Interview with Mrs. Megan Baxter of the Theological Education by Extension College in Johannesburg, South Africa

DOM/ Global Ministries welcomes Megan Baxter, executive director at the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Ms. Baxter has been a global partner since 1995.

Having enjoyed helping people practically through the charitable Salvation Army in the area of public relations, Baxter received and answered a call from God to study theological education at Geneva. Upon completion of her education in 1989, she received an invitation by the then president of TEE College to join the staff. TEE College’s motto of equipping anyone anywhere for ministry and its focus on ecumenical, contextualized education attracted Baxter. “It was a reflection of the Kingdom,” she says passionately. Starting out tutoring students and grading papers,  Baxter soon discovered that the more she learned about TEE College, the more interested she became. So in 1995, Baxter began working full-time for TEE College in charge of regional tutorials and fundraising.

Early in her ministry at TEE College Ms. Baxter witnessed the impact of a contextualized theological education taken to the people, particularly in KwaZulu- Natal, in the town Eshowe, where she tutored a group there. Once in this rural town, she and her translator went to greet the Zulu chief, which was a customary practice, only to discover that his crawl had been burned to the ground just a day or two earlier from an act of political violence. Back then, the all-male tutorial group met in the local Methodist Church hall for class.  After the tutorial on Jesus Christ and his people, while they were enjoying conversation and fellowship over tea and refreshments, they agreed that they all felt like Christian brothers though they were politically-opposed enemies once they left the room and that Christian unity had to start somewhere. Enthusiastically together in the spirit of Christ, these men organized a peace march in Eshowe and the very next Saturday took action in this rural town.  United, these political enemies along with an ecumenical representation of churches not only marched but rebuilt the chief’s crawl that had been burned down. To Baxter’s knowledge, there hasn’t been any political violence in that area since that day in 1995. This united Christian witness of people actually living out their theology had a profound and lasting impression on Baxter and fuels her passion for the vision and mission of TEE College.  She thanks superb partners like Global Ministries for helping to make that possible.

Global Ministries’ financial support and volunteers allow TEE to reallocate budgeted funds to support more regional TEE tutorial sites. As a result, this year TEE has been able to support tutorials at St. Albans Prison in Port Elizabeth, led by a colored female graduate of TEE College who felt a burning call to start a prison ministry there. Having TEE tutorials in one of the most violent maximum security prisons, known as “little Beirut” because of the daily stabbings of inmates, has totally transformed many of its prisoners in for life, murder, rape, etc. Not only have these men come to know God behind these oppressive high walls topped with bobbed wire, but they have started leading prayer and weekly Bible study that even wardens now attend. One prisoner being moved to a medium security prison for good behavior, for example, requested to remain in this maximum security prison just to fulfill his time to lead scripture.  Additionally, prisoners have organized a group called “Call Out Against Crime” to take a stand against gang activity leading to senseless violence and murder. Participating prisoners also offer peer-to-peer counseling of new inmates and provide protection against prison gang members.  Indeed, TEE tutorials are having profound success and have encouraged ubuntu even among prisoners!

Yes, TEE students are doing amazing things with the Lord’s help through our global partnership. Even in a global recession, TEE College student enrollment has increased. Eager students awaken early mornings to work or sell corn to those on the way to work just to raise their tuition fee, $18500 Rand for a full Bachelor degree which includes all the course material. This amount is still very expensive to most South Africans though it may sound cheap compared to American university costs. With 40% state unemployment and HIV/AIDS rates, South Africans are hungry for God’s leadership in the global village. There’s more work to be done!

TEE College is challenged with providing an affordable theological education for those whom God has called to spearhead sustainable projects in their communities and churches started in their TEE studies, and the students’ projects also have unmet needs. For example, the student HIV/AIDS study project on education and prevention needs funding for education and prevention checkups for entire poverty-stricken communities; Another project that helps street dwellers to write CVs for jobs needs shelter, stationery  for their CVs, computers and internet service for job searches; Another project that teaches local women to sew and knit to create income for themselves needs start-up materials, sewing machines and knitting kits; and finally one student who has organized a free optometry clinic, offering eye exams and free spectacles to those in need in his community, needs money for advertising, transportation costs and getting prescriptions for the spectacles. Indeed, the educational needs are great and the resources are limited, but the people still come to TEE eager and hopeful to learn how to practically change their communities and churches.

Partnership with Global Ministries has so many mutual benefits. It provides spiritual and moral support to our partner, Megan Baxter, encouraging her during those dry seasons to remain faithful. She says, “Knowing that we have accountability but also true partners in every sense of the word, gives us the momentum to push pass the opposition and challenges.” Those who financially contribute to TEE College through GM see the rebuilding of communities long devastated and still challenged with scarcity but filled with hope and possibility. Because of partnership, communities are being transformed to reflect the Kingdom of God in the earth.