In the Old Testament, God repeatedly told Joshua to be strong and courageous. He also enabled Israel to do what He ordered them to do. In a way, the same applies to Mukhanyo. God has enabled Mukhanyo to be strong and courageous throughout 2019, and also through a very unique first half of 2020. And now the second semester of 2020 has started well in all five centres!
God’s provisions for Mukhanyo became clear from the annual report and the somewhat belated Annual General Meeting (AGM) which took place on 24 July, using the Zoom facility. The online format this year was an advantage; Mukhanyo’s member churches and friends could participate from many places: Canada, the United States, and the Netherlands, as well as churches all over South Africa.
The message of the principal, Dr Brian de Vries, was that regardless of challenges in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Mukhanyo has been able, by God’s grace, to overcome various obstacles and still extend ministry activities. Now the second semester is well underway with most centre-based modules offered again in contact mode and only a few online.
According to the Annual Report 2019, the total number of students for the first time surpassed one thousand. Other main features of 2019 include:
Regardless of various challenges, including the recent lockdown, Mukhanyo has been able to continue improving, although with some adjustments. These improvements include matters of academic quality and spiritual mentoring, material development outputs with more upgraded study guides and videos, additional modules and programmes, and the further expansion of supporting technology.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the College has much to be thankful for, especially committed staff, donors and students. Various technological improvements have become a part of everyday life, and they will certainly continue to be so after the pandemic.
Operationally, Mukhanyo is doing very well. The library is growing with another 15 000 new books this year. The new student information system (SIS) and learning management system (LMS) is being further expanded. Learning material is being improved and technology will be utilised to a greater degree, with mentoring as a point of focus going forward.
In respect of all the distance and regional centres, Mukhanyo has been increasingly decentralising its services. The pandemic is accelerating this process and will continue to do so. But as Dr Brian emphasised, technology will never replace lecturers or personal contact.
At the date of the AGM, only about 5% of students discontinued their studies (mostly COVID-19 related reasons) with all the others completing the first semester. But several new students joined at the beginning of the second semester. The budget was reduced by only 10% as a precautionary move, which was less than feared at first because donors were mainly able to continue their support.
Here are some interesting facts:
Planting three churches while studying at Mukhanyo and hoping to be able to plant another three churches in the next ten years.
That, in a nutshell, is the life of Rev. Herens Nkoana, generally known as Oupa, pastor of the Reformed Church Ramotse, some 45 km north of Pretoria. With the enthusiasm of a dedicated and well-equipped activist he emphasises that if you really trust the Lord, regardless of how difficult things look, He has always made possible the many things he has been busy with. And He will continue to do so, even in times of crises such as the present pandemic.
Everyone in Ramotse, part of the larger Hammanskraal urban area, knows him and calls him Oupa (grandfather). Why? At the age of 44 he doesn’t look it, but he acts like it: the father-figure of the community, knowing just about everyone, always listening to young and old, always evangelising, pulling in and motivating people and showing the way to Christ and His church.
Rev. Nkoana started studying at Mukhanyo in 1999, received the Diploma in Theology and completed his BTh Degree in 2008 with bursaries from the Christian Reformed Church in the Netherlands. During these years he was instrumental in planting the Reformed Church Ramotse (2004), and other churches at Maubame and Carousel View (both in 2008), all in the Hammanskraal region. Today they all have their basic church buildings.
In 2009 he started his Honours in Theology at North-West University but still requires two more modules which he hopes to do next year. After that, he plans further study because he believes many more Reformed students have to be equipped to be pastors and preach the Word the way God wants it to be preached.
It was only in 2012 that he was officially called by the RC Ramotse as their minister. Today, with the backing of a few Afrikaans Reformed churches and the training of elders and several enthusiastic young church members, the three smallish congregations are increasingly active in various ways. This includes regular church services at all three churches, led either by Oupa himself or by one of his elders who he provides with notes to preach. Also catechism, a Bible study group, prayer meetings, an after-care programme for some 85 school children every afternoon, courses on evangelism, leadership and how to prepare a sermon. Training his young leaders weekly.
Through Whatsapp, Oupa has started compiling and sending out 15-minute sermons in the Pedi language twice a week, already reaching more than 300 cell phone numbers. Data to the tune of R900 per month is paid for by an anonymous donor.
Oh yes, by the way, Oupa and his congregations also have started several community development programmes such as gardening and hatching chickens at some 35 houses of church members. Not to forget about the forming of a saving group for community projects. And during the corona pandemic, much effort is necessary to collect food and help the needy.
Planting new churches imply starting with a Sunday school and children programmes as well as some community development programmes. The registering of NPOs (non-profit organisations) is in the offing to make it possible to initiate skills development programmes including computer training, starting a creche and an early childhood centre.
Work-overload? Oupa’s elders and his group of youth leaders have taken much of the work from his shoulders already. And God has made it all possible. If you put your trust in God, He won’t let you down, is Oupa’s conviction.
And Mukhanyo thanks God that this college was allowed to be an instrument in equipping Oupa to initiate and run all this. We pray that his work will be blessed and he will be able to continue for many years to come.
Many companies in South Africa are forced to close their doors, and thousands of people have lost their jobs due to the effect that COVID-19 has on the economy. Even many churches, mission organisations and other NPO’s are feeling the effects of this economic climate.
So one rightly asks: “What about Mukhanyo?”. We also took the necessary precautions by being extra careful with expenditure and reducing the annual budget. But with deep gratitude to the Lord and with great joy we report that most of our regular donors have maintained their financial support.
The result is that Mukhanyo has continued carefully and cautiously. Some smaller projects were put on halt for a period, but the main ministry could continue. Students were able to complete the first semester and the second semester has started well and will be completed early December, the Lord willing.
