Plans and Prospects Galore
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:
New additions to the lecturing staff, Dr John Span and his wife Anne, were supposed to have arrived soon to join Mukhanyo respectively as lecturer and teacher. But COVID-19 put a spanner in their plans. However, they still hope to be able to join the Mukhanyo family before the start of the second semester, the Lord willing.
As visiting lectures, the Spans were giving classes and helped out at Mukhanyo in KwaMhlanga earlier this year before they returned to their home country, Canada. They enjoyed being at KwaMhlanga so much that when the Mukhanyo Board called on them to join Mukhanyo on a more permanent basis, they accepted. After most things were in order and ready for travel, the pandemic made it impossible. Now they sit and wait for the earliest opportunity to come to South Africa. God willing, they will be here soon.
With his reformational theological background, Dr John describes himself as a global mission capacity builder with three main passions: (1) to see the name of Jesus Christ held in high honour; (2) to learn, teach and build capacity; and (3) to equip people and organisations to thrive.
Dr John’s background has equipped him with cross-cultural experience and evangelistic approaches. He completed his PhD at the John Calvin Faculty in France where he studied evangelistic strategies. From 2000 to 2011 he worked as an administrator and evangelist in Guinea, after which he became vice-principal of the Alexandria School of Theology in Egypt.
His wife Anne is an English teacher, especially with students for whom English is a second language. That is what she hopes to do at Mukhanyo, in addition to work as a writer coordinator.
Let’s pray that Dr John and Anne will be able to join the Mukhanyo family soon. The biggest hurdle at this time is the lockdown on international travel.
Library Books Galore
Mukhanyo is thankful for about 25,000 books in its libraries at five contact-based centres. Now, in addition to these, a shipment of 15,000 theology books has arrived from North America and has been disembarked in Durban. These mostly new and some used books were donated by several publishers in America.
Without doubt these books will make the Mukhanyo libraries some of the best equipped theological libraries in Southern Africa.
However, there is a challenge. The books are in storage near the Durban harbour and are not as yet allowed to be transported to KwaMhlanga. Books are not a priority during the lock-down. So we have to wait, hopefully only for a few more weeks.
When the books arrive, they will be catalogued and divided between Mukhanyo’s five centres. Any duplicates beyond Mukhanyo’s libraries will be given to other colleges and libraries.
Soon Mukhanyo’s library system will be fully integrated across the five locations. At present more than 20,000 books have been catalogued and are in Mukhanyo’s library system. An upgraded system is being finalised with much greater functionality for students and lecturers.
Studying in Splendid Isolation
When the lockdown was announced, all the residential students at KwaMhlanga went home – except six. They are from Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda and not able to go home on such short notice. They remained in Mukhanyo’s hostel and the only thing they could do, was to study – which they have been doing ever since.
Degree student Deng Garang from South Sudan tells the story: “We were left on the campus almost crying, not knowing how our lives will be like as our parents are far away. Truly we were feeling lonely, but thanks to God we were allowed to stay at the compound. At the moment we are thoroughly studying and seriously praying for more revival and that this Corona-virus outbreak comes to an end”.
“We are thankful for the Mukhanyo lecturers who instruct us through WhatsApp and email, enabling us to continue with our study and send our assignments to the lecturers. Things have been challenging but we know after three years at Mukhanyo that everything is in place”.
The Durban Centre Begins
Note: This article was written just before the lockdown started in March. While many things have been delayed, Mukhanyo’s plans and vision for the greater Durban area remains strong and committed and, by God’s grace, will continue to develop.
A year ago it was an idea. Soon it became an initiative. Late last year it became a possibility. A centre manager was provisionally appointed to start doing preparatory work. And, believe it or not, in January 2020 the centre started with eleven BTh students and three part-time lecturers. Our Father in heaven blessed all the work!
Without many formalities, the orientation programme was completed in January and lectures started. An open day is planned for later in the year, once everything has been arranged and running smoothly.
Of course funding had to be found. But our Lord provides and He has done so once again. The Pharus Foundation in the Netherlands (through De Verre Naaste) will be funding a major part of the Centre’s budget for the next three years.
Durban is the third largest city in South Africa, with a population of nearly four million people. Yet despite its size, there are hardly any theological institutions in the city, and certainly none that are Reformed. Pentecostalism and prosperity-type churches dominate the city. There is therefore a big need for quality, biblically-orthodox, gospel-centred theological education to serve the churches of Durban and beyond.
The present venue is the church building and amenities of the Gereformeerde Kerk in Pinetown, some 20 kilometres from the Durban city centre. Pinetown is very central in the Durban metropolitan area, and easily accessible to most residents of the city.
The parsonage can be converted into a campus, while the Gereformeerde Kerk Pinetown continues to use the church hall for services and other activities. There is plenty of space (and parking facilities) for growth.
Students are from diverse church backgrounds including Baptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic and Reformed churches. But the modules are fully biblical in character and content.
In the first semester the following modules are being taught: Greek 1, Story of the Bible, Books of Moses, Synoptic Gospels and Acts, and Theology of Missions.
The potential impact of Mukhanyo’s Durban Centre is huge. Because of the lack of theological institutions in the city, Mukhanyo has the potential to be the institution of choice for local and regional theological study.
Let us all pray that Mukhanyo will have a significant impact on the churches of Durban by providing training that would produce biblically sound pastors who are passionate to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Rev Antonio Coppola is the manager of the Durban centre. He worked for the Anglican church for nine years, then studied at Westminster Seminary California from 2014 to 2017. He has a passion to see biblically-orthodox theological education taught across Africa and to see Reformed, gospel-centred churches being planted in Durban and throughout South Africa. He is currently also engaged in planting the Covenant Waterfall Presbyterian Church in Durban.
Locked-Down but On-Going
Yes, Mukhanyo, like all other educational facilities had to close at the end of March. But this did not and does not mean that Mukhanyo’s work came to a standstill. However, some things had to change quite drastically. Mutatis mutandis!
Some staff had to work harder than ever to manage, motivate, arrange and administer, all from home. Which apparently was done quite successfully.
But how did the lecturers continue teaching their students (and still do)? And did the lockdown enable them to get involved in other ways also?
Most lecturers were able to catch up with some of the work which was in arrears or neglected. And many became involved in helping needy families as well as attending to pastoral issues, also in respect of their students. Many also had time for longer devotions and spiritual growth, learning new skills and/or upgrading technology and other skills. Here follows some reports from several Mukhanyo lecturers (very summarised).
Rev Tebogo Mogale reports that he was able to keep in touch with his students via emails, WhatsApp and phone calls. He restructured his pastoral theology module and also submitted an overdue module for the Focus programme.
Dr Gerrit Heino emailed students a detailed overview of the pages of the textbook as well as 87 exam questions to be studied. He’s busy with a lot of marking and with curriculum development for a number of modules. He and his wife also started fundraising in The Netherlands for needy households in and around Pretoria.
Mrs Amanda Nel continued to develop second semester study guides. Some modules were at the last stage of formatting which requires time consuming word-for-word reading and checking. She is also able to keep in contact with her students.
Rev Paul Mahlangu had to read up about the role of women in the church because the topic was discussed in the classis. Problems with digital data made it difficult to work with the fulltime students. Distance students were doing better and they submitted assignments as Rev Paul could guide them, both from their study guides and with some WhatsApp discussions. He’s busy marking assignments and preparing lectures.
Dr Bryson Arthur contracted bronchitis soon after the beginning of the lockdown. Now he is healthy again and his online lectures have been successful. Copies of his new book, A Theology of Suffering, arrived from England, but remains locked-down.
Mr Jacques Malan was forced to learn to use digital methods like recording voice clips from his laptop and sending them by WhatsApp. He also prepared a new Focus module, including the study guide, the question bank and the assignment instructions.
Dr Greg Philip was able to prepare his exam papers and memoranda. He prompted his students with emails and WhatsApp messages, telling them what they could still do and sending them resources. He set up a YouTube account and started recording and uploading video lectures for his students. It was a challenge and an interesting learning curve, even making his own wooden lectern.
Rev Glyn Williams’ mother-in-law passed away two days before lockdown after a five year battle with cancer. Dealing with her estate was a challenge. However, he was able to catch up on several projects, including writing material for two of the new higher certificate modules, updating forms, documents and procedures for distance groups. He also started to prepare a distance tutor training programme and commenced research studies for his MTh degree.
Dr Eben le Roux reports that he had a lovely, chaotic time with three daughters needing guidance with their schoolwork, entertaining his disruptive 4-year old and a teacher-wife who had to teach to 55 kids online. When contacting his students, the problem of suffering became a reality to him. He is thankful for Mukhanyo’s strong teamwork, collective wisdom and committed leadership.
Unfortunately about a third of all Mukhanyo’s campus-based students are at home in areas with limited network and connectivity issues. So we often had to use more unconventional “online” tools to work with them so that they can complete the semester.
As one lecturer concluded: “Despite everything, God has remained faithful and has continued to provide in many ways, physical and spiritual. Soli Deo Gloria.”