When he was a teen, Benjamin Chimwenga Simba had a dream that shook him to his core. He saw his mother die, but then God spoke to him, saying: “Do not worry. I am with you, and I have chosen you.”
He woke up sobbing. His parents came to his room, prayed with him, and reassured him it was just a dream. But two weeks later, his mother passed away suddenly of cerebral malaria.
Simba was devastated by the loss, but also reassured by the words from his dream – and inspired.
“I felt the conviction that led me to accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior,” he said. “I felt the zeal to continue to preach the gospel.”
That zeal stayed with him, leading him to ordination in the Methodist Church in Kenya and ultimately to Perkins School of Theology in 2020. Simba received his Master of Theological Studies at graduation ceremonies in May.
In Kenya, Simba spent a dozen years in ministry, starting in 2007, becoming ordained in 2010, and working his way up in the ranks of the church: first as a circuit minister, then a superintendent, an education secretary, a bishop in Mombasa, and finally as a conference secretary. Armed with a recommendation from the presiding bishop in Kenya, the Rev. Joseph Ntombura Mwaine, he came to Perkins in 2020.
“I had a good impression of Perkins, because many of my professors at Kenya Methodist University [where he earned his undergraduate degree] had studied at Perkins,” he said. “And some of the most successful ministers in Kenya had studied here as well.”
Even the customs official who reviewed his paperwork when he arrived in the U.S. knew about Perkins; when the official noticed Simba’s plans to study at Perkins, he told him he was headed to a great school.
“What drew me here was the multicultural aspect of the Perkins community, and the sense of community between the faculty and the students,” Simba said. “I love the teamwork, the aspect of working together to empower the community.”
While at Perkins, Simba juggled his studies with a full calendar of extracurricular activities as well as volunteer leadership in his church. He served as a chapel assistant, coordinating weekly worship services in Perkins Chapel and sometimes preaching. He was also involved in the Black Seminarians Association and the International Students Association.
Simba also volunteered regularly at Oasis Global Mission Church, a United Methodist congregation which serves African immigrants and refugees but welcomes people of all nationalities. The Rev. Mary Miriti-Jackson (M. Div., 2011) is the congregation’s pastor. The church celebrates in the African-style of worship in two worship services every week on Sunday – one in English and one in Kiswahili, at Ridgewood Park United Methodist Church in northeast Dallas. Simba has led worship, preaches, heads the men’s fellowship, runs a Bible study, assists with the youth fellowship and coordinates a weekly prayer line that brings together people from 14 different states.
Simba’s wife, Rose Mnyazi Faki, remains in Kenya, but they manage to connect three times a day to talk and pray together. “I know what’s happening there and she knows what’s happening here,” he said.
Guiding him through this journey is his favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He’s also nurtured by time spent in daily prayer and meditation, listening to gospel music, singing, or pausing to look at the birds on his walk from his apartment to Perkins.
He also enjoys writing poetry and hopes to one day publish some of his work.
What’s next? Simba would like to find an appointment in a church in the U.S., whether serving a ministry to immigrants or in a parish setting. He loves serving people in ministry; as to where he will do that, going forward, he’s leaving that to God.
“Whether I’m ministering to the needs of the people in Africa or in the U.S., most of the need are the same,” he said. “People who are sick, people who are stressed, people who are bereaved. Although there are cultural differences, as a minister I’ve come to realize all human beings are created by God and need the love of God. I want to minister to them and preach to them about how God loves them, and that there’s always hope.”