ children. She spoke of her work in the children’s school, the school for the wives, and in the support of her husband: “Our load is impossible. Paul works 70 to 80 hours a week. But what tires us out the most are the criticisms and the accusations of other people. De Gaulle once said that it is almost impossible to lead a country of more than 1,300 sorts of cheese. Is it impossible to found an interdenominational and authentically African seminary with students from 12 denominations, supported by donors from a multitude of evangelical contexts, scattered over three different continents? There are groups in many places that want to express their views on the subject of FATEB. But it is God who has called us here, and what is impossible becomes possible.” Arline concluded her letter with gratitude for the unity that existed between her family and the students. The students were the main elements of FATEB, and she had seen them growing intellectually and spiritually throughout the year.
The leadership crisis that had swirled around the Dean a year earlier, in 1978, had been resolved sufficiently to enable FATEB to conduct a successful second year of classes. But criticism of White from the external voices had not ceased: “Hocking continued to oppose White and FATEB from outside the institution. He had the ear of some of the American EFMA/IFMA mission leaders and also persuaded the Grace Brethren pastors to cease supporting FATEB. The bitterness of Hocking was evident throughout White’s tenure as Doyen” (Robinson 2006).
In the summer of 1979, the Executive Committee of AEAM met in Nairobi from July 2 to 4. This was the most powerful body overseeing FATEB apart from the AEAM General Assembly itself. The fundamental question that persisted was whether White should remain as Dean. President Odunaike reported on his visit to Bangui 12 months earlier when he spoke in depth with all the parties involved in the conflict. He observed that the Dean exercised a strong influence on the students. Odunaike didn’t think this was entirely good for the students. He also observed that Hocking involved the local pastors in seminary affairs more than was necessary or desirable. However, Zokoué’s attempt to obtain the necessary votes to determine a course of action failed to receive a sufficiently large response, though of those who did vote, the larger number voted for White to be replaced. Rather than leave the question of White’s leadership without a clear answer, the Executive Committee decided to make a decision (7.2-4.79 Minutes of the AEAM Executive Committee).
After expressing disappointment that Zokoué lacked the decisive initiative he could have exercised to resolve the problem, the AEAM Executive Committee directed the President of the Board of Governors to dismiss Dr. White, effective at the end of the 1978-79 academic year; to inform White and White’s mission organization as soon as possible of this decision; and to tell White to leave campus by August 31, 1979 at the latest. The Executive Committee also warned the Board of Governors that failure to execute this decision would be viewed as an abandonment of its administrative responsibility and that the Committee would be obligated to take further measures. The Executive Committee then concluded with expressions of appreciation to Zokoué and to White for all their work, sacrifice, and devotion to FATEB.
This action of the Executive Committee risked the closure of FATEB. Zokoué reported receiving a letter from the Executive Committee of AEAM asking him to dismiss Paul White. Zokoué knew that this would result in FATEB’s closing. He responded to the Executive Committee that he would resign from the Board of Governors rather than do that. President Odunaike, on behalf of the AEAM Executive Committee, then wrote directly to White telling him to leave FATEB. White responded to Odunaike saying that he would leave FATEB only if Zokoué asked him to do so. In fact, Zokoué never asked White to leave, though Zokoué did resign from the Board of Governors. He was replaced by Dr. Marini Bodho of DRC. As a result, in spite of the action of the AEAM Executive Committee and the intervention of AEAM President Odunaike, White remained as Dean. By this time, the Executive Committee realized they had made an unwise decision in seeking White’s dismissal and so took no further action (Robinson, 2006).
By January 1980, the third school year was well under way. Both Arline and Paul White wrote reports on the progress of their work. Arline remarked that over 100 people were now living on campus and that they spoke 10 different languages. Her objective was seeing that the whole family was being equipped for ministry, not just the 32 men and 1 woman in the degree programs. The wives had attended primary school for an average of 6 years and had difficulty with French. Though they had been offered classes during the first 2 years, Arline decided to organize the program more formally. This year, wives were expected to attend school for 2 hours each afternoon. One hour would be devoted to French and sewing and the other hour to Bible study and Christian service. To make this feasible, baby and child care was arranged for the time the women were in class. Occasionally, Arline brought children into the women’s classes, taught the children a lesson while the women observed, sent the children back to child care, and then discussed with the women her methods of teaching and the materials she had used. Later, the women themselves began giving lessons to the children (White 1980).
For their Christian service, Arline took the women into churches. She formed them into a choir; they sang in 5 languages, and Arline brought messages to the church groups. The women took notes on Arline’s talks, discussed them in class, and took exams on them. This part of the course for the women Arline called “preaching.”
Arline, who had studied child pedagogy in university, was not satisfied with the children just being in child care. They could be learning at the same time. So, in the two thatched-roof circular huts where the pre-school children were cared for, she instituted an hour of French and an hour of Bible knowledge teaching each day. The children’s memorization of Bible verses in French helped both their French and their biblical knowledge to grow.
Paul White began his January 1980 report with the news that on the night of September 21, 1979, Emperor Bokassa had been overthrown, and the Republic had been restored. Bokassa had crowned himself Emperor two years earlier. His overthrow in 1979 occurred when White was in Europe seeking funding for FATEB’s building projects. Arline, her children, and the rest of the FATEB community lived in considerable anxiety until calm and order were restored by the French military. Paul went on to report that FATEB’s third academic year had begun on October 15, 1979. The same 33 students from the previous year returned to campus, but lack of living space prevented the school from accepting of a new class of students. Rumors of FATEB’s closing were still circulating in September and October, which undoubtedly depressed the number of applications as well (January 1980 White’s FATEB information Bulletin No. 6).
