The Multiracial Student Scholarship Fund is one of the strategies employed by the Office of Race Relations (ORR) to develop multiracial congregational leadership in the CRCNA. Recipients attend one of the higher learning institutions affiliated with the denomination—Calvin University, Dordt University, The King’s University, Redeemer University, Kuyper College, Trinity Christian College, and Calvin Theological Seminary. They have also expressed a strong desire to train for and to engage in the ministry of racial reconciliation in church and/or in community.
Through bountiful gifts given last year, the Office of Race Relations was able to award scholarships to six students for the 2022-23 school year. It’s our privilege to introduce you to Nankal Darshak, one of the six recipients. Read her biography below and some of her thoughts on the importance of social justice.
My name is Nankal Darshak. I was born in Nigeria to a Christian family of nine: seven children, a mom, and a dad. My parents are believers and trained us in the ways of the Lord. They took my siblings and me to Sunday school every Sunday. When I was in elementary school, I began attending church activities appropriate to my age. I was 12 or 13-years-old when I first went to camp. During this camp, the preacher made an altar call; this was when I professed Christ as my Savior and King.
In 2002, there was a crisis between Muslims and Christians in Yelwa, my family's town (3 hours south of Jos, Nigeria). Many people from both religions lost their lives, and many others were wounded, including my immediate elder brother, Solomon. Many houses, including our house and belongings, were burned down. The death of these people, some of whom I knew personally, caused me to pause and take stock of how I was following Christ and if I was in disobedience in any way.
At that time, I was not yet baptized. As I mentioned earlier, I was dedicated to the church three months after my birth because my church was not baptizing infants. However, due to my desire to be a full member of the church and the recent soul-searching following the attacks, I was baptized in 2002 at age 19. No one had encouraged or pressured me to be baptized, but I decided to be baptized because I understood that baptism is part of obeying Christ and will allow me further serving privileges in the church. During this time, I was also a member of the church choir group.
In 2003, I graduated from high school and started college. I was aiming for a teaching degree, which is an associate program at my school in Nigeria. I had two majors: Christian Education Studies and Primary (elementary) Education Studies. While I was there, another crisis happened in Yelwa in 2004. This time, my father was almost killed as Muslims burned down our house for the second time. Our churches were being bombed as well. I had received word that my father had died, but he was only seriously injured and near the point of death. But, praise God, he lived.
My faith in God and in his love was strengthened during this time. I saw how Christ alone sustains. My family now had nothing, our house was gone, and my father was in the hospital, but we had Christ. Still, this was a very difficult time. I was at school, crying most days during this time. My family had been scattered after the attack, but we were all reunited eventually. It was a very hard time for me. But I treasure it all the same. I learned what it was to depend completely on the Lord.
I started a dating relationship with my would-be husband in 2002, and in 2005, I got married. God blessed our marriage with three children: Nenfot, our oldest daughter; Nenrit, our second daughter; Darshak, a son (we call him Bobo), our third. By the time we got married, my husband was already a minister with our denomination (The United Church of Christ in Nigeria). Thus, my life shifted as a pastor’s wife. I immediately took on the responsibility of the women’s fellowship. As young as I was, it was a significant thing for me. This is especially so since I had not planned to be a pastor’s wife. I was working with women who were old enough to be my mother and even grandmother. It was challenging and rewarding. My ministry experience was not limited to one congregation. My husband was transferred to several churches over the years. This is somewhat commonplace in Nigeria. The good aspect of this is that I was allowed to learn from new people from different backgrounds. It gave me the perspective that God can call you wherever he will. If something was difficult, it would not be permanent. But there was hardship as well. Any time I got used to some of the congregants, then we would have to move.
In 2011, my husband began applying to further his education at Calvin Seminary, and he was accepted into the program in 2012. However, he was not offered a scholarship, and we didn’t have enough money to come that year, so he deferred his admission at that time. In 2014 he applied for another scholarship, and this time he received it, so he came to the US on his own to begin his studies. I was left at home in Nigeria with our three children. It was difficult at first because I was so busy with our children and also teaching in an elementary school.
As a pastor’s wife, I had many responsibilities in our church even though my husband was away. But I depended on God, and he gave me the strength to do what I needed to care for our children and serve in the church and school. After some months here, my husband told me that he wanted to apply for us to come to the US and join him. That was a difficult decision for me because I felt I was doing okay back home, and coming to the US would be expensive for us. Because of this, I did not agree with his decision, but some of my close friends and colleagues in the ministry advised me and encouraged me to try since my husband wanted me and our children to come. We applied, got visas in February 2015, and arrived in Grand Rapids the following month.
When I first came, life was difficult for us to adjust to, so I thought maybe God was punishing me because I did not want to leave. I thought the same thing again when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. But then I realized that had I been in Nigeria, probably no one would have been able to identify that I have thyroid cancer and gallbladder problems. It is all God’s plan. Sometimes things happen, and we don’t see his plan. But then we look back and see his hand. I have seen so much of his grace and faithfulness in my life. I knew this before, but now at this time, I know it from my experiences. I don’t just say he is there with me, but I know he is with me. I am so convinced I can never have my mind changed. This sickness actually opened the opportunity for my faith to grow this deeply.
God’s love and grace are incomprehensible and yet so close to me. Beginning from when I was little until now, I see God in every step of my life. It is amazing to recount. He helps me to see him clearly throughout my life. I now testify who he is to all who will listen. He never changes, and so my desire is to know him more and more. All of the love he has shown me could not come from anywhere else. He provides, guides, instructs, and he loves. And I love him so much because he first loved me. I look forward to how he will use me in the future and journey with me through the remainder of my life.
It has been my prayer for a long time to get some education while I am here in the States, but it was difficult with my husband being a student, my health challenges, and my children still very young. Finally, God answered my prayers by giving me admission to Kuyper College with a scholarship in the fall of 2019. That was a great privilege for me, for my dream had come true.
I am in the Interdisciplinary program, with minors in Bible and Theology. I want to use this degree to work with people from diverse backgrounds to support and encourage them in different aspects of their life journeys, especially those new to this country who need help adjusting to life here. I want to love them and share God’s truth with them in ways that will transform their lives to become more like Christ. My husband and I are planning to return to Nigeria to serve the church there, but we are also open to however and wherever God wants to use us to serve him during our time here in the US.
I will always remain grateful for Kuyper College, to the CRCNA Race Relations Scholarship Program, and all the other donors who supported me and the scholarship they provided for people like me to make studies possible. Your donation means a lot to me, and I believe it benefits many other students, also. Thank you so much for your work of expanding God’s kingdom on earth.
If you feel led to support this valuable scholarship fund and students like Nankal, please give online at this link. Your gift today will bless future students as they train for and prepare to engage in the ministry of racial reconciliation in church and in society.
For those who wish to be considered for a scholarship from the Office of Race Relations, information and an application are found at this link.