The Story of Hope from the Heart of Africa


Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe Campus
Foreword by Dr. Lowell Bakke

In the fall of 2009, a group of six African pastor’s and educators gathered in Pretoria South Africa for a BGU course called Pastoral Transformation for the 21st Century: A Pastoral Look at the Theology of Work.  Each of these leaders went on to apply and teach TOW in the schools and networks in their respective countries in remarkable ways.  One of those leaders, Reverend Jack Mboya of Nairobi Kenya, believed that a biblical understanding of TOW could transform Africa if it were effectively applied to five critical sectors of African life:

  1. Government
  2. Education
  3. Family Life
  4. Business
  5. The Church

Jack spent three years working in each of these sectors of Kenya through the college he led and the networks he served.  But he didn’t stop there as he took the TOW message and his dream for Africa to schools, denominations and leadership networks in Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and DR Congo.  One of the places he went to teach shortly before he unexpectedly died was Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe (UEMI) located near Uvira DR Congo. This Christian University was being developed by the children of pastors and Christian leaders who had been sent to other countries by their parents to escape the massacres their parents and other Christian leaders experienced  a couple of decades earlier at the hands of rebel groups in this rural, isolated, and unstable region of eastern DR Congo. The founding president of the university, DR. LAZARE R. SEBITEREKO, listened to Jack Mboya’s four day course and that was enough for him to catch Jack’s version.  I encourage you to take the time to read Lazare’s remarkable story of the impact TOW has made in the land that he and God love and steward together.  I don’t doubt like the story in Acts 8, Jesus and Jack are giving the people of Minembwe a standing ovation.

Rev. Jack Mboya

The late Rev. Jack Mboya crossing the Rwanda-Burundi border en route to the Democratic Republic of Congo


TOW and Bakke Graduate University in my country is a result of modern technology. The connection started from the Internet search that I took one evening and the ensuing telephone communication between Lowell Bakke and myself. When God is at work, I have learned it is best when all things obey Him and co-work with Him. Following my conversation with Lowell; I also spoke with Dr. Gwen Dewey about TOW while we were both attending Lausanne in Cape Town, South Africa.  Later, on my way back from Alaska, the three of us met in the Seattle airport and discussed together a plan for developing TOW in the Congo. It was a year later that I first physically met the Rev. Jack Mboya in Burundi, when he came to teach TOW in DRC!

The story of TOW at Eben-Ezer University goes far beyond its impact on campus.
From 2010 to 2016 a total of 2173 participants graduated from TOW Courses in Burundi and DRCongo. A total of 703 men and 392 women have engaged in TOW courses in Burundi, and another 732 men and 346 women completed courses in DRCongo. But the indirect number of beneficiaries of this training goes far beyond these participants as many denominations benefited from the training including: Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic, Free and United Methodist, Friends, Assemblies of God and African Revival Churches.  Local associations, school staffs, and university staffs also participated. We also had several radio broadcasts in Burundi and the Congo focusing on TOW and a magazine in the biggest daily newspaper in Burundi le Renouveau wrote about what we were teaching and doing.  To know the estimated number of people reached with the message of TOW is interesting. At least 80% of participants in our courses lead more than 600 people in their churches. Some pastors have congregations of more than 1000 members. The message is being continually passed on through various initiatives in churches and communities.
The first trainings we organized were very informative to us as we did not know how people would perceive these teachings.
The TOW seminar for church leaders and local associations in Minembwe, DRC

