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History of the South African Bible Institute

By Michael M. Stanley

After Umzumbe Bible Institute closed in 1994 there was an immediate recognition that South Africa needed a school for Christian leadership. A continuation committee was established to determine how and where such a school could be developed. An important principle of this committee was that the new school should not be a re-establishment of Umzumbe Bible Institute (i.e. a school established by missionaries with American money and where missionaries were in charge of the school).

Key people in making the new school a reality were Louw Koopman, Alice Fishback, and Steve Caulley. Louw Koopman, a South African national, was a teacher at Umzumbe Bible Institute and brought his experience in education to the committee. Alice Fishback, who had long been concerned about the training of Christian leaders in South Africa, brought vision and commitment to the committee. Steve Caulley, a former missionary to Zambia, brought academic ability and a long term commitment to the committee. Valley Christian Church in Apple Valley, MN was instrumental in facilitating this transition by supporting Louw Koopman through this period of transition. When the new South African Bible Institute was established in 1997 Louw Koopman was the first national teacher to be hired and helped to determine the character of the new school.  

The South African Bible Institute opened its doors in January 1997 using temporary facilities at the Shaka Street Church of Christ. Every effort was made to involve all Christians associated with the Restoration Movement. A Board of Governors was established to oversee the operation of the school and, again, care was taken to make sure the board represented the different groups in South Africa, and to prevent the school from becoming another missionary controlled school.

During the 2006 graduation ceremony Caryl (pictured here) was asked to give the charge to the only student to graduate from the South African Bible Institute that year - Ditiro Johnson.

Even though the institute expends great effort each year encouraging local churches to support the college, American money remains vital for the school to survive. Support from churches in South Africa is gradually increasing, but the majority of the support is still from the States.

The day to day running of the school is handled by a management team. During the furlough of Steve Caulley in the States (2006/2007), the management team consisted of Louw Koopman, Isaac Mguzulwa (the second full-time national teacher), and Walter Msipa (the school secretary).

The school is seeking registration and accreditation with the government and Steve Caulley is a key player in this effort. He has both the experience and academic skills to see the task through to completion. It has been an extremely frustrating task as government officials have learned their way in trying to establish academic policy. The goal-posts have been moved many times and submissions that complied with one set of regulations have been returned to be rewritten to comply with new regulations.

Michael Stanley teaching at SABIThe school is now in its tenth year. Teaching is done by two full time teachers, and missionaries who teach intensive classes to supplement the full time teachers. Michael and Caryl Stanley normally teach an intensive class each year.  Here Michael is teaching a class in Evangelism.

For further information on mission endeavor and leadership training in South Africa the World Convention of Churches of Christ web site has an extensive history of the restoration movement in South Africa (and in many other countries.)