One of our donors wanted to make an additional difference. They gave a donation for Mukhanyo to purchase food vouchers for all Mukhanyo staff to distribute to those in need in the local communities. This was done with joy, and it was a blessing to pass on this gift to others in dire need of daily food.
What shall we say? “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23). Please pray with us that we will also be able to continue unhindered in the months to come. Pray also for all our students and especially for those who are struggling to cover their study fees.
The BTh Honours programme at Mukhanyo has continued again this semester with no less than sixteen students. In the first semester, COVID-19 did at first disrupt the programme’s smooth flowing. But the format was switched to online lectures that have gone satisfactorily. This approach is continuing for now, according to Dr Bryson Arthur, the Honours programme manager and senior lecturer at Mukhanyo.
The modules being offered this semester are Theology of Salvation, Issues in Christian Ethics, Biblical Hermeneutics, and Research Methodology. Dr Bryson is grateful to Mukhanyo’s Academic Dean, Dr Japie Malan, for stepping in to teach Biblical Hermeneutics. This is normally taught by Rev. Peter Manzanga, senior lecturer, who is presently stuck in Zimbabwe due to travel restrictions. In the meantime, Rev. Manzanga has submitted his completed thesis for a PhD degree, so at least he has remained productive. He hopes soon to return to South Africa as Dr Manzanga.
The Honours programmes are also being developed gradually to include more modules, eventually with comprehensive tracks in Systematic Studies, Biblical Studies, and Historical Studies. It is taught at a rigorous and reflective standard aimed at just below Masters’ level.
Only students who have higher-than-average marks for their BTh degree are accepted into the Honours programme. The modules promote thoughtful research and normally active participation in class dialogue. Rigorous dialogue has been more difficult to facilitate with the online format, but the questions keep coming, says Dr Bryson.
Step-by-step Mukhanyo is coming out of the lock-down, not unscathed, but able to go ahead at full strength. Our Lord has enabled the staff to limit the damage to a minimum.
As a result, the following has become possible:
Also in other ways the work is continuing. As an example, we’ve already started to expand Mukhanyo’s communications and marketing activities. And at long last the container with 15,000 theological books from North America arrived and is being catalogued and distributed across the five centres. In addition, 1,500 quality books have been received from the library of the late Rev. Irving Steggles, a long-time board member and friend of the college.
Our Father in heaven has once again been good to us. We thank Him in our prayers and once again we are strengthened in our commitments to serve Him, regardless of circumstances.
Now it is official. Mukhanyo’s big Johannesburg branch has recently been approved by the Department of Higher Education (DHET) as a campus. Until this point it was only an advanced distance learning centre.
The Reformed Church of Johannesburg was discontinued in 2002 and the building was then donated to Mukhanyo who has been using it as a distance learning centre for a number of years. Thanks to some substantial donations, it was upgraded in 2018 with a library and several additional lecture rooms and offices. The number of students has increased to some 30 students who have been using the facilities and receiving instruction.
The new status as campus will enable the continuation of the growth in the number of students, also enabling them to be full-time students with contact lectures weekly from Tuesdays to Thursdays. Most students are involved with church work at their place of residence over weekends.
These campus facilities are located in the heart of Johannesburg and close to train and bus stations. The renovated building has the capacity to facilitate far more students than the present – more than 100 full-time and part-time students. Let’s pray that the status as a full-grown campus will draw in an increasing number of students.
With the death of Rev. Ben Fourie, 59, pastor of the Reformed Church Kameeldrift, on May 2, Mukhanyo has lost a unique, big and loyal friend and lecturer. He is survived by his wife Susan and his three sons and a daughter. Our condolences go to them and all the family.
Rev. Ben lectured Hebrew at Mukhanyo since 1997. But because of health problems since 2010, he found it increasingly difficult to be involved as much as he desired. He was strongly of the opinion that knowledge of biblical languages must be used to open up the treasures of God’s Word. However, his fight with health challenges did not prevent him to live fully the life God gave him.
When the doctors advised him to slow down and recommended to terminate his work at Mukhanyo, he declined to do so because, as he stated, he loved his work at Mukhanyo and its people which gave him so much joy and satisfaction.
He was a many talented man, exceptionally well-read in theology and classical languages, but also able to play nine musical instruments. Rev. Ben had a beautiful baritone voice and always enjoyed a joke. He was a leader in his congregation, at church synods, with youth camps, and in many other ways.
We at Mukhanyo will miss him as a colleague, friend and servant of the Lord. We thank the Lord for what He gave us through Rev Ben.
Did you know that Mukhanyo is offering in 2020 no less than six qualifications in theology and facilitating about six teacher’s education qualifications? The Bible education qualifications are the following:
Despite the present pandemic, prospective students are welcome to register for the second semester of 2020. Classes will start on 28 July, the Lord willing. Mukhanyo has a complete range of quality programmes for Bible education, including these accredited qualifications offered in various locations across South Africa:
Please note that you can register for any of the above programmes (except the two who are phased out – as indicated). To do so, please phone or email the coordinator at one of the following Mukhanyo centres:
For information about Mukhanyo accredited theological qualifications, see https://www.mukhanyo.ac.za/programmes.html.
Information about the programmes offered at each learning centre is explained at https://www.mukhanyo.ac.za/learningcentres.html.
Though Mukhanyo has five centres and many more distance study groups, it does not mean the staff can sit back only to monitor and facilitate it all. It means more work and also more opportunities to continue as a growing academic institution with a missional heart, teaching God’s Word far and wide.
At the recent faculty forum (before the lockdown), attended by most of Mukhanyo’s lecturing staff, the principal, Dr Brian DeVries, gave a picture of the work in the year to come. Here are a few of the areas for growth: