Dr. Stephen Nzita: Persuaded by God
Dr. Stephen Nzita is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has also been known to the West as The Kingdom of Congo (1492), Independent State of Congo (1885), Belgium Congo (1906) and Zaire (1974).
“The many changes of this nation’s name reflect not only its turbulent history and chronic instability, but also the very visible hand of God that has kept this country one and expecting His deliverance,” Nzita says.
Growing up in a country torn by political, social and economic upheaval, Nzita dreamed of the opportunities higher education could bring. But universities in the Congo were available only for the “elites” who then became the nation’s leaders. “Public policy was in their hands,” Nzita says. “They have done so much harm to the country since independence. I hoped that one day I would go to a university and maybe…establish one. God honored that.”
Nzita was working in a forgotten corner of the Congo when his opportunity came. “At the time I was working only with a high school diploma,” he says. “I had taught French in a middle school the year before, and then become director of the boarding school at a mission’s nursing school and hospital.” Through a Christian middle school teacher who came from Ohio to visit the mission field, God opened a door for Nzita to travel to the United States and attend college. “The providence of God led me to Geneva College and I am grateful.”
Nzita graduated from Geneva in 1986. Although he decided to make his home in the United States, he remained actively involved with education and development in his home country. In 1992, he helped found The International Christian University and the Christian Medical School in Congo. Despite his deep commitment to the project, Nzita was unwilling to leave the United States to work with the university more directly. “I worked by proxy,” Nzita says. “Delegating the vision and holding to my United States immigrant alien status, as well as the security and stability that America could give.”
But it wasn't long before Nzita felt God pulling him back to Africa. As he tells the story, he borrows from the prophet’s words in Jeremiah 20:7. “God persuaded me to come and deliver badly needed equipment and support for the university and the medical school — a two-week trip — and I was persuaded; He is stronger than I and has prevailed, for little did I know that this was going to be a nine-year ordeal way beyond the six-month limit an immigrant alien can stay out of the United States without jeopardizing his status. He clipped my wings and stripped me of any thing I thought I had and hardened the hearts of friends and foes. My only choice was to stay in the Congo and do His will.”
Undergoing intense scrutiny from government and criticism from family and friends, Nzita returned to the Congo. “While there was no question that I was in the Congo by divine appointment and on a call of duty, the cruel reality was that I had no way out. I could not return to America. All my resources had dried up. My two-week supply of provisions could not make it. I could only cry to God.”
Two years later, Nzita says that God has restored what the locust had eaten. “He gave us a better campus and made the university programs stronger and pro Christo et patria! We have a clearer vision and a better focus.” The International Christian University and the Christian Medical School in Congo now have five distinct schools, and are working to provide master’s and Ph.D. training for their faculty and staff.
“Looking back now, and facing real life or death issues, I must say that the most valuable lesson I learned at Geneva was about the ‘covenant,’” Nzita says. “I was introduced to a God who makes a covenant with a man or a people. At Geneva, the Reformed perspective prepares the student to understand that God is sovereign…He keeps His covenant. His presence is our comfort. We have the guarantee of divine protection, and we can depend with confidence on the divine promise. He is reliable and trustworthy. So we have to relinquish what we cannot keep and let God have His way.”
- Jenny (Bower '05) Pichura and Dr. Stephen Nzita '86