Malawi is among the poorest countries in the world, but Moses Khombe, who completed his Ph.D. in December from BYU's David O. McKay School of Education and plans to walk at April graduation, feels that his education has equipped him with the necessary skills to contribute to his country's rise to greater prosperity ? and he has the faith to do it.
Khombe, 40, has had a busy year. He currently works as the country director for Nu Skin-funded projects in Malawi, including Nourish the Children and the School of Agriculture for Family Independence. He also serves as the National Organizing Secretary of the Malawi Congress Party. In his spare time he travels to remote villages, meeting with the people and seeing what they need. He and his wife, Ida, have three small children.
"I was amazed when I came to BYU that we started most classes with prayers seeking God's guidance," Khombe said. "At first I thought that Mormons [were] bad people because of stories I used to hear about them from other Americans. After staying in Utah for seven years... it's a best place where one can find real faith, it's a best place where love is demonstrated and Christ is preached."
It was not always Khombe's plan to come to Utah. In 2002 during a severe drought in Malawi, Nu Skin provided aid by distributing VitaMeal (a fortified food) to over 70,000 starving children. Khombe was one of the first local people to connect with Nu Skin and help with the initiative.
Impressed with Khombe's efforts, Nu Skin invited him to visit Utah and BYU.
"It was during that first official trip that I fell in love with Utah and BYU," Khombe said. "Beyond academic excellence and a beautiful campus, what I most recognize and admire about BYU is the community. The spiritual foundation, highly accessible faculty, and many student-led organizations contributed to the unique experience I had."
Khombe applied for and received Nu Skin's Educate the Children scholarship. The company has sponsored both his master's degree from BYU in public administration and his Ph.D. from the McKay School's Educational Inquiry, Measurement and Evaluation Program.
During his Ph.D. program, Khombe focused on education policy because he saw it as a way to help improve humanitarian efforts in Africa. For his doctoral dissertation he compiled statistics on teacher demand in Malawi in order to help the government understand the current status of teacher shortage.
"With my education [I] am better positioned to compete for any position," Khombe said. "The education I have received at the McKay School of Education has helped me to treat people with virtuous qualities like care, respect [and] honesty."
Khombe, while not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like most of his peers at BYU, is a man of strong faith and devotion.
McKay School's Department of Teacher Education Professor Eula Monroe got to know Khombe serving along side him in the campus organization CrossSeekers Christian Student Fellowship when he was president. She was impressed that when he would go home to Africa, he would often visit small villages in Malawi, set up a sound system and play Christian music. As the crowd gathers he shares the gospel with them and passes out copies of the Bible, usually the first the villagers have ever seen.
"If I were to use three words to describe Moses, they would be humble, faithful and visionary - all [qualities] which will serve his country well," Monroe said. "My life has been impacted in very positive ways because of my association with him."
While some have urged Khombe to remain in the United States, he feels that he is needed in his native country. He looks forward to using his education to help improve life among the nation's citizens.
"One of [my father's] statements that's engraved on my heart is 'life never defies the devoted person,'" Khombe said. "[Education is] not about being smart, but [about] perseverance. . . . Don't let the doubts themselves defeat you."
Writer: Whitney Wilcox