Dr. Ken Hobby, professor of psychology, enjoys many pastimes such as collecting old Asian tableware from various dynasties and practicing kuntao, a form of combat martial arts.
Perhaps his most important endeavor, one he claims is his “passion project,” is providing a scholarship program that aids men training to be preachers and teachers with the Namwianga Mission in Zambia. The students train through the George Benson Christian College (GBCC).
“I did a lot of driving in the rural areas, but there are no churches out there,” Hobby said. “The area is so remote, only Zambians can really live there, so we started looking for people willing to go.”
Hobby became involved with the conception of the GBCC scholarship program in 1999. The program covers tuition as well as room and board. The college provides studies for one to three years (depending on where the student goes after graduating) and supports the students for a month afterward until they settle into a congregation.
Some areas deemed too inhospitable or dangerous, like the Angola border, have recently opened up, allowing graduates of the program to reach the people there.
According to Hobby, physically arriving at an area is only half the battle. Whether or not a congregation can be planted depends on local authority. To establish a church, one must get permission from the chief.
To remedy these situations, a medical group is brought every year to help the teaching team get permission.
“If you bring in a medical team, (the chief) is like, ‘You bet,'” Hobby said.
Thanks to teams forming relationships with local groups, the GBCC has established a good reputation, as well as over 250 congregations in the last two years.
According to Hobby, the Zambian government ultimately decides where teams and graduates go, which means sometimes the administration is not allowed to send teams where it wants to. However, this does not always prove detrimental.
“The Zambian government usually sends people to places where no one wants to go,” Hobby said. “Luckily, these are the same areas where churches need to be.”
Once a preacher has settled in a congregation, he is no longer financially supported by the GBCC. According to Hobby, this empowers the preachers to do their own work.
“This process is very subversive, and gets them embedded all over Zambia while the government pays for them,” Hobby said.
The work in Zambia is not new to Hobby. His parents were missionaries working in the area, where he was raised for 15 years before returning to the U.S.
“I call myself an African-American Indian, since I’m half Cherokee, one-sixteenth Mohawk, and grew up in Africa,” Hobby said. “I’m a real mixed up person.”