Over the past 15 years the African Bible College (ABC) in Malawi has enrolled a steady stream of students from Uganda, who endure the five-day bus trip from Kampala to Lilongwe. They have encouraged the ABC administration to open a campus in their home country.
Eight years ago the ABC founders, Dr J. W. Chinchen and his wife Nell, made their initial trip to ‘The Pearl of Africa’ and immediately felt God’s calling to do this.
In the past three decades Uganda has lost many potential Christian leaders to overseas education. The purpose of ABC in Uganda is to develop Christian education of the calibre so desperately sought after yet traditionally only available overseas.
There is no greater need here than for dedicated Christian leaders trained by an Evangelical institution. Not only is it impossible for the laity to rise above the level of its leaders, but Christian leadership is the key to Africa’s plethora of problems – corruption, poverty, famine, civil war, HIV/AIDS – all exacerbated by the absence of well-trained, biblically-equipped leaders of Christian character and integrity.
The ABC aims to train Christian leaders at university level – people who can preach the Word powerfully, communicate the gospel effectively, and live lives that are a dynamic witness for Jesus Christ.
Uganda’s existing universities are stretched beyond capacity with new students and applications. In August the nation’s newspapers reported that the government’s famous Makerere University was forced to turn away 17,000 qualified students this year. ABC will seek not merely to fill a higher education void, but to train dedicated Christian leaders.
Initially the college will offer Bachelor of Arts degree programmes in Biblical Studies, Mass Communication and Christian Education.
The college is located in the Lubowa hills on the outskirts of capital city Kampala – one kilometre off the highway leading to Entebbe International Airport. 12 of the campus’ 24 buildings are in various stages of construction – the library, dining hall, classroom block, Department of Communication complex, administration building, men’s dormitory, ladies, dormitory and staff housing.
The college’s Christian radio station is already registered with the Ministry of Information, and scheduled to go on the air in May 2005. The initial 12 buildings are to be completed prior to the college’s opening in September 2005.
Three missionaries are on site to oversee construction – Kenny Mackenzie, a member of the Free Church of Scotland from the Isle of Lewis; Jim Vitello, a Gordon Conwell Seminary student from Boston, who has put his studies on hold for a year to assist with the project; and myself, Paul Chinchen. Our family has served with ABC Malawi for the past 15 years, but made the temporary move to Uganda in August to oversee the construction project.
We have a great crew of 65 men, but are often handicapped by sporadic water and electrical supply. The rains come and go, and are a welcome relief from the heat, but the result is an impossibly mucky building site that often leaves construction vehicles stranded in thick mud.
Yet it is a great encouragement to see the work progress, and we have found our Ugandan co-workers – many of them dedicated Christians – a tremendous joy to work with.
Prof. O. Palmer Robertson, who has been a member of the teaching faculty at African Bible College, Malawi, for 10 years – as well as lecturer at Westminster Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, Covenant Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary in the USA – will be the Director of the College when it opens.
Joining Prof. Robertson on the faculty will be volunteer lecturers from the United States and Europe, as well as Ugandan graduates of ABC, Malawi, who have attained degrees at the Masters level.