The TOW seminar for church leaders and local associations in Minembwe, DRC

But responses of participants were encouraging. In one of the trainings with university students, the introduction to theology of work was a “new teaching”. Munyana Jolie, a final year student in Business Administration and Management at the Adventist College asked, “how come the church has never taught us about this truth?” In the trainings with pastors; theology of work was a “new theology”. It was amazing for pastors to learn that man’s relationship with the environment is so important that the earth is the “mother”. Mrs. Virginie Niyongere from Burundi said “ I had not known that the destruction of forests could be the basis for the decrease of the amount of water that flows in rivers and it can be a source of conflict!”. She added “I will do everything to mobilize my friends in the church to plant as many trees as we can to protect our environment but also to glorify God. We must take care of the earth.”
Pastor Aloys Cyiza from Burundi said “I have been reading the Bible for the purpose of spiritual edification, but not to draw from it something in connection with the community development! We built schools and clinics, but we do not see how they are connected with our spiritual life. This teaching is timely and I am happy that my church hosted it.”
 OBJECTIVES OF THE TOW at Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe (UEMI) 
  • Helping students make a connection between the Bible and work as divine calling; 
  • Helping students understand the biblical essence of stewardship and spiritual renewal; 
  • Preparing students for job creation and/or entrepreneurship after graduation; 
  • Equipping students with important information about the protection and preservation of the Environment. 
Youth seminar in Bujumbura

Youth seminar in Bujumbura

We discovered that Theology of Work is a tool for local empowerment and self-confidence, as well as source of inspiration whereby participants appreciated learning from one another. It creates an essence of “we can do it ourselves. Our contribution matters.”
Nkunda Gustave a student in theology at Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe in DRCongo, who followed this course with the late Rev Jack Mboya, stated:
“I understood that our destiny is in our hands because God has blessed and given us all things through his Word (life and or physical strength, intelligence, earth, and all its wealth) in order to succeed. After my training, I began to educate members of my churches in the villages of Bijombo and Muzinda; focusing on the work of agriculture. I got seeds from Floresta Burundi via Eben-Ezer University and distributed them. Now, I am excited to see how many families are balancing their diet with a variety of vegetables. The number of people who come to ask for seed has increased by 4 times in a year. Some farmers have started producing seeds and vegetables for sale in local markets.” After the training in Uvira, RDC, Mr. Bigabo Budederi started a restaurant called Mungu ni Jibu (God is the answer) and a school which has more than 500 children. I met him recently and he said, “Success is in us we only need to look for it.”
Mrs. Lisa Nyariburwa, aged 54, married and blessed with 7 children, fled DRC with her family and sought refuge in Burundi in 2004. She attended one of the TOW seminars organized at her local church in 2012. Three years later she gave this testimony:
"After my participation at the work seminar, it was a wakeup call from deep sleep and despair. I never knew that a refugee can own her/his life. But, I decided to go and look for something to do. I shared with my husband, who had been out of job for nearly 10 years, the message of work and proposed to him to help me get money to do a business. He laughed at me and refused saying that I had not done it and am not able to do it today. I went and borrowed fifty dollars (US $50) from a money changer. I immediately started; it was as if I was being pushed to an urgent mission, I could not get rest until I started. I bought and sold women clothes. The $50 was enough for 4 clothes orders and their transport to me. Without telling all the story; today I own a shop for food stuff and women clothing with my own capital of more than $2000. I feed my family, pay school fees for children. I am a preacher of this gospel”! Lisa and her family moved back to DRC at the end of 2015.

Theology of Work is also a source of reconciliation.

Bananas and peace building is a non-failing testimony in Burundi. Pastor Damien of Horeb church in Bujumbura, came one day and met me. I had not seen him before but he was informed by a friend about our work on integrated approach to development. “I want you to help me. I have a church and a plot of small land.” We gave him 120 banana plantlets and vegetable seeds as a loan. Within 3 years he was earning good returns. Moreover, during the crisis of 2015, many of his neighbors from different tribal groups used to come and get supplies from his field. “I have created a wide net of friendship and new church members because of this new teaching. I have learned that we can build our society if we learn to share what is available.”
Banana field born from TOW in Burundi

Banana field born from TOW in Burundi


The essence of TOW is its practicality. In 2014 Eben-Ezer University, local armed forces, police and local administration in Minembwe decided to work together for peace reinforcement and environment protection through communal work; commonly known locally as “salongo”. Saturday mornings were dedicated to this work. UN peacekeeping troops and an Italian non-profit organization working in the area also joined. Rehabilitation of small roads have been done, trees are planted and village cleaning activities are carried out.

