Wayland Approved to Offer Religion Degree in Kenya
PLAINVIEW – In a move that will greatly further Wayland Baptist University’s mission project in Kenya, Africa, the university has been approved to offer a full Bachelor of Arts degree in religion by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Approval of the degree program comes nearly seven years after Wayland originally entered into a partnership with the Kenya Baptist Convention and the Kenya Baptist Theological College. The partnership began when Wayland answered a call from the convention to help train pastors. The majority of Kenya churches are pastored by people with no formal training or education.
Wayland’s Chairman of the Division of Mathematics and Sciences Dr. Vaughn Ross, who served as a missionary to Kenya in the mid 1970s, Chairman of the Division of Religion Dr. Fred Meeks and Dr. Phil Almes, emeritus professor of mathematics, visited Kenya in 1998.
“We went as a result of a true Macedonian call by the Kenya Baptist Convention, saying they have a crisis in leadership training and they needed help,” Ross said.
As a result, Wayland began offering an associate’s degree in 1999. The first class graduated in 2003. Wayland also began building the resources necessary in Kenya to be accredited to offer a full degree. Wayland contributed thousands of volumes to the existing library at KBTC and set up an Internet link with the library on Wayland’s Plainview campus, making thousands more publications available to students. Wayland has also set up a computer lab with 20 student computers, and through the efforts of First Baptist Church of Plainview, there is now a dormitory to house visiting students and faculty. Kenya Baptists have also agreed to build an office building to house the Wayland program.
“In order for SACS to approve us, that campus had to meet all the criteria that any campus anywhere else has to meet,” Meeks said. “Be it faculty credentials, library resources, the whole nine yards … they are not making any exceptions.”
Courses are set up so a group of students may attend class on the campus at Brakenhurst, just outside of Nairobi, for three weeks, four or five times a year. These classes are taught by WBU faculty members who travel to Kenya from the home campus as well as Wayland’s external campuses.
Dr. Jeff Anderson, dean of Wayland’s campus in Anchorage, Alaska, was in Kenya when the announcement was made during a chapel service that Wayland will be offering a full degree.
“Everyone broke out into applause and the folks were really excited,” Anderson said in an email. “It was really an honor for me to be there on that occasion.”
Ross said the program was deliberately designed so students may attend class for short periods of time several times a year, then return home to continue working in their churches and communities.
“The students who are taking these courses are already engaged in ministry,” he said. “Many of them have been engaged in ministry for a long time. This is a modified residential program so they can be back home, carrying out their pastoral duties and other ministries in their churches.”
Wayland will commit about six professors a year to teaching in Kenya.
According to Meeks, this is more than an opportunity to educate the people of Kenya, this is an opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission.
“This is pure, indigenous missions,” Meeks said. “This is not where we are sending some American to go over there and be a missionary. This is where we are training a native Kenyan to stay in his country and do ministry. These are students who are not just going to be members of their churches in Kenya, they are going to be the leaders and the pastors.”
Not only is Wayland offering the full degree, but the school, with the help of Texas Baptists, is underwriting the program. The average family income in Kenya is around $1,500 a year, not enough to afford a formal college education. By underwriting the program, those who are truly interested in obtaining a religion degree will be able to enroll without the additional financial burden on their families.
“The financial underwriting is being done by churches, foundations and the university at this point,” Ross said. “This is a true partnership between Texas Baptists through Wayland and the Kenya Baptist Convention.”
Ross said the convention asked for this program in order to meet the demands of the growing church in Kenya. While serving as a missionary to Kenya in 1975, Ross said there were about 400 Baptist churches in the whole country. Now there are more than 3,000 with about 100 churches being added each year. Ross said some of the churches have nearly 5,000 members. Last year, 16 Baptist churches were added in Nairobi alone.
“And other denominations are experiencing that same kind of growth and responding in similar ways,” Ross said. “We are on the edge of what will be a different kind of church growth than what we have experienced in missions before. Before, we sent missionaries to do the primary witnessing, church planting and church beginning. This is an enabling ministry and it is going to produce even greater results.”
Individuals or groups interested in supporting the Kenya project are encouraged to contact Wayland’s Office of Advancement at 806-291-3425.