Nationalization: The Fruit of Our Labor
By David Beakley
When Christ Seminary was established in 1997, it was not exactly clear what God would do. South Africa had just come out of perhaps one of the most significant and dynamic transformations that any nation had experienced in the 20th century. The country moved from an apartheid government to a more fully democratic system, and integrated education was now available for all.
Just three years after the historic elections, Christ Seminary was launched with humble beginnings, yet a vision for God’s greatness. The first class (which graduated in 2000) of about 10 students were both apprehensive and excited as were the two lecturers from TMS who came out as missionaries to launch the work. One could see 2 Tim. 2:2 now in action.
Since that time, 2 Tim. 2:2 “entrust these things to faithful men…” has taken on new meaning, as the seminary has now matured on to the idea of nationalization. While there are still two TMS graduates at Christ Seminary (David Beakley and Steve Plodinec), there are now three national South Africans and one Kenyan on staff to run the seminary. Two of those nationals are actually graduates of Christ Seminary. We are now seeing the true fruits of what was once a pioneering work: graduates of Christ Seminary are now doing the work of the missionaries!
This year, significant changes to the seminary are being implemented involving our former graduates. Charlie Rampfumedzi (ThM University of Pretoria, Christ Seminary class of 2000) has assumed the role of Principal of Christ Seminary, and we added Joseph Mahlaola as a professor of Greek and NT (Christ Seminary class of 2005). The current staff makeup is now a model of national giftedness and diversity.
- Charlie Rampfumedzi Principal (Venda—South African)
- Johann Odendall Dean of Students (Afrikaans— South African)
- David Beakley Dean of Academics (English—American)
- Robyn Ayliffe Lecturer (English—South African)
- Joseph Mahlaola Lecturer (Shangan— South African)
- Andrew Isiaho Lecturer (Luya—Kenyan)
The real message of God’s work over the past fifteen years is not the diversity, but rather that we now see men who were trained are now themselves fulfilling 2 Tim. 2:2! The power of the gospel never stops, and it is that power that will transform lives and pulpits here in South Africa.
Contrary to many ideas regarding the goal of missions, nationalization is not just replacement. It is equipping, discipling, and working alongside (parakaleo) those with whom you have trained and labored. It is the joy of watching the seminary move to an even higher level of efficiency and effectiveness as the teaching now takes on new dimensions because of the increasing cultural similarity and acceptance of the lecturers by incoming African students.
As we stand and persevere through the many trials and frustrations encountered in the cross-cultural mine fields of ministry, perseverance stands as an extremely cheap price to pay to reap the rewards and taste the fruit of God’s work.
Because of our increase in national leadership, we now have the ability to have a “national” voice in the various denominations in South Africa, and to most of the churches in South Africa in supporting the seminary and also in the sending of faithful men for training. We are no longer an “American mission” or a “wholly owned subsidiary of Grace Community Church.” We are an African seminary training African men for the purpose of preaching a clear gospel to a thirsty land.
When tensions were high in 1997, it seemed like this mission seemed like facing an elephant with a pellet gun. Now, seeing God’s wisdom unfold we are beginning to see the value of perseverance – qualified nationals leading and training other nationals.
I can think of no greater joy over the past decade than training faithful men, watching them grow, and then standing beside them as you co-labor with them in the ministry. This is what it is all about.