The Journey Must Go On!
The road has been long; the journey as been rough; the struggles have been many. Yet through it all, I have seen God bid me come higher, holding on to His unmistakable guiding hand.
I grew up looking to the snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro. From our Tanzanian village of Suji, the mountains seemed insurmountable, reaching to the skies. Born in an Adventist home, privileged to be raised by Christian standards, I had more than the mountains on which to focus my life. Early in my childhood, my parents taught me that nothing in life mattered as much as faith in God and reliance upon His Word.
I wanted to be a teacher, like my father. My mother, a gifted homemaker, knew exactly how to motivate her children. But our village had nothing more than a primary school. So as a teenager I was sent to a teacher-training school 1,000 kilometers away. By 18,1 was a primary school teacher. My father was not satisfied. He urged me to study further. I left home for the nearest Adventist school, Bugema Missionary College, in Uganda. The cost was high, the environment new and strange, but Adventist education was worth pursuing, and it made all the difference in my life.
After completing my education there, I returned to my village to teach science and mathematics. When my students achieved the number two position in state government examinations, I knew I could make it as a teacher. Even as I breathed the fresh air of success as a teacher, I could feel the rumblings of strange winds from another direction. The winds of freedom were blowing across the African continent. Tanzania was no exception. Political leaders were conscious of the need for trained national leadership. The Tanganyikan National Union sponsored me to study abroad, and I chose Emmanuel Missionary College, later to become Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
Armed with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, I was ready to return in 1964 to serve a free Tanzania. But the government offered to extend the sponsor-ship for a graduate program in education, and I joined the California State University at Fresno. Two blessings awaited me there: I got my master's degree and I met Siphiwe, soon to be my wife.
I returned to Tanzania in 1966, married, and began my government educational career. For the next 20 years, I worked for the state, using the opportunity to be a witness for my faith and to influence peers and policies for the good of Adventism.
Test of loyalty
My first test of loyalty came in my first appointment as a teacher at a public (government) secondary school. I told my headmaster about my faith as a Seventh-day Adventist and requested Sabbath privileges. The headmaster had no power to grant such requests, and he sought advice from the Ministry of Education. The assistant director of the ministry gave permission so long as the syllabus was covered by holding classes on other days. I rejoiced. But my joy was premature, as the director of education insisted that no such special privilege was possible. "If one is granted Saturday off," he argued, "another may ask for Friday, also on the basis of religion." I explained my position to the director. Getting nowhere, I told him I would have to resign my position rather than disobey my God. To my amazement, the matter was dropped. I learned a valuable lesson: The God who commands also enables.
After several years of teaching, I was appointed headmaster (principal) of a Lutheran Secondary School at Mwenge. Wherever we served, my wife and I made our work a means for witness as well, usually by starting a branch Sabbath School. We did this at Mwenge, targeting our witness to the town of Singida. Eventually a church was organized there.
As the head of Mwenge school, I had an opportunity to experiment with an educational philosophy that had been incubating in me over the years. Under the inviting title, "Education for Self-reliance," I aimed to transform Mwenge into a model institution where staff and students would not only implement the routine curriculum, but also adopt self-reliance as a goal for the institution and its community. The experiment succeeded so well that the then-president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, visited the school and commended its accomplishments. Regional and national media covered the school's activities as well.
Not long after this, I received a presidential appointment to be the district director for development. The job had prestige, power, and a good salary, and one should think twice before turning down a presidential appointment. But I loved the classroom, and reluctantly declined the offer. Unexpectedly, my action created a backlash: misunderstand-ing that I harbored negative attitudes toward the government. The result? I received a governmental reprimand and a demotion.
However, I had learned early in life that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). A few years after my demotion, I transferred to the University of Dar es Salaam as a lecturer, an opening that eventually led to the completion of doctoral studies.
A national responsibility
In 1978 came another presidential appointment, this time to be chief education officer. The job involved supervision of more than 80,000 teachers and heading a number of departments, with 10 directors answerable to me. I did not expect this appointment, for I thought I was under disfavor for declining the previous presidential appointment. But God has a way to change things when we follow His directions. I accepted the new offer and served in that national responsibility for seven years.
The new office provided me with opportunities to improve the quality of elementary education in the country. Upon my recommendation, the government adopted a five-day week for primary schools, an action that delighted Seventh-day Adventist teachers and students. I traveled widely to many countries in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Wherever I visited, my profession became an avenue to let the light of Christ shine. Sabbath and my Adventist lifestyle became conversation starters with colleagues from many countries.
A tug at my heart
But then came a sudden knock. Or should I say a tug at my heart? While attending the General Conference session in 1985 at New Orleans, I had a chance meeting with Roland McKenzie, then principal of Solusi College in Zimbabwe. Just a joke, perhaps, but I remember telling him that should he need a teacher at Solusi, he did not need to look too far. Dr. McKenzie must have taken me seriously. Or perhaps God did. Soon I received a call to join the Solusi faculty.
From the village at the foothills of Kilimanjaro to Solusi, the road is long and twisted. My village is where Adventism began in Tanzania. Solusi is the Battle Creek of Adventism in southern Africa. I took it as an honor to join Solusi College. In 1987 I became part of that great historic institution. After serving for a few years as professor of education and mathematics, I was appointed the first black African principal of that college.
My journey was nearly complete. All the pieces of the puzzle were coming together. The twists and turns of my professional career, the jobs I had held, the friends I had made, the governmental influence I had gained—everything seemed to jell with a purpose. My agenda for Solusi became clear: it should become a university. Upgrading of facilities, negotiations with authorities, prayer and hard work of a dedicated faculty and students led to Solusi's gaining a university charter from the Zimbabwe Government in 1994.
However, three years before that, I moved to Kenya to be the vice-chancellor of the University of Eastern Africa, near the town of Baraton. Within months, tragedy struck. The companion of my life for 25 years, Siphiwe, was suddenly called to rest. I cried out. Why? Why should this have happened to us?
Suffering often raises questions. And there were many in my mind. A statement from Ellen White brought me much courage and comfort: "In the future life the mysteries that here have annoyed and disappointed us will be made plain. We shall see that our seemingly unanswered prayers and disappointed hopes have been among our greatest blessing" (The Ministry of Healing, p. 474).
How true! Our disappointments turn to become God's appointments. That is the lesson I have learned in my long journey of faith, work, and witness. Two years ago the Lord led me to meet Ruth Sihiangu, former head of the nursing sciences department at the University of Zimbabwe. My remarriage has not only helped in my emotional recovery, but together Ruth and I have clasped God's hand to continue the journey that He has set before us.
Mishael S. Muze (Ph.D., University of Dar es Salaam) is the vice-chancellor of the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. Address: P. 0. Box 2500, Eldoret, Kenya.