We come to the last interview in our series with Philip who is in his first year at George Whitefield College. We hope you have enjoyed the series! Along with Seme, Philip will study the George Whitefield College (GWC) certificate course this year, with a view to commence the GWC Bachelor of Theology at the beginning of 2020.
Philip’s family celebrated the birth of his first child in November last year, and in this interview he shares of life away from his family, and the encouragement he has received in his study of the Scriptures in the midst of the challenges he faces.
How are your subjects going?
We have eight subjects: Biblical Theology, Introduction to New Testament, Numbers, Galatians, English, Study Skills, Public Speaking, and Church Administration and Management. In each subject I’m doing well, because the assignments come one after the other, rather than all at once. When you’re doing an assignment, you really have to look for sources. It really helps me to understand the subjects in a logical way, systematically. At the moment, I’m quite strong in most of the subjects.
What challenges have you found at the college?
The weather here is really different from South Sudan. It have to put on heavy clothes to prevent myself from freezing. In addition to that, I’m still learning the culture here. It is a little bit different. I’m also separated from my family. It can be difficult to concentrate when my studies when I think back to my family. The academics here are different from South Sudan. The workload is heaver at George Whitefield College, and I have to prepare a timetable to allocate my time wisely and utilise it properly. But I’m hopeful that I will cope with the system.
My language, the way I pronounce my English, can sound different, and sometimes my lecturers can mistake what I say. But despite that, we are doing well. They are friendly and we really enjoy being together. Most of them will come and ask me about my situation in the country and how I am finding life here, and how I am coping with making friendships with my classmates.
What successes have you found?
I’ve really found it so interesting — the teaching here is a good model for me. The lectures are detailed and understandable. I really enjoy it. Some of my friends here are also getting me to learn about different cultures, which I really appreciate because the culture here and the way people behave in South Africa is completely different, and I look forward to taking back what I’ve learned when I go back to South Sudan.
Tell us about your fellowship group.
Our fellowship group is really interesting. Along with helping us with preaching and presentations, the group allows us to freely speak our ideas amongst ourselves as students. We feel free to ask our chaplain, who is a lecturer, about whatever we don’t know, even difficult things. Our chaplain is a really wonderful guy. We feel free to say anything, and he gives us advice, like about how education is not hard, what you just need to do is to put in effort so that you will succeed.
What have you learned at the college that is new or surprising to you?
Our biblical theology lectures are really so amazing – how the Old Testament is connected to the New Testament. You cannot understand the New Testament well without reading the Old Testament. When you’re reading about Old Testament, don’t think about it as a separate book or a separate body from the New Testament. But both of them are one. What is in the New Testament is a fulfilment of what has happened in the Old Testament. And to understand what has happened in the New Testament, you need to read the Old Testament. In Galatians, we also learn about justification by faith. My lecturer was taking me through and it is really so amazing that we are not justified because of our deeds. It is only by grace of God that we are saved.
I found it interesting that it is very easy to approach a lecturer if you inform him or her about your visitation. It is simple to address them, just like anybody is using a name, rather than using titles. For example, you can just address the dean of our school by his first name, and he will just respond to you and pay attention to you. It was one of the big cultural differences I discovered here.
How’s your family back home going?
I think my family back home is doing very well. Despite all the hardships of their country, they are surviving. My wife now has a small amount of work that allows her to sustain her and our small child. Because my mother-in-law is at her house, our child can be with her while my wife goes out to do that work. She works for some hours and comes back around 2-3pm to breastfeed the child.
It’s only that they’re missing me and thinking about me as I’m thinking about them. They may also be thinking about their security, that they’re not safe because I’m not there. Though I can do nothing if something were to happen to them, I think that God is with them. My wife is a Christian and I can see the fruit of Christianity is in her. She takes things simply, not complaining to me or putting me under lots of pressure. If there are sufferings, she leaves me a message to say that I should call them. But these can be unexpected things that can happen anytime, that might happen even if I were there – like operations, or the sickness of the child.
Has your child been sick at all?
Yeah. When my child fell sick, my wife would call me and she’s struggling and I would take her to the Bible and talk to her, just give her my ideas, and I realise that she would really remember the words I gave her. But we need to pray for ourselves, as we are human. Being a human means that you don’t have the knowledge of God, but you have limited thinking. You might think, ‘A, B, C is happening to me, why should I bother and waste my time?’. But since Christ is in us, he helps us in the challenges we are going through. Whether it’s reading your Bible to strengthen yourself, or getting words to help someone who is suffering from something.
My family is really missing me. My country is going through a lot of struggles, and the community is struggling as well, so my family must be struggling also. But what we need to do is we need to pray for one another. And also that my academic year or semester will not be disturbed by my family issues. My family and my academics are both a part of me, so if there are challenges on one side the other will be affected. I am really praying that both sides will really give me freedom to do well — to finish my assignments well and to concentrate on the exams coming on the third of next month. I will only have enough sources in my head to approach my exam paper if there are no interruptions from my family. I’m really praying hard that God Almighty might in his power sustain and protect and to heal my family in any disease, any lack, to provide them food, to at least give me to space to deal with my academic business.
We hope you enjoyed that hearing from Philip. Why not take a minute to give thanks to God and pray for him? We have included a summary of prayer points below.
You can also check out the other interviews we did with other students in our series: Elias, Kasmiro, Alex and Seme. We also did a bonus interview with John, a recent graduate who is passing on what he has learned at college as a lecturer at Bishop Gwynne College, South Sudan.
Give thanks for
- The faith of Philip’s wife in the Lord and the fruit of the Spirit she displays in their relationship
- Philip’s growth in his knowledge of the scriptures and the wonderful truths of justification by faith alone
- The kindness and helpfulness of lecturers at college, particularly in his fellowship group
Please pray for
- Philip’s adjustments to the new cultural and academic environment at George Whitefield College in South Africa
- Endurance for Philip over the course of his studies so that he can concentrate and do well in his subjects
- God’s protection over Philip’s family while he is overseas and strength for his wife who is looking after the new child