Despite complications, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mennonite Bible School celebrates graduations.
As the academic year comes to close in the southern hemisphere, Mennonite Bible School (MBS, formerly Bethany Bible School) in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, is celebrating 41 graduates across three study-centers.
Graduation ceremonies took place in Mthatha on November 6, with 11 students completing either the one- or two-year curriculum. At MBS's Elliotdale branch, 12 people graduated on Nov. 13, and the Lusikisiki branch celebrated 18 graduates on Nov. 19.
"We end 2021 on a very high note," said Reuben Mgodeli, coordinator of the institution since 2014. "The spirit of the Lord was moving among all of us. I thank God for his goodness and love."
Many more students participated for part of the year but were unable to complete all the requirements for graduation, due to complications related to the pandemic. Mgodeli said that these students will swell the graduation numbers next year.
"Like other institutions in South Africa, MBS lost members, due to COVID-19 and lockdown, for the whole of 2020," Mgodeli said. "Some of our people passed away, and a lot of them had to drop-out, but the Lord has been faithful to us."
Formerly Bethany Bible School, Mennonite Bible School changed its name during the national registration process.
"I felt the Holy Spirit led me to rename the school, because Mennonites invested in this work," Mgodeli said. "They worked hard and faithfully in doing the work of the Lord. This is a kairos (time) when things can return to their rightful places."
Mgodeli said that he feels students will be more willing to enroll in MBS now that it is registered with the government.
"The South African government didn't want to have anything to do with Mennonites [in the early days, when Mennonites were working to dismantle apartheid]," Mgodeli said. "Now, the South African government is granting a certificate that [permits an entity with] the name 'Mennonite' to operate freely!"
MBS began in Mthatha and has provided biblical education and leadership training for African-Initiated Churches (AICs) in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province since 1982. In recent years, the Bible school has established branches in Elliotdale and Lusikisiki. MBS anticipates the opening of a fourth branch in Port St. John's early next year.
During the Elliotdale graduation ceremonies, a delegation from Mqanduli petitioned Mgodeli to establish an MBS branch in their locality. They said that they have 32 prospective students eagerly waiting to deepen their knowledge of God's word.