When God called Moses to go and deliver the children of Israel from Pharaoh and the Egyptians and bring them into the Promised Land, one would have thought that it would take a few days. However, it took Moses and Aaron several days just to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go and the journey from Egypt to Canaan, which was to take 11 days, according to some Biblical commentators, took 40 years.
The journey to establish the Pan Africa International Students (PAIS) movement has also taken a long time. Not because of disobedience or complaining, as in the case of the children of Israel, but due to preparations and clarification of purpose and the calling. Just like in the life of Moses who was raised in Pharaoh’s palace, then was taken to the wilderness for preparation, I, Ezekiel Jako, have been on such a journey.
BEFORE THE BEGINNING…
Even before I was born, God spoke through two evangelists who prayed over the unborn child in my mother’s womb. They prophesied that the child, who was only two months to birth, would serve God internationally. That child was me. I was brought up in a Christian family and so being a Christian was the norm for me. But soon I discovered that being brought up in a Christian family without strong Christian foundations and discipleship was not good enough. After being challenged and convicted of my sinful nature, I accepted Jesus Christ as the Savior and Lord of my life at the age of 15. I made a decision on the same day to serve God in full-time ministry, a thing that was mocked by my friends and family. For about six years, I was shy about mentioning it, but that burden was consuming me. I finally obeyed the Lord and joined Bible college. That was 36 years ago, and the journey to my current personhood and position started.
And so, after accepting Jesus Christ into my life, I determined to remain faithful to both the general call (of being a Christian) and the specific call (of serving God internationally), even though I did not know of the prophecy then. My mother only remembered it in 2018 when I told her I was invited to work in North America with International Students Ministries Canada. I believe the vision of Pan Africa International Students was conceived back then but was only born last year (2022) under very unique and divine circumstances.
TRAINING, PREPARATION, AND INITIAL MINISTRY
After seven years of wandering in my own wilderness, post being born-again, I joined Pan Africa Christian University, also known as Pan Africa Christian College (PACC). While at PACC, I was appointed the Director of the Christian Service Program. My role was to plan for ministry assignments for both students and faculty, assess their ministry performance, and give a report to the academic committee. The Christian Service Program was part of the graduation requirement such that for a student to graduate, they needed to have successfully participated in weekend ministry six times per semester and be approved by the director. This was the highest role a student could ever have in that context.
After graduating from PACC, I served with the Bible Society of Kenya as Lunyore Bible Translator (September 1989 to June 1997), then Pastor at Nakuru Pentecostal Church (June 1997 to December 1998), Lecturer at Pentecostal Bible College (January 1999), Trainer and Director at Africa Center for Missions (2000 to April 2014), Executive Secretary at the Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA) in charge of Evangelism and Missions in 38 African countries (2014 to 2017) and currently Ottawa City Director, International Student Ministries Canada (2018 to date). And now, by God’s grace and will, Dr. Yaw Perbi and myself are establishing the Pan Africa International Students.
In between, I went for further studies in Missionary education at Bethany International University (BIU) in Singapore (1999 to 2000) which really impacted my life and ministry. At BIU, the emphasis was on character and ministry skills rather than just academics. The philosophy was ‘Know’, ‘Be’, and ‘Do’. Again, at BIU, I was appointed the international students’ coordinator, and upon graduation, my role was to give an orientation to international students who came to study at BIU. I mentored several students from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Indonesia, India, and Nepal.
CALLED TO CANADA TO SERVE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
God called me to serve with International Student Ministries Canada (ISMC) in a very unique and divine way. In 2017, Richmond Baptist Church, one of my supporting churches in Canada, invited me to visit them for five days. To my amazement, when I applied for my visitor’s visa, I was granted a 10-year work visa instead. God does work in mysterious ways!
Little did I know that this was a Macedonian call to come and work with International Student Ministries in Canada. Yet at the time of getting the visa, I knew nothing about ISMC. I was officially accepted as a career staff with ISMC in 2018 and I have served as the Ottawa City Director since then.
THE VISION OF PAN AFRICA INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Due to COVID and in response to the rising tide of missions from Africa to the nations, Dr. Yaw Perbi, the immediate former president of ISMC, and I, being Africa’s missionaries to the West and both staff of International Student Ministries Canada, have come together to initiate Pan Africa International Students (PAIS) to harness both centrifugal and centripetal movements of international students and scholars from and to Africa.
We at PAIS believe that God is calling us to be a catalyst in mobilizing the body of Christ in Kenya and around Africa to seize the rare opportunity God is placing at our doorsteps. God is sovereignly bringing students from Unreached People Groups to study in our universities so that they might find Him. It is God’s strategy as we see it in Acts 17:24-27. He determines the exact times and places where people live and His purpose for doing this is that people may seek Him and find Him (Acts 17:27). These international students often come from the most unreached countries and people groups. For years, we have struggled to reach them in their own contexts and countries without much success. But God is bringing them to study in our universities next to our own houses and neighborhoods. We can’t let this opportunity pass us by! It is a ‘kairos’ moment for the Church in Africa!
The other burden we have at PAIS, which is equally important, is to give cross-cultural training and basic orientation to those African students from Christian backgrounds who go for further studies abroad so that they maintain their Christian testimony and are missional while studying abroad. We realize that some of our young people get caught up with foreign cultures and religious practices and soon abandon their faith. Some even stop pursuing their academic goals and they end up as a disaster. Instead of being a blessing to their families, they become a burden and a big regret. PAIS wants to change that. So, in a nutshell, PAIS has a twofold mandate:
- CENTRIFUGAL: To prepare those African students from Christian backgrounds who go for further studies abroad by giving them the necessary cross-cultural orientation and training. As such, they remain committed Christians, stick to their academic goals and are missional in impact.
- CENTRIPETAL: To make the international students who travel over to study in our neighboring African universities feel at home while away from home, ultimately helping them discover Jesus Christ and make Him known.
THE POTENTIAL OF REACHING INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
A disturbing fact largely unknown to many people is that in the recent past, international students have been recruited for terrorist activities and other inhumane happenings. It is our prayer and desire that our ministry will touch them before they are recruited otherwise. If they are touched by God’s love, the whole world will live in peace.
The potential impact when we reach international students with Christ’s love is enormous. Many of them become strategic leaders of their nations, having influence over the advance of the mission of God in their home countries. Some take the Gospel back to Unreached People Groups and “closed” countries, those where religious freedoms are restricted. Some go back to plant churches in their cities and nations. Those who become Christ’s ambassadors to their own countries will not normally face visa, support, or language problems.
At PAIS we want to see empowered international students from and in Africa, impacting the world positively through Jesus Christ. Join us in our mission to partner universities, local churches and Christian organizations for synergy in loving, training, equipping and sending international students for global impact.