During the first semester, only Nzash Lumeya from DRC and Paul White served as resident professors, though several visiting professors were expected for the second semester’s courses. The library now housed 7,000 volumes. Construction on the administrative and classroom building had reached the second story by the time FATEB’s building funds were exhausted. But in late December, an $80,000 grant from a German organization provided enough money to pay for the rest of the construction. Another grant from friends in Switzerland enabled FATEB to offer financial aid to students who were unable to pay their fees. The next financial challenge was funding student housing so that a new class of students could be admitted in the fall. White concluded his report with a request for prayers for the new President of the Board of Governors, Dr. Marini-Bodho, and an expression of his joy that FATEB was in fact fulfilling the strategic purposes for which it had been founded.
The third school year closed officially on June 16, 1980. White noted in his 1980 summer report that there were many moments when the future of FATEB was not at all certain. Yet, with the help of God, he rejoiced that the school had emerged through it all with a bright future. During this third school year, another professor had joined the faculty: Josaphat Paluku from DRC. Paluku, Lumeya, and White would compose the core faculty for the coming fourth academic year. White mentioned the names of five visiting professors who had assisted in the school year just ended: Steve Miller from France, Marini-Bodho from DRC, Paul Wells from Aix-en-Provence, W. Chabrerie from Strasbourg, and Abel Ndjerareou from Chad. About 20 new students would be enrolled in the fall from countries like Rwanda, Burundi, and Cameroon. Another large gift from Germany would enable the completion of 18 student apartments for the new school year (July 1980 White’s FATEB Information Bulletin).
The political change in CAR the previous September had positive implications for FATEB. David Dacko, Bokassa’s predecessor, was restored to power as the new President of the Republic. Although a Catholic, Dacko was very open to Evangelicals. He was also greatly appreciative of FATEB. Dacko gave FATEB tax exempt status for the purchase of construction materials and offered an interest-free loan of $300,000 to accelerate construction, thereby reducing the impact of growing inflation. More importantly, he granted five acres that connected with the southern border of FATEB’s campus to facilitate further construction.
For FATEB’s fourth year, 1980-81, Paluku, his wife, and four children were situated on campus. Lumeya was married in July, 1980, and he and his wife also resided at FATEB. White continued as Dean, but his family moved to Strasbourg because of Arline’s health needs and their daughters’ education. Paul was on campus to get the new school year started and to teach from October 6 to November 14. He planned to return to Bangui from January 28 to March 13 and once more for the month of June. The wives of Paluku and Lumeya took over Arline White’s educational work with the student wives. A French missionary, Jean-Claude Boix, came to Bangui, with his wife, to manage the school’s administrative affairs. White’s secretary, Madame Annie, directed the formation of the student wives and the pre-school children. The construction of two student apartment buildings of 9 units each and work on the administration building neared completion. White’s four-year mandate as Dean was also scheduled to end in June of 1981, which left him uncertain about his future at FATEB (January 1981 White letter to friends).
After FATEB’s fourth academic year ended on June 28, 1981, White reported on the year’s highlights and his plans. The fourth General Assembly of AEAM was held in Malawi in September of 1981. There, replacing White as head of the school, the first African Dean of FATEB was appointed, Dr. Josaphat Paluku, who had begun teaching at FATEB in 1979 during FATEB’s second academic year. In addition, another resident professor, Dr. Maurice Ndondoboni, was appointed to begin teaching in the fall of 1981. With Nzash Lumeya and Dr. Paul White, four full-time professors would now constitute the core faculty. Four or five visiting professors had also been invited to teach during the 1981-82 school year. White accepted the position of Academic Secretary after Paluku was named Dean (10.4.81 White letter to friends).
In early October 1981, White made flight reservations from France to Bangui for himself, Arline, and their three youngest children. After a year in France, the family had decided to live on campus for the 1981-82 school year where Paul could continue teaching, work with the 15 men in their final year at FATEB as they wrote their masters theses, and keep the family together. The student population was expected to reach 60 in the degree programs, and Arline would be responsible for the formation of about 40 student wives and 90 to 100 children. In the children’s work, she would be aided by her daughters, Paula and Elizabeth.
At the beginning of the fifth school year, 1981-82, the academic program was divided into two cycles of 3 years and 2 years respectively. 53 students were enrolled in the degree program, 37 student wives in the women’s school, and more than 100 children completed the community of student families. 14 students in their final year were working on their theses of 90 to 120 pages. In March, Dean Paluku and Paul White left for a month of fundraising visits in the United States. Housing for professors and an enclosure for the entire campus were important priorities for which funding was needed (3.30.82 White letter to friends).
On June 27, 1982, FATEB held its first graduation ceremony for the 14 graduates who received Master of Theology diplomas. After five years of hard work and uncertainty about the future of the seminary, these students were ready to graduate. The ceremony was held in a sumptuous commercial building, Commune Africaine et Malgache (OCAM), in the presence of CAR’s President Dacko. Even the young University of Dakar had not yet awarded Masters degrees. These were the first 14 Masters degrees awarded in the country. Christians from throughout the capital proudly joined in the celebration (11.7.82 White letter to friends).