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African Christian College student Charles Wanyama

African schools, missions seek ways to balance support, self-sufficiency


TUBUNGU, Swaziland — After a day of teaching classes, instructors at African Christian College gather for a “braai” — an Afrikaans word for “barbecue.”
Over a steaming plate of grilled pork and chicken, Samson Shandu talks about his baptism in 1970, his years of ministry and his joy that Churches of Christ will be here “even after we are gone from this globe.”
In 33 years of training preachers here, Shandu has seen the college, formerly known as Manzini Bible School, transform from a ministry training school to a three-year institution that offers subjects from world history to hermeneutics, from Bible prophecy to business practices.
The students work in gardens and a macadamia nut orchard on campus. Some help raise chickens and goats. The school tries to offer them tools to find secular employment as they preach.
The college’s programs are designed to teach students that “you’re not going to be crawling all the time,” Shandu said. “You’re expected to stand up and start walking and do things yourself.”
Across Africa, ministries take different approaches to provide support and avoid dependence:
• As a minister’s daughter, Idong Mkpong-Ruffin grew up in Nigeria and understands the financial limitations of the country’s churches.
But, “I truly agree that the direct support of preachers in Africa lends itself to dependency — almost akin to the welfare situation in the U.S.” said Mkpong-Ruffin, who teaches at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala.
Her father, Okon Mkpong, established the Nigerian Christian Institute to train believers in ministry and help them find secular employment. Graduates of the institute earn a high school diploma and have the opportunity to get a two-year college degree before being sent into the mission field, Idong Mkpong-Ruffin said.
• In Zambia, George Benson Christian College trains ministers in math, English, history and religious education. U.S. sponsors and Zambian church programs pay for the training. The Zambian government hires the graduates as teachers, said missionary Linda Gregersen.
“Students are sent to areas of Zambia where the church is weak or nonexistent, and most are hired by the Zambian government within a year,” she said. “So far, over 200 churches have been planted in Zambia using this model.”
• In Kenya, elders of the Winyo Church of Christ contacted the Forest Home Church of Christ in Franklin, Tenn., about supporting its pulpit minister, Jacob Randiek, who also serves as chaplain for Winyo Christian Academy. The U.S. church provides money to the Winyo elders, who use the funds for Randiek’s salary.
“He knows (the money) comes from America,” said Charles Ngoje, missions director for the academy, but “Winyo elders have authority over him. They can sit him down and talk sternly, eye-to-eye, if they are not pleased with his work.”
Ngoje also receives support through the Forest Home church.
• The Benton, Ky., Church of Christ supports a ministry training program in the West African nation of Benin. Graduates sometimes receive help to purchase motorcycles or generators, said Benton elder Ed Jones.
“The tightrope I have walked since day one is not to get an African preacher tied to an American salary, but not to lose a trained preacher because he cannot support his family,” Jones said.

Filed under: Global South

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