How Did It All Begin?
In 1985 an experienced missionary, Rev. Bob Rebel, from the Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands wanted to plant churches in the KwaNdebele area. According to custom, he had to go to the local traditional chief to pay his respects and request permission to work in the area. The chief asked him to come back the Sunday afternoon to appear before him and his "advisors in religious matters". On his return a whole group of leaders of the African Indigenous Churches (Apostolic and Zionistic types of Churches) were waiting to meet him. They wanted to know how he intended to plant a church. He carefully explained that he would start with preaching and visiting people in their homes and teach baptism classes to those who show signs of interest and conversion. After their baptism he would continue to teach them so that they can become his co-workers in teaching new members. Later he would identify those who seem to have the gift of preaching and teach them how to preach.
They responded enthusiastically with the request: "Why don't you teach us as well. We are pastors, bishops and archbishops of churches, but we have never had any training whatsoever! Some of us cannot even read. We feel that especially the youth who have had more opportunities to become educated are looking down on us. We are afraid that we cannot reach them on their level of thinking anymore." These leaders formed an umbrella organization, which they called the KwaNdebele Churches Board.
The Board (now Masakhane Churches Board) requested assistance from the Mission Deputies of the Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands to start a Bible School. Their main objective was to see that their people (leaders and lay people) was provided with training to help them understand and handle the Bible properly.
The Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands saw this opportunity as a Macedonian call and responded positively by allowing Rev. Rebel to teach courses at several villages in KwaNdebele. This decentralised training, in which he met groups of leaders for two hours per week, was maintained for almost ten years. The church leaders soon declared that they now really "saw light!" This ministry became known as the Mukhanyo Bible School (Mukhanyo being the isiNebele word for light).
The church leaders desired a centralised Theological College which their young people could attend a few days per week to receive more advanced training. Dr P.J. (Flip) Buys was called to start this extension of the ministry and in July 1994 a group of five students began their Diploma in Theology in a small church in Thembalethu who offered their vestry free of charge.