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College pastor Steve Briix and his family will move to South Africa where he will serve as aca­demic dean at a sem­inary. Steve Briix | Courtesy

When Steve and Tanya Briix asked their kids if they wanted to move to South Africa, the kids had one question:

Can we take the ham­sters?

“I said, ‘You wanna move to South Africa?’ and our kids said ‘What does that mean?’” Tanya explained, “It means you get two suit­cases: one for clothes and one for toys, and that’s it.” No room for the ham­sters, unfor­tu­nately.

Local pastor Steve Briix and his family are moving to South Africa this summer, where he will assume the position of aca­demic dean at the Inter­na­tional College of Bible and Mis­sions in Johan­nesburg, South Africa. This relo­cation comes after 13 years of heading up Pine Ridge Bible Church college min­istry, where Briix cur­rently leads the weekly Tuesday night Equip min­istry in part­nership with Inter­varsity min­istries. Briix also oversees a number of pro­grams on the Hillsdale College campus, including a student-to-student men­toring min­istry, a weekly Thursday night study series on Chris­tianity, and a min­istry group called Prayer-for-the-Nations.

Before he arrived in Michigan, min­istries like this were only a dream of his. A graduate of the Dallas The­o­logical Institute, Briix was unsat­isfied with his normal 9-to-5 in the Dallas business world, and he reached out to the sem­inary to ask if the Baptist asso­ci­ation had any openings for a college min­ister.

They had exactly one in Quincy, Michigan, a position at Pine Ridge Bible Church. He decided to move with his wife Tanya to the place they would call home for the next 13 years.

Best-known on campus for his lead­ership of Equip, Briix is quick to correct anyone who might call it his brain­child. He said it actually began when a group of college stu­dents sug­gested having a weekly Bible study at the Briix’s house over dinner.

“Just lis­tening to stu­dents about what would be helpful is really how it got started,” Briix empha­sized. The group has grown since then and now meets at Free Methodist Church.

With expe­rience in training and lead­ership, Briix is excited to put his skills to use at the Inter­na­tional College of Bible and Mis­sions (ICBM), where, according to its website, their mission is “to enable those called of God to develop their God-given gifts, to prepare them for the min­istry of the prop­a­gation of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to teach them to live and work by a Christian world view.”

His interest in teaching and equipping other pastors inter­na­tionally began in 2012, on a mis­sions trip to India. At a pastors’ con­ference where he was teaching, he wit­nessed pastors sleeping on floors because they had trav­elled from distant loca­tions and had no beds to sleep in at night. Briix said it was hum­bling for him to see their faithful com­mitment to pray for each other, to learn, and to grow in their faith.

Most of the pastors, however, freely admitted they had very little knowledge of or training in the­ology. Briix said after that expe­rience, he felt called to someday share his sem­inary expe­rience with other pastors like those he met at the con­ference.

After a few years of mis­sions trips else­where around the globe, the position of aca­demic dean opened up at ICBM. After vis­iting the college for two weeks last summer, the Briix’s decided to accept the job. They were ini­tially hes­itant to take the vol­unteer position, as they would have to com­pletely depend on fundraising. But when they saw how much the stu­dents sac­ri­ficed to learn every day, they decided it was worth it.

“We were there for a Sat­urday class and the dean of stu­dents made a big deal about, ‘Oh, we need to go pick up white bread and peanut butter,’” Briix said.

It wasn’t until later when they found out the stu­dents had pur­chased a taxi ride with the money they would have spent on food for the day.

“We went to sem­inary and we lived off of ham­burger helper, but this does not even compare,” Tanya said.

And the stu­dents them­selves couldn’t over­state the impact their studies at ICBM have made, Tanya said. Some stu­dents said they had to throw away all their old sermons because of how far they’d come.

Safety con­cerns and stolen mail (“no Amazon!” Steve lamented) are both everyday real­ities in Johan­nesburg, in addition to the cul­tural healing from apartheid and cul­tural and tra­di­tional dif­fer­ences between sep­arate tribes. Steve pointed out that the tribal South African culture is very dif­ferent from the American “melting pot.”

“It’s like every­thing blended together versus a chopped salad — and we’re clearly the tomatoes.”

The Briix’s said their mission, along with ICBM’s, is to speak God’s word and teach their stu­dents how to apply sound bib­lical prin­ciples to their lives and churches.

Steve said his is only a tem­porary position because the goal is to train a replacement who is actually from South Africa.

“The vision is for it to be Africans training Africans,” Steve said. “We’re taking five to 10 years, but if you notice, we’re just kind of living there with no end date.”

Steve’s regular day now is bal­anced between over­seeing student Bible studies, meeting with stu­dents, fundraising, and fin­ishing his dis­ser­tation. While in South Africa, he said he expects his days to be filled with meeting with faculty and staff, teaching a class or two, and over­seeing the updating and revision of cur­riculum, in order to raise the college’s aca­demic stan­dards, which have been steadily climbing since its founding in 2000.

Hillsdale stu­dents are sad to say goodbye, but excited to see what lies in store for the family. Senior Carrie Olson, who has known the Briix family since freshman year, said she was shocked to hear that they were moving. “It wasn’t some­thing I ever saw them doing, but the more I hear them and their children talk about it, the more I am excited for them. I can’t wait to see what they do.”

In every­thing they do, Steve said his family have taken the words of Saint Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 to heart: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many wit­nesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    What does this have to do with the college?