A letter from Tyler Holm serving in Malawi
Write to Tyler Holm
Individuals: Give to E200532 for Tyler Holm’s sending and support
Congregations: Give to D507572 for Tyler Holm’s sending and support
Faculty of Theology: Give to E052124 to support the University of Livingstonia Faculty of Theology
Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).
We are excited to be celebrating an answer to prayer: the University of Livingstonia has launched its first master’s degree program. Those of you who have been carefully following our blog and communication have frequently heard of the work that has been going into starting this program for quite a while, but today we see some of the first positive, visible evidence of all this preparation. The University of Livingstonia, particularly the Faculty of Theology (previously called Ekwendeni Theological College), first opened in 2003, specifically training future ministers of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) and granting them a two-year licentiate, a three-year diploma, or a four-year bachelor’s degree.
The university was established to address the critical need for ministers to serve in the church in Malawi. In 2003, there was one ordained minister for every 7000 members of the CCAP. While this ratio has improved some in the past 14 years, the sophistication of the congregations has also become more challenging for ministers. This rising sophistication of congregations is partly a result of informal exposure to the wider world. In the cities, many congregants have a smart phone or TV, which allows them to access many sermons and preachers of differing quality through this media.
Although only 0.6% of Malawians have tertiary or college education, this number is growing, and these educated members expect their minister to be more educated as well. Just as in the U.S., where the normal training for Presbyterian ministers is a Master of Divinity, there is more and more desire for ministers in Malawi to have a postgraduate degree. The mission of the Faculty of Theology has also grown from serving only ministers in training to equipping leaders of many different vocations to be Christian leaders. The
se factors have all been in mind as the University of Livingstonia has launched this first master’s program that is part of the Faculty of Theology.
One difference between this program and many Western programs is the emphasis on holistic community and personal development, not just academic information. For example, one of our new master’s students, Rev. Anocks Chisiza, expects the master’s program will help to deepen his own personal faith and his ability to preach to his congregation: “Service of Jesus Christ was to the whole man—body and soul. When we have someone come to us in the Church in need of healing, or with physical problems, we (ministers) are equipped only to deal with their spiritual need. We need to address the spiritual sickness and the physical need, for Jesus Christ healed both the body and soul. Luke 4 tells us the Holy Spirit has come upon me to help those in body and soul.”
Luke 4:18-19 is often referenced in Africa to express the way in which Jesus ministered:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
The call to bring sight to the blind and free the oppressed may seem so overwhelming that sometimes the Church does not try. But Rev. Chisiza sees his ministry and that of the Church as continuing on the mission of God, missio Dei.
This holistic emphasis can take the shape of addressing health issues, and the Church does so through organizing and promoting public health activities such as education regarding HIV, tuberculosis, and dietary diseases. It also seeks to care for vulnerable members through such activities as the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia Women’s Group’s planting of community gardens, as we wrote about in our December 2016 Mission Connections letter. Encouraging members through introducing new ways to generate income for their families is another concern of the Church in Malawi that we rarely see in the American Church.
This holistic sentiment is echoed by another of our students, Rev. Clement Muntheli, who first earned a three-year diploma, upgraded to a bachelor’s degree a year ago, and is now enrolling in the master’s program: “I know it will help me in so many areas . . . . I will attain skills to help develop the Church in holistic ways. How can the Church work with the community? . . . How can the Church help develop the community? As a pastor, how can I interact and (develop) skills to help develop the whole community? Jesus himself took a holistic approach; the Church must take on this whole approach.”
Not only CCAP ministers are enrolling in the program. There are ministers from other denominations, including Anglican and Pentecostal traditions, and we are extending our vision to those whose ministry does not necessarily consist of serving as a minister. Students recognize how important it is for many different vocations to be grounded in Christian values. There are several secondary teachers joining our Master of Theology program who speak of how they impact students by modeling good values, not just by imparting academic knowledge. This, too, demonstrates the holistic development idea, the Church (through our university) striving to equip Christian teachers for transforming the whole society.
Launching the Master of Theology is important within the life of the university as well. Just as in many notable universities around the world, theological studies was a driving force behind what would become the University of Livingstonia. But a university that is only offering undergraduate degree programs is not a full university. The vision in Malawi has long been to start postgraduate programs, and for the Faculty of Theology—the most historic, yet smallest and sometimes most financially disadvantaged part of the university—to start the first master’s program is a real milestone. I have written of some of the very long meetings and workshops that we have held to craft the documentation for the program. Many of you have been praying as the Malawian Government accrediting body, the National Council for Higher Education (NICHE), delayed our intended start with a long list of areas to address at the end of last year. Yet these challenges have been worked through and the program is now stronger. The University of Livingstonia Faculty of Theology is very appreciative of all of our students and staff who are making this program possible, and also for those around the world who have been praying and supporting this effort. Thank you.
Please continue praying for and supporting work at the University of Livingstonia Faculty of Theology. Please pray for all of our other programs, including our undergraduate residential and ODL (distance learning) programs, and also our other faculties. In addition, please consider giving to the growing programs of the Faculty of Theology through E052124. And please pray for the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia.
We appreciate your faithful support for our ministry. We are grateful to all of you who shared in our ministry during these past months. Please continue to support our ministry and the work of the University of Livingstonia. Please continue supporting my position with the University of Livingstonia through E200532 (Congregations D507572).
Grace and Peace,
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