Cyclone Idai is said to be one of the worst natural disasters to hit Africa recently. It moved into Mozambique on 14 March, flattened Beira, a rather large city and harbour in central Mozambique, and then continued inland, leaving a path of destruction deep into the east highlands of Zimbabwe and Malawi. Nobody knows how many people lost their lives. Many people went missing, their bodies still not found.
What Rev. Peter encountered when he reached his home was terrible to see. It was the result of 600 mm of rain in 24 hours. His sister-in-law and three sons were living in his new house. With the exception of one son who sustained a broken leg, they all were killed. One son is still missing and presumed dead. His brick home – about 85% finished with only the tiling, glazing and plumbing to be completed – was gone. Nothing was left of Rev. Peter’s investment; not one brick on top of the other, but just a pile of stones after Cyclone Idai.
To access the district proved to be very difficult, even once the water subsided, since roads have become impassable with extremely deep gullies cut into the tarred road and with bridges washed away. Much of the agricultural land had been swept away, replaced by stones and huge boulders. Many of the survivors are psychologically and mentally in shock. The United Baptist Church of Zimbabwe in the region (Rev. Peter’s denomination) with its two boarding schools in the affected area, could not feed the children since only helicopters could bring in food supplies.
Rev. Peter states that “the priority at hand for Christians with the backing of churches and the national leadership of the United Baptist Church is to assist with the day-to-day needs for all the local people. Churches responded by mobilizing necessities such as food, clothes, blankets and toiletries from areas which were not affected.”
How did the Christians in the region react? And what was Peter able to tell and comfort them?
“Obviously, people asked questions like: Why God? Does He care? I heard the story of a Christian who wanted to be struck off from the church register because there is no reason to continue worshiping the God that allows people to suffer like this.”
Rev. Peter says, “These questions and reactions reveal our humanness and at the same time they entrench grief, pain and disorientation on the theology of God. Also embedded in these questions is a quest for meaning on human existence and toil under the sun. It is my prayer that ministers of the Word of God faithfully respond to these questions.”
Regarding teaching and responding to the disaster, he says, “I did not have the opportunity to teach or counsel anyone because I had a very short time in Zimbabwe… But as a victim with my family, after losing loved ones and what we had laboured for, we settled for Psalm 46:1-11, Deuteronomy 32:39 and Job 1:20-21. We learned to thank God in the face of severe adversity and still trust Him as the sovereign God.”
Lessons to learn from this: “We can lose what we have worked for in a short time through any means. But even if our circumstances change, God remains immutable and sovereign. It may seem gloomy, heavy and painful for now but the truth is in
1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way to escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Rev. Peter adds, “Christians must learn to glorify God when their circumstances look unfavourable and painful. Even those who love the Lord and serve Him faithfully will suffer.”
Rev. Peter lectured for ten years at the Rusitu Bible College in Chimanimani, eventually becoming its principal. Two and a half years ago he moved to South Africa where he serves at Mukhanyo Theological College. He and his wife felt it was time to move on. A friend told him about a vacancy at Mukhanyo and he applied. But first he was transferred to Harare to start a theological education by extension (TEE) centre coupled with pastoring a church in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. After doing so, he handed it (TEE) over to capable hands and moved to Mukhanyo. His wife and children are staying in Harare where his wife is supervising a conference centre for their denomination in Harare.
After spending two weeks in Zimbabwe, Peter was back at Mukhanyo on 1 April when lectures restarted at the beginning of the second academic quarter. He has continued with his classes.
While Rev. Peter moved to Mukhanyo Theological College to teach, he is also working to complete a Ph.D. in Practical Theology at North West University (Vaal Campus). Sometimes he preaches at a Baptist Church in KwaMhlanga.
Finally, what can readers of this article do to help the people in Chimanimani after they read this article? Rev. Peter says they must please pray that Christians that suffer to remain faithful and get answers from the Bible through the help of pastors or in their private devotions. Moreover, pray that pastors will spent time listening to survivors and draw answers for the many questions from the Bible.
Please also pray for survivors who lost properties and need to rebuild. Pray for those grieving for their deceased families and relatives. And pray that God will use this disaster to draw to Himself many survivors who do not know Him. Pray also for Rev. Peter and his family as they consider rebuilding, and as he continues to equip church leaders for gospel ministry.
Last year Mukhanyo started to radically upgrade its curricula and study material for the distance programme. This project has been making satisfactory progress and is expected to run until the end of 2021.
The main beneficiaries are Mukhanyo’s distance study groups – some 70 groups at present, with more than 600 students. This area of Mukhanyo’s ministry has the potential to expand greatly, not only in South Africa, but all over southern Africa and even beyond.
God willing, the project can be accelerated if and when additional qualified people are added to the team. At present the project consists of upgrading and redeveloping all the study material. Most of Mukhanyo’s lecturers are involved in one way or other, in addition to their normal duties.
All the study guides go through several stages of development. Completed study material is used on campus and, at the end of the first year, are re-evaluated and adjusted accordingly. In this way, Mukhanyo will be able to remain at the forefront of theology training for many years.
