Interview with Nupanga Weanzana
by Tiffany Randall, Project and Events Manager, Langham Partnership International
Nupanga Weanzana grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Wanting to become a lawyer, Nupanga studied law for two years after high school at the University of Kinshasa. Though successful in his studies, he was involved in a car accident that prevented him from continuing. Eventually he became a missionary with the Evangelical Free Church and learned of his desire to study theology. With the support of his local church and the district council, Nupanga received a scholarship from the Evangelical Free Church and enrolled at the Bangui Evangelical School of Theology (BEST) in 1985.
Following graduation in 1990 with a Masters degree in Theology, Nupanga and his wife, Angele, returned to Congo where Nupanga served as director of a theological school, pastored a church and worked in denominational leadership roles. In 1995 Nupanga was invited to return to BEST as Executive Vice-President and teacher of Old Testament. After four years with these responsibilities Nupanga and his family, now including five children, moved to South Africa where he completed a doctorate in Old Testament at the University of Pretoria. While there he also served on the pastoral staff of an international church.
Returning to Bangui in 2003, Nupanga served for four years as Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament. He has written commentaries on several Old Testament books published in the “Africa Bible Commentary” in 2006 and is currently writing several textbooks for seminary students. Nupanga and Angele reside on the BEST campus with one of their five children. Their other children are in South Africa, Ghana, and two are studying at Wheaton Academy in the United States.
In July of 2007, the Board of the Seminary appointed Nupanga to be fifth president of BEST in its thirty-year history. He assumed this responsibility on September 29, 2007. Nupanga teaches Old Testament (Biblical Hebrew, Old Testament Exegesis and Theology).
When I looked at a map I saw that BEST is located smack dab in the center of Africa.
Yes, in the national language, they call the country the “heart of Africa.”
So you have students coming from all over?
BEST was founded by the Association of Evangelicals in Africa to serve all French-speaking countries, not only the Central African Republic (CAR), which includes Madagascar. In the past most of the students came from the DRC but now that situation has changed and the students are coming primarily from CAR.
Can you please describe the faculty?
There are six full-time faculty members. And in fact, BEST serves other schools who have so few faculty that they depend on BEST to send faculty to teach.
How many students do you have?
There are 80 students in the theological program, 40 in the women’s school and 70 in the distance learning program. The bad thing is that in the last five or six years, the country was not stable because of the rebellion. The rebels were on the campus in 2003 and they stole a few computers, a TV, and even some cars. Now the country is stable. There is some fighting in the very far north of the country on the border with Sudan where you can find some rebels, but the rest of the country is stable. BEST has really grown in the last few years.
I’ve heard that you’re involved with work related to HIV/AIDS?
We had a conference with Global Strategies last November for about 300 people, pastors, lay people and leaders of organizations, who came for a week. HIV is a big problem, and I think only the church can help people because in many countries now in Africa, HIV became a kind of business. If you want to get money from organizations in the West, just start an HIV/AIDS program so you can get money for yourself, not really to help. So we need to be very careful with giving money.
Is HIV/AIDS a part of your curriculum?
Yes, we have a course on HIV. We have two parts in the course. The first part is to give them a biblical foundation on how to deal with HIV issues from a biblical point of view. And then the second is the practical way, for example counseling, to mobilize churches, to be sensitive to the situation. For me it’s really excellent.
It seems that so many countries and institutions are denying the reality of AIDS.
The issue that remains a little bit difficult, or difficult to understand, is the use of condoms. That is a big problem! They think that using condoms will increase immorality. But we are trying to convince them. When we had the meeting in November, I put a sentence in there to encourage them to use condoms, but it’s very difficult for people to accept. Yet we are talking about it.
I’d love to know more about Langham Scholar Moussa Bongoyok and his work at BEST.
Moussa is doing a very good job. He is someone very dedicated and very committed to the Lord and to serve Him. He is teaching all courses around Missiology and also around Islam. He’s also the Academic Dean of the school. When I became president I thought he was the right person.
How many students are in the doctoral program?
We have now only two students. There were initially four. See, in the French system, you need first to do what we call “Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies,” or DEA, for two years. And later you can really start with the doctoral studies. There were four in the DEA but only two could meet the requirements to begin doctoral research. We are planning to begin a doctoral program in Biblical Studies and also in Missiology, especially with Moussa. We need more faculty, that is a really big thing.
I’ve heard that another Langham scholar might be returning soon.
Yes, I think this scholar will complete his studies by the end of this year. His dissertation topic is Hermeneutics, a comparison between the text from the Old Testament that Paul uses in the New Testament.
I’ve heard that you are connected with Langham Partnership International (LPI) in multiple ways.*
I love LPI, and I would like to continue to partner with them. I think we need Langham. Otherwise we cannot complete this and without Langham we cannot get scholars like Moussa, Mossai, etc, etc. So Langham comes at the right time to help us, to help the church in Africa. We are very grateful for that.
I wish I spoke French!
This is my message, everywhere I’m traveling: Don’t forget the French-speaking countries! The risk is there. Because you cannot speak the language, it’s easy to forget about us! You see, it’s easy to find a teacher in the Anglophone countries because you can get people from the States and the UK. But it’s not the same with the French. There are very few French people who can come.
*Note: Dr. Nupanga Weanzana and Dr. Moussa Bongoyok have attended Langham Partnership Regional Council meetings for Francophone Africa.