Zimbabwean bible school perseveres despite daily challenges

GRANTHAM, Pa. (Aug. 4, 2008)—Across the United States and Canada, the rising costs of post-secondary education remain an important concern. With college tuition increasing in excess of the median income, the folks who fork over for the tuition bill are turning toward loan providers to fill in the gaps that their resources and outside scholarships don’t satisfy.

But in Zimbabwe—a country with a 2.2 million percent inflation rate, where a single banana costs in excess of $10 billion—something like a college tuition would no doubt be astronomically expensive, and certainly out of reach for anyone other than the richest of the rich.

And yet Ekuphileni Bible Institute (EBI) in Mtshabezi, Zimbabwe, continues to provide training for young Zimbabweans who feel called to serve God through pastoral ministry. With a teaching staff of five and a current student body of 19, EBI educates students at the secondary and post-secondary levels.

The students and staff at EBI face difficulties that transcend hard-to-write essays or challenging curriculum preparation. With rolling blackouts now a fact of life in Zimbabwe, students have been forced to do assignments by candlelight—or, when candles cannot be purchased, not at all. The school’s only source of water—a decrepit hand pump purchased in neighboring Botswana almost thirty years ago—continues to challenge the students’ engineering know-how as they must frequently repair it. Steve Newcomer, a BICWM missionary working at EBI, recently reported that EBI educators’ salaries barely cover the cost of two loaves of bread.

But Steve also understands the beauty of a place like EBI. The students, he says, “are diligent, conscientious, pleasant, and hold a lot of promise for future contributions to the church.” Nellie Mlotshwa, the EBI principal, is “a remarkable lady, of godly character and unblemished reputation, who has performed admirably under adverse conditions.”

The word “ekuphileni” is translated as “the place of life.” For the students and staff at EBI, this word is more than just part of the school’s name—it is an important calling. As Steve says, “Each of us confronts the same challenge on a daily basis: we are the only ‘life’ that some people in Zimbabwe will ever see.”