Dr Brian DeVries, Mukhanyo’s principal, says that the Mukhanyo Distance programme offers a unique delivery system of theology qualifications – it is a mixed model where students can study on their own and also meet regularly under the supervision of a tutor to discuss matters and watch DVDs produced by Mukhanyo’s recording studio: “Our experience is very positive and twofold: it is effective because students stay involved and a qualified tutor is available all along the way. Secondly it is highly cost-effective with students getting a good qualification at very little personal expense, partly because of the delivery method and partly because Mukhanyo is subsidising the programme.”
There is still time to register for the Bible College Consultation on 11-13 June. This year’s theme is Promoting the Quality of Bible Education in Africa. Main speakers this year include Dr Conrad Mbewe, Dr Steve Hardy, Prof Rantoa Letšosa and Dr Victor Nakah.
This annual event is a wonderful place for fellowship with the leaders of evangelical Bible education in southern Africa. Last year more than a hundred lecturers and educational leaders attended, the vast majority of whom were actively serving in Bible education in southern Africa.
Thanks to the generosity of several donors, each participant will receive free books, and all Bible colleges in attendance will receive additional library resources. A large selection of quality books – both new and used – will be available for purchase at reasonable prices. There are also some funds available to assist with fees and expenses for participants from schools with financial constraints.
Click HERE for registration forms and further information, or contact Helen Masina - firstname.lastname@example.org or Wynie Malan - email@example.com.
If you are serving more than 900 students all over the country and beyond, it is essential to have an up-to-date student information system (SIS) and a comprehensive learning management system (LMS). To achieve this, Mukhanyo is poised to start what will probably be its most important capital expenditure project for the next year.
A number of service providers were identified, their programmes evaluated and a short-list of six providers made presentations. A final decision has been taken by executive management and is now awaiting final Board review and approval in June. Mr Gui Rios has been appointed to lead the implementation team as from 1 June. The discovery, preparation, and implementation process will start in June for the new SIS and LMS to be operational before the end of 2019.
The new SIS and LMS systems will expand Mukhanyo’s ability to serve both distance and campus-based students regarding aspects such as registration, financial and other student matters, study material, assignments, assessment and progress, communication between lecturers, tutors, and students, etc. Students will also be able to communicate with their groups, tutors, and with the KwaMhlanga campus through their computer and/or smart phones.
One small challenge: The project will cost almost R600 000 for the setup and first four years. Fund raising has started, but it is by far not completed yet.
In the meantime, Malcolm Buys, our ICT manager, reports that Mukhanyo has now fully implemented Microsoft 365 for the digital flow between faculty staff. This also makes other digital reforms such as the implementation of LMS and a digital library possible. Being in Africa does not mean you cannot keep with the times!
On 5 March 1994, the first meeting of Mukhanyo’s Board of Control took place. Lectures started in July of the same year. It is now 25 years later, so on 11 May we celebrated with thanksgiving to our great God and Father. We thanked the Lord who made it possible for His Word to be taught by Mukhanyo to many hundreds of students, today not only in KwaMhlanga but also in many other places across South Africa and beyond.
The thanksgiving started with a devotion by Dr P.J. (Flip) Buys, the retired former principal of Mukhanyo. Referring to Romans 8 and Isaiah 11, he pointed out the importance of training for the ministry. Today, while Christian churches are planted by the hundreds in Africa, the shortage of trained ministers who know the Bible is enormous. It is estimated that 95% of all church leaders do not have knowledge of the Bible. Yet we know that a man of God may be competent and equipped for every good work only through training in righteousness (1 Tim 3:16-17). The gospel of the kingdom has to be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations (Matt 24:14).
The annual report was presented by the present principal, Dr Brian De Vries, who highlighted a number of features (see the “highlights” below). Rev Isaac Maleke, Dean of Students, told the meeting about various efforts to mentor students. Dr Japie Malan, Dean of Academics, underlined the importance of learning to know the Bible and equipping students to handle the challenges of the ministry which they will face one day. Mr Jan de Beer reported on Mukhanyo’s finances: Total expenses grew from R1.9 million in 2008 to R8.7 million in 2018 with local income continuously growing, now at more than 50% of the total –healthy trends indeed.
Gratitude was especially celebrated with a number of short speeches by many alumni, former lecturers and community leaders – these speakers all informed the 100 people present with some anecdotes and interesting experiences from past years. The emphasis of all of them was the high regard they had for Mukhanyo and its work over the years, and how God has used Mukhanyo to prepare and equip them to spread the Gospel.
After a delicious lunch, the more formal annual general meeting (AGM) of member churches took place. To everybody’s satisfaction, it was short and sweet, led efficiently by the chairman of the Board of Directors, Dr Lusani Netshitomboni.
It was an eventful day, especially because it once again proved that our trust in God is never in vain. He has made it all possible, and He used many of His servants as His instruments in this ministry. The meeting was unanimous in praying that God will provide and bless Mukhanyo for at least the next 25 years.
Mukhanyo’s annual report for 2018 was ready a few days before the annual general meeting. The full report can be requested from Wynie Malan, firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of the highlights are as follows: