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.