These last two weeks we had four students from Oklahoma Christian University who came with Dr. Charles Rix to teach Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. They jumped excitedly to the opportunity to share their story with us. Elijah Weaver wrote on behalf of them. Read and be blessed.
The road that leads to African Christian College begins on a newly paved street leading east from Matsapha. Shortly morphing into a bumpy dirt road, it continues forth, running parallel to the old airport, until it winds sharply to the left, bringing into view the yet hidden campus of African Christian College. Like the country of Swaziland, sitting stealthily tucked within the northeast corner of South Africa, so sits the college, seemingly inconspicuous off the winding road; but once seen, it is truly beautiful, the yellowish buildings with their dark red roofs shining bright under the African sky, dispersedly set in front of an orchard of macadamia trees, spread far and wide over the landscape, 14,000 trees in all.
Finally pulling into the campus on Sunday afternoon after a day and a half of travel, we were eager to begin our time of learning and fellowship with the students at ACC. The four of us students, Elijah, Ben, Joshua and Turner, were accompanying our professor, Charles Rix, to aid him in teaching Intro to Hebrew Bible during a two-week intensive
course. All four of us were Biblical Studies majors, two of us having recently graduated, and the other two with a year to go, making us all the more eager not only to help teach, but also to learn the Hebrew Bible from the Africana perspective, hopefully shedding new light onto something we all held so dearly.
Over the course of two weeks, we spent every weekday morning in the classroom with the students, listening to lectures and splitting up into small cohorts, exploring the material together, as we helped guide the students through the Hebrew Bible, specifically focusing on their own particular extrapolation of the text based on their cultural contexts. Amidst all of our mornings in the classroom and our many afternoon adventures into the city and beyond, there were several aspects about our stay that especially stuck out to us, encouraging us in different ways and making our stay at African Christian College a truly unforgettable time.
First and foremost, we were all struck by the vibrant and vivacious worship, which we experienced almost immediately upon arrival Sunday evening, and which continued throughout our stay, everyday in chapel and on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. Singing songs in the students’ heart languages, the cacophony of voices were passionate and energetic, providing a feeling in worship that it is hard to match elsewhere. The worship seems to act as this consistent marker of communal identity, wherein whatever may happen on a day-to-day basis, there is always a time of worship, providing a sense of calling and focus to the students, as they lift their voices in worship to God with sincerity and honesty.
Alongside our awe about the worship we experienced with the students, all four of us were equally impressed and intrigued with the students’ ubiquitous intentionality and desire to learn. Unlike what we have experienced often in the States, with students taking for granted the education they are pursuing, the students at ACC all recognize the privilege they have in studying, and it is more than evident in their excitement and intensity of attention they give to the material we were learning about in class. Working in cohorts, there was often a time when one student would be speaking and sharing their thoughts, in which every other student would give their undivided attention to the one sharing, with a genuine desire to understand what was being shared. It was such a joy for all of us to experience these students’ hunger for knowledge and insight, reminding us to not take for granted our own education in the States.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it was the community at ACC that was most striking to us. As a completely residential campus, including even the President and some of the professors, everyone lives in close quarters, constantly sharing life together, helping to raise each others’ children, eating meals in fellowship, working and studying in groups, all of which made our stay at ACC feel like something reminiscent of Acts 2:42-44. Alongside
the community cafeteria and library, there are community gardens throughout the campus, just expounding upon the already felt experience of communal living. There are shared spaces of working and shared spaces of playing, especially for the children. Even in the language the students would use, referring to everyone as Brother and Sister so and so, there was a constancy of warmth and invitation on campus.
As we prepare to leave this afternoon (yesterday), I can speak for all of us, that we feel exceedingly grateful for the time we have been able to spend with the community at ACC. We feel an invigoration of our desire to worship with a deeper passion and longing. We feel rejuvenated and excited to return home and continue forth in our pursuits of our own education, having been encouraged by the students’ love for their education at ACC. And we feel a contagious inclination to pursue a more vibrant community within our places of study and work at home. We will be forever grateful for the time we spent at ACC. Perhaps we will return one day. But even if the opportunity never arises, we have made relationships that will no doubt last a lifetime. The Spirit of God is alive and well at ACC, and we are so thankful to have experienced it.