International student finds similarities
As Tina Kamkosi, an international student at Whitworth University, has traveled her life’s journey in Malawi and for two years in Spokane, she sees that “God is faithful and God provides.”
Life’s adventures now open her to be a life-long learner.
|Tina Kamkosi, Whitworth graduate student from Malawi|
She hopes the master’s in business administration (MBA) degree in international management she earns this year will help her be a change agent when she returns to Africa some day.
She would like to do humanitarian aid and human rights work with the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations that make life better for people in Malawi and other parts of Africa.
Her hope and vision now is quite a contrast to how she felt when her mother died while she was in high school. She thought then that God must not love her or God would not have taken away someone she loved and needed.
After her father died while she was studying at the African Bible College in Lilongwe, Malawi, she became part of a missionary family, Bob and Amy Stauffacher. Now they have raised support from their pockets and other donations to cover her tuition. Amy’s parents, the Warricks, house Tina in their home near Whitworth.
“Anyone can be anyone’s family,” she has concluded. “We are human beings, and all have needs. God places us where we are to support each other and to pour love on each other’s lives.
“Every perspective helps me look at life in a different way, not just focusing on myself but giving back to God’s world,” she said.
One way she has done that is through Whitworth’s International Club. As president last year, she developed a team of leaders, promoting “being stewards of what God has given us,” Tina said.
“International students are people with much in common. Too often, we focus only on differences,” she said. “We need to look at our similarities, too. We all need relationships. We all come here to learn in a different culture and from these relationships we learn about ourselves and others.”
Tina finds in relating with U.S. and international students that they develop openness as they become aware that they previously did not see beyond themselves or their cultures.
Realizing she was “close-minded” before she came, she relishes opportunities to learn about herself and others. Whitworth helps her as it engages and involves students to know others, to listen to each other’s stories as a way to add value to their own stories.
Wanting to serve, Tina finds stories about the lives of different people opens her eyes to options.
She participates in Whitworth’s annual International Festival to share the campus’ cultural diversity not only with other students but also with the community.
“It’s a way that people who do not travel can see and learn about other cultures along with being host families,” she said.
Tina believes God has provided a support system through friendships she has made here.
Her late parents were teachers, who were transferred to teach in different communities in Malawi every two years. So she attended a girl’s boarding school in Lilongwe. When she was not admitted to a university, a friend suggested the African Bible College.
“I prayed that if God wanted me there, I would do what God wanted me to do,” Tina said.
With the influence of her mother’s strong faith, Tina said she had “received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior” several times before it stuck. Then she began to lead Bible studies, live her faith and serve the community.
“In Malawi, people receive the Good News, but fall back if no one follows up, so we start by building a relationship with someone, talking about other things. When we have a relationship, we tell about our faith.”
In Malawi, 60 percent are Protestant, 15 percent are Catholic and about 20 percent are Muslim. Tina grew up Presbyterian, attended an Assemblies of God church two years and went back to being Presbyterian.
Having many questions after her mother died, she didn’t want to hear or talk about God’s love in the high school Bible study group.
A missionary took an interest and prayed for her, letting her know God loves her and wanted her “to come back to party.”
“I began to understand that faith is about a journey of trusting God,” she said. “We will have pain. There is no promise of a smooth life, but whatever happens, God has promised never to leave or forsake us. I realized God had carried me through.”
At the African Bible College she majored in biblical studies and communication/journalism. Her mother’s death fund from teaching covered her first year’s tuition. It ran out in her second year.
She prayed for a miracle.
She also asked Cheryln, a Hawaiian woman on a missions trip, to pray for her when she returned. Cheryln not only prayed but also collected funds from friends to cover her next semester.
Tina worked at the college’s community clinic. An Irish woman she met in a Navigators Bible study promised to send her 20 British pounds a month for living expenses. Her aunt, with whom she lived, provided pocket money.
In 2007 at the college, she met Bob, Amy and their young children. Bob and Amy grew up in Spokane. Bob had taught high school in San Diego, where a missionary from African Bible College inspired them to go and serve as missionaries in Malawi.
They went to Malawi in 2007 for a three-year term, supported by family, friends, their San Diego church and Life Center in Spokane.
She took classes Bob taught, visited their home and played with their children, becoming part of their family. After her father died, Amy offered to be there for her as her parents and family.
“God is calling us to be part of your journey, Tina,” they said.
Their term ended in March 2010. She was graduating that June, open to go to graduate school anywhere in the world.
She considered options and applied to Whitworth. The Stauffachers returned to San Diego in early June. She joined them there on June 30. In July, they drove to Amy’s parents in Spokane.
In August, she went with them to Life Center, where Bob and Amy told of their ministry in Malawi and introduced Tina as a member of their family.
In September, she started pre-requisite courses for a master’s degree in business administration.
In 2011, she switched to a master’s in international management, which required another language. With her desire to work in Africa some day, she chose Swahili, which Whitworth just began teaching, because every other year students go to Tanzania.
Visiting Bob and Amy in San Diego for Christmas 2011, they urged her to complete the MBA, too.
Tina has worked on campus not only with the international student affairs office and in the sociology and history department, but also summers doing custodial work.
“It was humbling, helping me realize how important it is to have someone to clean up after us,” Tina said. “We need to respect people who serve us in janitorial work.”
She appreciates that beyond business theory, professors challenge students to relate business to life, ethics and faith, understanding that “God puts us in places to help others move closer to God by the way we live,” Tina said.
“Our lives need to be living testimonies that open ground for relationships, not just telling someone our beliefs,” she said.
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Copyright © January 2013 - The Fig Tree,
Published by The Fig Tree, 1323 S. Perry St., Spokane, WA 99202