Tree Planting

Tree Planting

Road rehabilitation with UN troops, police and the army at Minembwe

Road rehabilitation with UN troops, police and the army at Minembwe


Under partnerships with different organizations and churches, UEMI started initiatives of involving youth from a young age in theology of work activities. This included a Annual Youth Summer Camp where tree planting, sports and spiritual edification were taught.  UEMI created bilingual primary and secondary schools whereby they use both French, English and Swahili which are the commonly spoken in Eastern DRC. A total of 150 children are enrolled in 6 classes at present.

Activity during Youth Summer Camp

Activity during Youth Summer Camp at Eben-Ezer University

In 2015, under the partnership with Cornell University and LaOlam Ministries, UEMI hosted students from American, Israeli and Burundian universities. About 200 youths and school children attended a two week long session. As a result of the camp, beyond students from our school, other schools are also getting interested in tree planting and school gardens. In July 2016, we had yet another summer camp. We expected not more than 250 youths. To our surprise, 1030 youth participated! We were overwhelmed; classrooms were full and some students held their classes in the open outside. We learned that efforts of teaching young people to explore their talents and using those talents  is making a profound impact. One child told his parents that he wanted to go to Eben-Ezer University camp.  When the parents wanted to know why, he said, “… they teach a new language”. Theology of Work may use ordinary language but with new meaning.

Youth Summer Camp at Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe
Youth Summer Camp at Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe

Eben-Ezer University partnered with local churches, other universities and other institutions to carry out its integrated approach to community transformation. Theology of Work is so inclusive. In Burundi, Floresta Burundi/Plant with Purpose, which I also served, was central in this program. At the end of the training, certificates are offered to participants and media (radio and newspapers) tell their stories. In the future, we would like to use social media as well (Facebook, WhatsApp) to reach more people about the message.


Theology of Work may use ordinary language but with new meaning. Eben-Ezer University is committed to carry the vision of hope to the coming generation through its 10-year Vision 2025 of Eben-Ezer University of Minembwe combining academic and community development programs in this remote region of Minembwe. The program aims to reach 3 districts (Fizi, Mwenga and Uvira) with an area of more than 5000s.q km and about 250,000 people. At least 90% of the populations are Christians. The area has more than 100 parishes with about 210 local churches divided into 2 mainstreams Christian churches, namely Catholics and Evangelicals. Among Evangelicals there are Methodist churches, Pentecostal and African Revival Churches, Christian Ministries and Associations led by youth and women groups, primary and secondary schools and a university.

In its community development programs, Eben-Ezer University is getting involved along with other partners on rural hydroelectric power production for  further development. Two projects include a pipeline on Katobo Dam which was initially built to irrigate sugar plantations in the Plaine of Ruzizi, Uvira District, of South-Kivu, with the potential to produce electricity. But the electricity production of this project was never carried to completion since the project was stopped in 1960. The concept note for a new feasibility study was done under a partnership with Songa Energy Burundi. The other dream it to take on the project of electricity production in Minembwe, using solar, wind or hydropower energies.

Our University is a leading institution in the rural development strategic plan of Minembwe supervised by the Provincial Ministry of Planning of South Kivu. We are also working on microfinance project for Minembwe communities who live with no banking system and many more initiatives. The University is also planning work with Bakke Graduate University and Mustard Seed to do TOW curriculum for primary and secondary schools in 100 primary and secondary schools in Minembwe rural villages.

It has been a joy for the TOW grant program to work with Dr. Sebitereko and the University’s incredible capacity to rebuild a region of the DRCongo that for years has been decimated by conflict and isolation.   This is a school that has used the tools of TOW to begin the transformation process by making the Kingdom of God visible in very practical and powerful ways.  Thank you Lazare for making your story available for all  to read.